For the second time this year, Olga Pericet has presented her piece La espina que quiso ser flor o la flor que soñó con ser bailaora (2017)  in Madrid’s Teatros del Canal. The only performance (that quickly sold out) in March won widespread critical acclaim, and those who seized the opportunity to see it this time were eager to see if the production would meet expectations. Well, it indeed did, and so admirably that one wonders why Pericet does not stay in Madrid for a longer season, particularly with this work, which is so rich, profound and multi-layered that a second viewing would certainly enrich the perception of its sharp meditation on flamenco stereotypes and conventions.

© Paco Villalta
© Paco Villalta

The conception and aesthetics of the show recall Pina Bausch in many aspects. The production mixes dancing with theatre through the brief monologues peppered throughout the performance. It also has many references to ordinary life (football, western movies, bullfighting, etc.), which work well as humorous yet critical comments on their excessive influence on flamenco dancing. Even the dramaturgy (by Carlota Ferrer and which is most effective in the opening numbers) drives the performance in a Bausch manner, uniting the diverse seemingly disjointed scenes around a central idea, the spineofn the title. A huge rosebush branch dominates the set, a silent, permanent reminder of both the beauty it has at its flowered end and the pain it can produce through its piercing thorns. This image is a fortunate visual metaphor for Pericet’s criticism of the excesses of flamenco dancing. The superficiality and exaggerations with which flamenco is so often performed are harmful thorns damaging its deep, penetrating beauty.      

The music, props and costumes are also reminiscent of Bausch’s works. Objects such as high-heeled shoes or red costumes (all designed by Ana López) play a key role in the dramaturgy not only because of their significant contribution to the visual aesthetics of the work but also because of their versatility as dramatic artifacts across the show. The music (devised by Pericet and Marco Flores) combines old recordings with some original compositions by Antonia Jiménez and Pino Losada, both gifted guitar players that brilliantly accompanied Pericet onstage.

The best asset of the production is, unquestionably, Pericet’s performance. She is a first class performer and dancer, whose presence onstage and polished technique capture all the attention. Her dancing is poised and neat, and is always delivered with graceful sobriety. It remains exquisitely serene even in the most intense moments. Jesús Fernández, Pericet’s male partner in the few duets of the show and the solo dancer of some of the numbers, is a dancer of no lesser category. His clean, clear, forceful feet are remarkable, even more so because they never overemphasize the effect of the stamping. In a production that proposes a revision of flamenco from its roots, stripping it of all the clichés and stereotypes that are currently weakening its essence, Fernandez’s mighty dancing together with Pericet’s farsighted crafting and superb performance are two extraordinary examples of the best artistic proposals that flamenco dancing can produce nowadays.