American Spanish Dancer Luis Olivares, 96, Has Died

December 14, 2020

American Spanish dancer, choreographer and dance historian Louis Peters, aka Luis Olivares, died on December 1, at the age of 96. He was a force in Spanish dance, who for the last year had been a vital source of information and mentorship.

He was a quiet gentleman who loved to converse on dance and politics but rarely himself. However, finally he collaborated on a foreward for one of my next projects. “During my stint in the U.S. military service, I was stationed close to Seattle, Washington. A weekend leave of duty introduced me to my first Spanish dance concert at the Moore Theatre in downtown Seattle. I purchased a ticket not knowing anything about dance, and I never forgot the inspiration I inherited from watching La Argentinita Spanish Dance Ensemble. I have never forgotten Ravel’s Alborada del Gracioso, choreographed by La Argentinita and danced by José Greco.”

Back in New York, Olivares’ first Spanish dance teacher was Madame Helen Veola. He then studied and partnered the American dancer Carroll Weller, aka Carola Goya (pictured).

His sister Nila Amparo (Peters) studied with Russell Meriwether Hughes, aka La Meri. Amparo later partnered and married the Italian Spanish dancer José Greco. Later, Greco and Nila departed for Europe to join the Pilar Lopez Ballet Español, a tenure that lasted two years. When Greco formed his European dance company, Olivares and Goya were invited to join.

“We all became originators of the Iberian art form” he said. For the next 10 years, Olivares toured and was privileged to be part of an era that offered and nurtured some of Spain’s greatest performing artists of our time, within Europe and America. He later appeared with actress Lee Grant on the Pond’s Theater television teleplay Death Is a Spanish Dancer, and later appeared in Carmen, choreographed by Ruth Page, and was a member of the National Council of the Arts. —Michael Miguel Bernal