Studies with Pericet
The material I learned while in Spain on two occasions I resided in Madrid was invaluable. They were extraordinary experiences in regard to the dances I was able to acquire, but apart from the enrichment of vocabulary and technique, the circumstances leading to my quest for knowledge were noteworthy.
In 1953, my friend, Dolores Fernandez whom I had met in my studies with Jose Fernandez, had developed her own career. Through the contact with the agent, Kenneth Later, I reached her through a Paris representative. I had not seen her since the early 40’s. I wrote to her, stating my whereabouts in Madrid and very quickly I had letters from her happily advising me to study with the Pericet family. Their history goes back to the 18th Century with generations of performers connecting the Escuela Bolera style with the roots of Flamenco.
At the time, I found my way to their studio on Calle Encomienda in the old section of Madrid. As it was summer, some of the other members of the family were away. I set up a daily class schedule with Conchita. She had been a performer in the early 1900’s. Now, she was quite heavy, but was able to instruct me in the dances which she suggested I learn. The first dance was Ole de la Curra. Conchita called it “muy graciosa” as she termed it. As soon as I learned the opening passages, she smiled as if to compliment my movements. The odd method of teaching struck me as difficult at first. It was the mirror image. I had to adjust my perception of the dance patterns as if I was looking at my reflection in the mirror. Conchita always faced me and it took a few days to get used to it.
For accompaniment, an older lady sat at an upright piano and played the music. Later, I acquired the printed copies of these works at the Union Musica Espanola in Madrid.
The dances consisted of steps from the “cursos” of the Escuela Bolera. These I was learning separately from a young boy. There were about fifty figures all taken from various dances of this period. Many of them were familiar to anyone doing Spanish dance. The material required ballet slippers since there were many beats or “terceras” as they were called in Spanish. I also learned the three Boleras Sevillanas. The same form of Sevillanas but with different steps and balletic movements which were not ballet but required a ballet technique nevertheless. I had just enough ballet training to do entrechats and brises.
A third dance was Polo of Breton. This required heel shoes for the taconeo and castanets.
The studio always seemed to be open to other dancers who came and went. There was also a dog and a cat. Their names were Farruca and Bulerias. The cost of the lessons was extremely reasonable, and although I did not exchange my dollars on the black market, I had enough funds to pay for all this instruction and my rent to Custodia Romero.
These classes I attended in 1953 along with the sessions with Regla Ortega and El Estampio, kept me busy throughout the summer on a daily basis. Constant practice at the studios to remember all the steps, and somehow I did.