Olga Pericet’s production, The Thorn That Wanted to be a Flower, or The Flower That Dreamed of Being a Dancer, plunges us into a world of ambiguous allegory. Drawing on fairy-tale imagery, this production moves likes a series of childhood imaginary games or dreams, populated by strange creatures and episodes of brilliant dance.
The narrative, as such, seems disconnected from the dancing for the most part – there is a curious prelude, in which Pericet picks up shoes that have been flung onto the stage and dresses herself in them, pushing them into her clothes to create a grotesquely augmented figure. This opening drags the show, and we would have been much better starting slightly further in, when Pericet dances an escalating solo that leads to her collapsing on the floor. She is then laid out like a corpse on a table, the rest of her company gathered around her. The company use the furniture percussively to begin a flamenco section, danced characterfully and with great skill by Jesús Fernández. He is a captivating solo performer, bringing a necessary raw machismo energy to this female-centric narrative.
The dancers also work in duet, creating an inventive and playful partner dance with dynamic lifts and comedic characterisations, including some humorous animal work from Pericet as a chicken. This is again inexplicable, but not as inexplicable as the later appearance of a man dressed as a horse wearing red high heels. He walks with stately majesty across the back of the stage, and is never seen again. Perhaps it is a Spanish thing – who knows. It certainly adds to the sense of this production as a surrealist exploration of the subconscious.
Pericet transforms through the piece in a series of costume changes, appearing in a classic flamenco gown with a long ruffled train, a red layered skirt, and a black unitard with a golden jacket. The exact symbolism of each costume again remains vague, although the redness seems significant in terms of the title of the piece, suggesting the flower that dreams of being a dancer. As seems fitting, Pericet has some extraordinary solos, dancing fluidly with castanets and at one point dancing on the table in a furious and daring whirlwind. Continuing a theme of the festival so far, the company are wonderfully supportive and engaged with the solo female dancer, with Fernández and the two singers Jeromo Segura and Miguel Lavi revelling in her skill and power as she dances in their midst. She is completely mesmerising, giving an exceptional performance.
A notable presence amongst the musicians of the production is Antonia Jiménez on guitar. An incredible talent on her instrument, there is a wonderful tongue-in-cheek moment when she pauses mid-piece to apply lipstick – a subtle dig in the ribs for the typically masculine world in which she excels. The production ends fittingly with Pericet and Jiménez clinking glasses after their final duet. It is a celebration of women, talent and artistry, and although the imagery meanders somewhat into the realms of the mysterious, this final moment resounds with clarity and power.