SENORITA OCHITA

PROFESSIONAL DANCER, FLAMENCO DANCER, PRODUCER, CHOREOGRAPHER AND TEACHER

Born 13th June, 1927 in Madrid, Spain
Passed away 28th October, 2010 in Adelaide, Australia
[83 years old]
Eleanor Antonio Parry was born on on the 13th June, 1927, in Madrid, Spain and one of seven children. Her father Reginald Alfred Calvert was the British Vice-Consul  for Spain.  Her mother, Carmen Maria Jinesta del Calvert. Ochita had a wonderful magnetic charisma that people loved. She had this incredible knack to be able to bring people together wherever she was. The spirit of dance lived in Ochita’s inner core and her mind was always ticking over about the next dance routine. She lived dance, she breathed dance.

Ochita – a little girl

As a little child, Eleanor, couldn’t pronounce Eleanorcita [means “little Eleanor” or “little light”] and the nearest she came to was “Ochita” and the rest of the family followed suit. Little did they know that this “little light” was to become a sparkling stage light. Throughout the rest of her life, Eleanor was known as “Ochita” offstage as well as onstage. Her father  used to say that she started dancing in her highchair! Ochita started her first Spanish dance lesson at the age of  three.

Ochita with some of her family

Ochita, the second youngest of six sisters and one brother: The eldest, Mary whom she often danced with, then came Josephina, Evelina, Herbert, Phyllis and Gloria, the youngest. By the age of 5 as a solo dancer she made her first debut at the Teatro Madrid with her mentor, Antonia Merce, [known as “La Argentina”] the Spanish equivalent of Pavlova. She received her initial training from three famous teachers, Donna Maria Ros [Dancing Director for Teatro Real, Madrid], Frasquillo and Eduardo Cansino [Rita Hayworth’s father] Dona Soto (in Belgium) for the specialised dance, Zambra Mora Anna Severskaya in U.K. and Phyllis Bedells, teacher to Margot Fonteyne.

Notes about La Argentina: Recognising Ochita’s natural talents La Argentina became her patrona finally giving Ochita her own solo at the age of 5 at the Teatro Madrid. Much publicity followed and Ochita’s patrona asked her father to allow Ochita to follow La Argentina, at a later date, on an American tour. Tragically, la Argentina died of a heart attack in America at the age of 43.

Ochita -on stage at the tender age of 5 at the Teatro Madrid 

Ochita was touring England performing with her three older sisters and her brother in aid of the Spanish refugees when she was billed as the 7 year old Spanish Pavlova.

Ochita at 9 years

Due to the Spanish Civil War in 1936 Ochita’s father had to organize for his family to leave Spain urgently and move to England when she was around 9 years of age. Ochita attended a boarding school which by luck fostered dancing students so she was in her element. A few years later, World War 2 broke out and Ochita was fortunate enough to only see the flashing lights of the war over London at a great distance. 

“At 16 Ochita was already a qualified teacher”

Ochita- 18 years old

Ochita not only received further training in Belgium and France but was taught by many famous Flamenco Dancers of her time. She was also taught by Phyllis Biddells who taught Margot Fonteyn. Later, in little ole Adelaide, Ochita was fortunate enough to have afternoon tea with Margot Fonteyn.

Before the war started, Ochita competed in the first “Young Dancers’ Competition” for television which was initially screened in a shop window at Selfridges. Not surprising, she won.  Later her father decided against her continuing filming in Spain and London as a child protégé in order to concentrate on her education.

Ochita’s 4 years intensive training as a boarder at the College of Arts educational (outside London) from the age of 12 to 16 helped her to successfully pass her ballet R.A.D. Ceccetti exams and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing thus graduated as a qualified teacher and performer. In Paris, Ochita was also trained by Carmen Romero who was Argentina’s choreographer. In London, Ochita studied Ballet, Tap, Musical Comedy and limbering and so became an Advanced member of the Royal Academy of Dancing and an Associate of the Imperial Society of teachers of dancing. In London she studied Ballet, Central European, Tap drama, etc…under Margaret Craske, Euphain Maclaren, Phyllis Bedelle and at the Cone-Ripman College.

One of Ochita’s dancing certificates 

By the age of 14 Ochita became an accomplished pianist, singer and choreographer. London became her home base, although she traveled as a soloist throughout Europe. and was involved in television productions and London West End theater shows. This included choreographing for the International Ballet Company to performing the lead role in “Capriccio Espagnol”. Ochita was employed to choreograph and direct a large dance company of 20 dancers of which she received rave reviews. Following many tours in Germany, Italy and the UK, popular demand for Ochita would eventually bring her to Australia for theater and television engagements in the future. 

Before the age of 15 appeared in Bexhill, Brighton Hastings, and other towns in Spanish shows produced by her sister Mariquita. in 1942 was principal dancer at the Paignton Pantomime and a Cabaret in Torquay, as well as Plymouth Pantomime and short films in between.

At the age of 16 she became a solo dancer, and the youngest choreographer in London, where she gained extensive experience in various productions in U.K. and Europe as choreographer, solo dancer and actress in Musicals, Cabarets, Revues, etc. This also included a season at the old Vic Bristol.

Ochita in a ballet pose

At 17 years of age as guest artist with the International Ballet Company for their London season, performing at Her Majesty’s Theatre as a soloist and choreographer in a production of “Danses Espanoles“.

Ochita in Romany Love [2nd left]

Ochita returned two years later to the same theater to play a leading role as a jealous gypsy woman in the A.P.Herbert’s Operatic, American musical “Romany Love” at Her Majesty’s Theatre,  Manchester and Haymarket, London for 2 years. She continued to perform in London, appearing in cabaret and on television. Followed by a tour with Leslie Henson‘s “1066 and all that“. Then Ochita accepted an offer to work with Yul Brynner playing a leading role in the Albert de Courville‘s, Chinese/American musical “Lute Song” at the Winter Gardens Theatre, Covent Garden, London. Plus a 10 week season at the Strand Theatre in the Wizard of Oz.

She learnt every dance from ballet to Russian and Hungarian jigs but returned to her “first love, Spanish.

This was followed by a season in “Intimate Revue” at the Henry Irving Theatre, London giving Ochita great opportunity to fulfill her choreographic skills and acting ability.

Ochita was chosen to appear in two Royal Command Performances, one at the Adelphi Theatre, London, and the other to re-join the International Ballet Company  whom once again contracted her to dance the lead role and do the choreography.

 Ochita in Capriccio Espagnol 

In London’s West End, Ochita performed as the Prima Ballerina in “Capriccio Espagnol” [choreographed by Léonide Massine” at the Festival Hall, London]. The company toured for two and a half years ending at the Arena di Verona for a summer season in conjunction with the Scala Milan Opera Company. This production opened the season at the Festival Hall playing before her Majesty the Queen.

An extensive tour of the UK and Ireland  of almost 3 years followed. Then another season in Italy in conjunction with the Milan Opera Company at the Arena di Verona with Maria Callas

Ochita with dancer, Luis Nieto

Her final performance with the International Ballet Company was in Italy at the Arena di Verona with Maria Callas and the Scals Milan Opera Company. Ochita finally left the company to marry actor and comedian, Ron Parry. Shortly after, they were booked to tour the American Zone of Germany, followed by a contract to play the Tivoli Theatre Circuit in Australia. Ron acted as the principal comedian, and Ochita as the principal Flamenco dancer with a 12 month contract before heading back to London to fulfill other working commitments.

Ochita choreographed and danced in various TV and theatre productions in the U.K. such as “Along the Gypsy Trail” and “Flamenco Fire” after which she again toured the American Zone of Germany this time with a male Spanish dancer Luis Nieto, combining Spanish and Adagio.

Ochita with her future husband, Ron Parry

On December 15, 1952, Ron Parry, a talented comedian, entered Ochita’s life, and they married prior to Ron’s appearing at his first Royal Command Performance which was followed by a seven month season with Cliff Richard at the London Palladium. Ochita and Ron travelled to Australia with the Tivoli Theatre Circuit on an original three month contract which was extended to twelve months.

Ochita visiting the Great Levante in Sydney, going up a cable car on the cliff slope to his house

Two daughters were born. Australia once again beckoned for Ochita and her husband on a 3 month Queensland tour with the then world famous International magician ‘Great Levante’ with the Stanley Mackay Variety show of which Mario Calpe, The Italian Tenor, accompanied Ochita in her own ‘scene’ by singing ‘Granada’. Ochita performed as a Spanish Dancer and Ron, as a Compere/Comedian.

Ochita and Ron then decided that Australia was the country for their children to grow up in. Ochita then had another daughter in Sydney. They then returned to Sydney to fulfill nightclub and TV engagements, Ochita as a flamenco soloist and Ron to start his own twice weekly TV show “Here’s Parry for A .D .S .7.

Ochita dancing at a photo shoot

Whilst in Sydney, Ochita was asked by the Spanish Club to perform solo at the historical Cell Block theatre and to give the public a taste of all the different types of Spanish dance with Flamenco guitarists and singers playing in between her costume changes. This was to enable her to display the variety of Flamenco dances such as Bulerias, Fandango de Huelva, Tientos, etc. Ochita also performed the Soleares with a cola (costume with a long train) to demonstrate the art of performing in such a costume. She also displayed her knowledge of Regional dances, such as ‘Jota Aragonesa,’ ‘Valenciana’, etc., as well as Classical Spanish pieces where her uncanny dexterous and incredibly multitalented castanet playing were performed with true natural musicianship featuring the music of Lecuona’s “Malaguena”.

Ochita with student, Sandi Goff

This gave Ochita the opportunity to demonstrate her knowledge of Classical Spanish, Flamenco and Regional Spanish – such as Jotas, etc. She also received many requests in Adelaide by well-known dance schools to choreograph and teach their students in preparation for competitions and Eisteddfods. Ochita proudly stated 98% of them won first prize (the remaining 2% win second!)

When the famous Spanish Guitarist, “Segovia,” visited Australia, he honoured Ochita by inviting her to be photographed with him for his newspaper publicity photos. Other famous guitarists, who honoured her by spending some of their valuable time with Ochita during their short visits to Adelaide, were Paco Pena and Manitas de Plata.

Joaquin, Ochita and Manitas de Plata

3 months booking at the “Tabou Nightclub” in Sydney’s Centre and besides performing, Ochita was requested to train and choreograph six young dancers.

Later, though 5 months pregnant with their third child,

In 1972, Ochita and her famous husband, stand-up comedian and actor, “Ron Parry,” decided Adelaide was the best city for their children to grow up in and moved to South Australia. Due to her husband’s success with his variety show, “Here’s Parry“, on Channel 7 [Adelaide] the family moved to Adelaide. A contract with NWS Channel 9 brought the Parry family back to Adelaide and a decision was made to settle there.

Ochita returned to performing as a Spanish Dancer commencing with Los Amigos and found herself teaching students her passionate art form.

Ochita at Los Amigos with John and Joaquin

The demand for her teaching skills in Flamenco and Spanish Dance kept growing so much that, in 1974 Ochita formed “The Spanish Dancing Academy of Australia” – the first of its kind in Adelaide. And her entourage known as “The Flamenco Fiesta Compania” performed at various restaurants, clubs, public and private functions over many years. Often, SDSA would put on their own productions which Ochita loved putting together whilst her husband Ron would proudly compere the shows.

Ochita continued for 3 years at the, then famous, “Los Amigos,” then “El Matadors,” followed by “La Taverna Espanola.” where she became the resident Flamenco dancer.

Ochita with some students and Paco, the guitarist

Ochita and her students performed at the Festival Theatre on many occasions, the Riverland Wine Festival and the Middlebrook Winery on a regular basis as well as “Lanzeracs” Restaurant in the Barossa Valley. The Academy also made frequent appearances at the Spanish, Italian and German Ethnic Clubs around Adelaide.

Ochita’s “Flamenco Fiesta Compania” performed in the Annual Good Neighbour Council’s Multicultural Show” at “The Festival Theatre for 3 years running. Ochita’s many years of experience in working with stage lighting technicians, etc., or having to do her own lighting plot, etc., was an added bonus. She loved to take control of the whole stage scene, the atmosphere, the costumes, the music, the story and how the production would unfold. Ochita was extremely passionate about the end result and everything in-between.

Sandi dancing and Ochita

Her students were cultivated in such fine dancers and she did this with so much care [it was second nature to her] Ochita often spent many hours in cafes sharing their experiences, life and discussing everything to do with dance and their lives in general. Ochita was like a sponge and soaked up every little detail to help encourage them. You could tell she was an absolute joy to dance with and watch, not to mention the laughs back stage after the shows, full of satisfaction, delight and celebration. Her students loved her immensely; Ochita just had that ‘je nais se quoi’ that charmed everybody around her.

One show Ochita performed at was the opening of The Festival Theatre with her dancing troupe, the Festival theatre appointed her on many occasion after that.

Ochita- a Ray Lester portrait

One year on Ochita was honoured by being recognized as one of 13 successful business women in South Australia which was commemorated with a special photograph by Ray Lester.

Ochita had studied many art forms including Ballet, Modern Dance, Tap, Ballroom, Piano and Singing at a young age and, later in life, would often be asked to teach these other areas became a real hit thus finding herself doing choreography for ice-skaters or adding a Flamenco flair to Ballet Dancers. Each time, Ochita was rewarded with seeing these students come First or Second in their competitions.

Ochita in class demonstrating castanets

This fine lady doesn’t fall short of such incredible talent; another remarkable one was playing the castanets with incredible dexterity, speed and dynamic contrast. Audiences were, without fail, mesmerized by how she could play.

Ochita loved teaching Spanish Dance incorporating all styles i.e. Classical, Regional and Flamenco Dance forms and would teach all ages, including children. Some of these students having developed a passion for Flamenco performed for many years professionally some of whom opened up their own Flamenco Dance Schools.

She also became resident Flamenco dancer at “Café Tapas” in Rundle Street, Adelaide for 10 years (1992-2002). “Flamenco Fiesta”, Ochita’s professional troupe of dancers also became residents for 18 months at Cafe Tapas in addition to being booked at many leading Adelaide venues.

When Mario Maya’s Flamenco Company was performing in Adelaide, Mario did a workshop and asked Ochita to translate for him during the workshop.

Then “The Festival Theatre” was officially opened by ‘H.M. The Queen’ where Ochita did a Solo performance as part of the presentation for ‘Her Majesty’.

Ochita with some students in her back garden [always nice to change the scenery]

Naturally, Ochita’s professional group, “The Flamenco Fiesta Compania” enabled her Intermediate and Advanced students from her Academy to perform in various venues throughout South Australia.

Besides performing at Convention Centres, Restaurants and private functions such as Weddings, Birthday Parties and Television, Ochita’s group was picked out to represent Spain in the lighting of the ‘Olympic Flame‘ at Glenelg, Adelaide, performing in front of thousands of spectators in the year 2000.

Dancing at a Winery in Adelaide

Though Ochita was only on the ‘The Spanish Cultural Committee’ for 3 years, without fail, Ochita still carried on dancing with her dance group at all their annual Festivals.

“I just love the rhythms they’re so fantastic, the color, the gaiety, the different moods, it’s all just so exciting, she said”.

In Adelaide, S.A. Ochita produced, directed and choreographed various 2 1/2 hour shows under her Academy’s flag:

  • Una Noche en Espana” – Sports Club, Adelaide 1986
  • Magic of Spain” – Arts Theatre, Adelaide 1987
  • Fiesta” -The Glenelg Yacht Club
  • Flamenco Fiesta” – Royalty Theatre, Adelaide 1991 and 1993
  • Flamenco Fantasia” – Fantasia Convention Centre 1992
  • Fiesta Flamenco“- Festival Theatre, Adelaide 1993
  •  UK workshops -Cancelled due to ill health and hospitalised whilst on holiday [first signs of her colitis]
  • Flamenco” – Nexus Centre, Adelaide 1992 and 1998
  • Ole Ole 2001” – Arts Theatre, Adelaide 2000

 [Note: Some of these were booked on a regular basis over the years]

Her professional dance entourage “Flamenco Fiesta Compania” gave her students plenty of scope for performing in shows such as weddings, conventions, engagement parties, wineries, and professional venues such as the Festival Theatre, Royalty Theatre, Arts Theatre and Television. Ochita presented many shows, her own 2.5 hour productions at different theatres allowed her to give full scope for her choreographic abilities.

Throughout her life as a dancer Ochita had numerous accidents and ailments which never seemed to stop her from continuing dance, this was clearly an indicator as to where her passion in life was- purely dance.

Ochita – when she broke her leg and she was very busy with rehearsals for a major show

Accidents and ailments:

  • At a young age Ochita slipped on stage and fell on her arm, broken at the elbow, hanging by a thread and with 6 months rehabilitation and 100 stitches later continued dancing yet again.
  • Psoriasis of the hands- was extremely painful but Ochita still played the castanets [with gloves]
  • Car accident – hit by a car walking across the road in Adelaide, Australia, her thumb was snapped back, she kept dancing
  • Ochita had slipped on the stairs in a health club and broke her leg [she still taught whilst her leg was in a plaster]
  • Major operation – Had a colostomy in her mid-70s.
  • Broken/swollen toe, couldn’t wear her shoes-however, when she had to perform Ochita persisted, forced the shoes on and danced

That is proof of a true professional who performed no matter what, Ochita was born with sheer determination from the day she started  to dance and nothing would get in her way of her love for her profession.

Ochita laughing to her audience

At 81 Ochita decided to retire from dance due to the acceptance that one must retire…eventually. Having retired saw her quickly lose her strength to continue and in the end failing health took her. Ochita passed away peacefully in her sleep in 2010 at the age of 84 with her husband by her side. Ron  followed her 3 years later.

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Ochita is remembered as a true pioneer in flamenco dancing and her teaching spanned over more than 30 years in Adelaide.
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