Dallas — Celebrated performer Rossy de Palma is a bit of an enigma. Is she an actress? Is she a model? Is she a photographer? Depending on who you ask, to she is all of the above, or she is neither. She is something more—a muse incarnate. She has an unforgettable presence with a Picasso-like face that has attracted the world’s greatest designers and directors. Her je ne sais quoi has bolstered a diverse and decades-long career that is still flourishing today. She appears Thursday at the Wyly Theatre to perform the show Traveling Lady, part of the Dallas Symphony’s Soluna: International Music and Arts Festival.
In interviewing the iconic Spanish actress, it became apparent that her varied background in acting, modelling, and visual art all share the same source of inspiration—feminine power. “I’m so inspired by Mother Nature, flowers, trees, animals…Music inspires me a lot too. And, of course, other artists, especially women artists.”
De Palma constantly pulls from these sources, allowing them to influence her performance methods and making her time on stage and screen one to remember. She is the epitome of Constantin Stanislavski’s famous adage, “There are no small actors, only small parts.” De Palma plays every role as if she is the lead, and has made a career of turning supporting roles into the most memorable feats. “I act from the heart. The unconscious. I disappear and let instinct and intuition take control.”
That method has seen her through a 30-plus year career, as well as her desire to never look back and dwell in the past. “I never think about that, no time for ‘regressions.’ Living fully in the present takes a lot of time…and [to be an artist takes] a lot of time to keep the curiosity alive.”
The arts have been a passion of hers since she was a child. Daughter of a bricklayer father and a mother with “artistic inclinations,” de Palma first broke out as a teenager in Mallorca, when she and eight of her friends formed a punk-pop band, Peor Impossible (Couldn’t Be Worse). This was 1986, just after the Movida Madrileña, the counterculture movement, had emerged. They were a theatrical and spontaneous group of young people trying to find their place in the world, and willing to risk it all to find beauty, happiness, and freedom. The latter has emboldened de Palma’s pursuit of an artistic life. Art is her freedom.
Moving to Madrid with the band, she met director Pedro Almodovar and he immediately was attracted to her stunning looks and indescribable power. He offered her a part in his film, Law of Desire, and her career began (she has also appeared in his films Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, The Flower of My Secret and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown). She began modelling around the same time, first as a hobby, and then as a serious pursuit, walking for Jean-Paul Gaultier and Alexandra McQueen for Givenchy. It was while walking in the Gaultier show, she met director Robert Altman. Over dinner and with a handshake, she secured a role in Prêt-à-Porter, Altman’s comedy about the fashion industry, and thus, securing her name in fashion history.
But more than carving out a space for herself in the annals of film and fashion, de Palma is a strong and powerful female voice in performance. Coming of age during the counterculture movement in Spain, she experienced a sense of artistic freedom, empowerment, and a comradery with other female artists. “Adversity is a great creative motor. Women shouldn’t have to wait for their rights—if they are yours, just take them.”
De Palma has transformed any obstacles in her way by turning them into creative materials. Something that visual artist Jessica Mitrani has also done in her multimedia work, Traveling Lady. In the 45-minute long performance, Mitrani conjures the spirit of Nellie Bly, the 19th-century American journalist who circled the globe in 72 days, with only the clothes on her back and a small suitcase. It is an exploration of feminine archetypes and stereotypes played out and examined by de Palma.
Expect the unexpected in the Traveling Lady, which features music by Andres Levin and digital projections by Alex Czetwertynski. Mitrani has created a subversive world that goes beyond the psychological, the physical, and the cosmic. The performance is not just an investigation of gender stereotypes or a commentary on the strict rules of female cosmetics and fashion; it is an exotic blend of art and performance (complete with an interlude on a palm tree populated island).
“I hope the audience will have fun, laugh, and find the opportunity to reflect. I still discover a lot of things each time we play this amazing piece.”