Olga Pericet’s “La Leona” Show at Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival: A daring contemporary exploration of Flamenco’s boundaries

Flamenco, a genre deeply rooted in Andalusian culture, has evolved and expanded over the years, incorporating new influences and pushing the boundaries of its traditional form. In this ongoing dialogue of innovation, Olga Pericet, an endlessly inventive and award-winning dancer, brings her beautiful experiments in flamenco to the Flamenco Festival at Sadler’s Wells once again. Her latest work, “La Leona,” showcases Pericet’s fierce energy and steely technique, captivating the audience in a unique and intimate experience.

In low light against a black background, a woman arches backwards, her throat extended horizontally, muscles tense, fingers clawing a pair of castanets, a swathe of yellow silk around her lower body.

Photo Credit: © Paco Villalta 

The title of the show, “La Leona,” holds a double meaning, referring to both the lioness and the flamenco guitar of Antonio De Torres, named La Leona. This juxtaposition of animal and instrument sets the tone for Pericet’s avante-garde solo performance, where she strips herself physically and spiritually, baring her soul to the audience. Combining elements of theatre and dance, Pericet creates a poetic and surreal world that evokes Westerns, wakes, and the vastness of the stars.

Before delving into Pericet’s performance, it is essential to acknowledge the remarkable musicians who accompany her. Their skill, atmosphere, and involvement in the show are truly exceptional. Pericet’s choice of such top-notch musicians speaks volumes about her commitment to excellence. Through their playing, the audience is transported to different corners of the world, from Brazil to North Africa and Persia. The fusion of flamenco melodies with the gravitas of the electric bass guitar creates an otherworldly experience.

“La Leona” can be divided into four distinct solo performances, each showcasing Pericet’s versatility and creativity and what I would compare to Federico Garcia Lorca’s poetry verses. The opening solo finds Pericet shrouded in a large blanket or shawl, slowly unveiling herself as a complex creature. Bare-chested, with loose hair and a wig made from tights, adorned with heavy-handed make-up, she exudes a tortured energy. The movement, primarily floor-based and minimalistic, initially leaves the audience uncertain. However, as the performance unfolds, Pericet reveals herself as the vagabond of flamenco, embodying the spirit of a wanderer.

In the second solo, Pericet appears in velvet trousers and a jacket, with her hair tied at the back. The movement starts slowly and poised, but soon veers into different styles, incorporating elements of jazz and swing passages. Throughout, Pericet explores the isolation of the body and deconstructs conventional phrasing. As the solo progresses, she playfully tussles with the manes of hair, whipping the musicians into a samba frenzy—an allusion to the leona, the lioness.

The third solo begins with the sound of rainfall, and Pericet mimes as a headless yellow mackintosh coat. When she finally appears, castanets in hand, she serenades her guitarist and the audience. The castanets add a new dimension to her expressive movements, enhancing the shaping of hands and arms. The subtle tension in her every movement can be felt in every corner of the theatre, captivating the audience with the depth of her artistry.

The final section of “La Leona” unveils Pericet in a massive pink tulle flamenco dress, adorned with cutouts resembling the body of a guitar. Here, Pericet’s avant-garde sensibilities shine through as she wears the dress backward, creating an illusion of dancing in reverse with a guitar for a head. This experimental moment highlights Pericet’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of flamenco. Once the novelty of this imagery subsides, Pericet removes the heavy and baroquesque pink dress and continues to dance in a simple cotton underdress—a motif that is characteristic of her work. This exploration of the extremes of flamenco, from the avant-garde to the core vocabulary and technique, is a testament to Pericet’s dedication to her craft.

Olga Pericet’s performance in “La Leona” is truly unforgettable. It is one of those rare nights where theatre exceeds all expectations and becomes an undeniable part of life itself. Witnessing Pericet’s talent and artistry leaves the audience in awe and longing for more. If given the opportunity, one should not miss the chance to see her perform. Pericet’s “La Leona” is a testament to her originality and bravery, earning her the title of La Original.

flamenco festival cover image

Photo credit: JAVIER-SUAREZ

The Flamenco Festival at Sadler’s Wells continues until 15th July 2023, presenting a wide range of flamenco performances that showcase the genre’s relevance and ongoing dialogue. From the traditional to the contemporary, the festival brings together different generations of creatives who are deeply involved in shaping the future of flamenco. With Olga Pericet’s “La Leona” as one of the highlights, the festival offers a vibrant celebration of flamenco’s rich heritage and its limitless potential for innovation.

Tickets available from here.

 

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Show review: Flamenco Festival London 21 June – 02 July 2022

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