CHICAGO – Ensemble Español hosts three “Flamenco Passion: A Tribute to Dame Libby Komaiko” dance and music performances at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, in Skokie, located at 9501 Skokie Blvd., June 14-16. These performances are in honor of founder Komaiko who passed away earlier this year and are part of the company’s 43rd American Spanish Dance & Music Festival featuring performances and classes reflecting the elegance and passion of Spain’s dance, music and culture.
The June 14-16 “Flamenco Passion” performances will feature more than 40 dancers and musicians, including guest artists, in a fusion of classical, folkloric, traditional, contemporary and Flamenco styles. Joining this year’s roster of artists: choreographer/dancers Carmela Greco, daughter of the legendary José Greco, Carlos Rodriguez and José Barrios; plus musicians Paco Fonta (Flamenco singer and guitarist), Antonio Gabarri Jimenez and David Chiriboga (Flamenco guitarists) and Javier Saume Mazzei (percussionist).
The program for all three performances includes the following:
Four new company works:
- “Pasion Oculta” (Hidden Passion) by Ensemble Español Artistic Director, Irma Suárez Ruiz (World Premiere)
This Flamenco contemporary work, set on five couples of Ensemble Español Company dancers, portrays the hidden passions of love and desire. Ruiz has choreographed this sensual new work to two songs by the all-female electronic string quartet, Escala: “Requiem for a Tower” and “Palladio.”
- “La Piel Desnuda” (Naked Skin) by Guest Artist, Carlos Rodriguez (World Premiere)
Rodriguez uses Ensemble Español Company dancers, the music of award-winning Spanish composer, José Nieto, choreography in the Classical Spanish Style and the art, attire and furnishings of the Baroque period to establish a backdrop symbolizing the “uniform” of class and status. Out of this backdrop steps a single dancer. This dancer, or Time Traveler, elicits a ghostly court where the spirits of the past challenge us to face the truth of human beauty. Per Rodriguez, “We must rescue the best of history’s aesthetics to help new generations in their search for the human soul.” This work is made possible thanks to a generous grant from the Joyce Foundation.
- “Aires de Cádiz” by Guest Artist Carmela Greco (World Premiere)
This Flamenco work, featuring the Ensemble Español Youth Company and set to music composed and performed by Flamenco guitarist and guest artist Antonio Gabarri Jimenez, reflects the rich culture and joyous nature of the people of the province of Cádiz in Andalucia, the southern part of Spain. Greco’s choreography uses the palo (style) Tanguillos in the compás (rhythm) of four.
- “Triana” by Guest Artist José Barrios (World Premiere)
Inspired by the province of Triana, located on the east bank of the Guadalquivir River in the city of Seville, Barrios sets this festive Flamenco Tangos finale on the Ensemble Español Company dancers to music performed live by guest Flamenco musicians, in the compás (rhythm) of four.
Three new Flamenco Guest Artists’ solos:
- “Rondeña” by Guest Artist Carmela Greco (World Premiere)
“Rondeña” is a palo or musical form of Flamenco originating in the town of Ronda in the province
of Málaga in Spain. In common with other palos originating in Málaga, the rondeña antedated flamenco proper
and became incorporated into it during the 19th century. The rondeña has its origin in the fandango
malagueño and it is said that it is “the oldest fandango actually known.” The work will be performed to music
composed by Antonio Gabarri Jimenez, Flamenco guitarist.
- “Seda” (Silk) by Guest Artist Carlos Rodriguez (World Premiere)
This contemporary work combines different rhythms in the Flamenco styles reflected in music composed by Grammy Award-winner Pepo Sherman. This work will be a part of the ballet, “Picasso,” Rodriguez is currently working on in Madrid.
- “Diálogo” (Dialog) by Guest Artist José Barrios (U.S. Premiere)
This work is part of the Flamenco ballet, “Reditum,” premiering in Cordoba in 2017. The Martinete-Siguiriya songs are considered to be one of the saddest in the rhythms of Flamenco. This style belonging to the group of the tonás or cantes a palo seco (acapela style) are traditionally sung with no accompaniment. In some dance shows for the stage, they are accompanied by percussion. For this U.S. premiere, percussionist Javier Saume-Mazzei will join Barrios accompanied by Flamenco singer, Paco Fonta.
Signature works by Komaiko:
- “Bolero” (1993), Friday June 14 only.
Ensemble Español’s signature work and Komaiko’s masterpiece is set to the titular score by Maurice
Ravel. In its review of Ensemble Español’s January 2018 performances at the Joyce Theater, The
New York Times observed how the work “wowed the audience…Amazing.”
- “Ecos de España” (1983), Saturday, June 15 only.
Komaiko, in collaboration with Edo (an acclaimed dancer, choreographer, and teacher who toured
throughout Spain, Europe and the U.S.), choreographed this work inspired by paintings from Francisco
de Goya’s “Black Period” and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Capriccio Espagnol,” Op. 34. “Ecos de
España” has been performed with many Chicago area symphony orchestras, including the Evanston
Symphony Orchestra, the Skokie Valley Symphony Orchestra, the Northwest Symphony Orchestra
and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
- “Danza Del Fuego” (Dance of Fire) (1979), Sunday June 16 only.
Komaiko set this work to “Ben Amor” from “La Zarzuela” (Spain’s light opera) by Pablo Luna. The
romantic 20th century neo-classical choreography combining two styles, Ballet Español and Flamenco,
portrays the mysterious moods and great eastern influence of the Moors in Spain during their 900-year
- “Zapateado” (Dance of the Shoe) (1976). All three performances.
This dance is a portrayal of herders, herding the bulls to the fields on horseback. “Zapateado” made
its 1976 debut with the very first company of five dancers (Karen Stelling, Vida Peral, Myrna
Maldonado, Sergio Bahamondes and Rafael Figueroa) at the Northeastern Illinois University
Auditorium. Komaiko’s inspiration for this work was her mentor, José Greco.
“Flamenco Passion: A Tribute to Dame Libby Komaiko” comes to the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, located at 9501 Skokie Blvd. in Skokie June 14-16. Performances are Friday, June 14 and Saturday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, June 16 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20-$50 and are on sale now. Special event Friday, June 14: Meet the Artists VIP Pre-Opening Night Reception in the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts 2nd level, $65. To purchase tickets and for more information visit northshorecenter.org or call 847.673.6300.
As part of the 43rd American Spanish Dance and Music Festival, Ensemble Español will also be holding a series of Spanish and Flamenco dance classes at the company’s dance studios, Building J, at Northeastern Illinois University N. 5500 St Louis Ave, Chicago June 7-12. Schedule varies. Classes range from beginner to professional level. Instructors include guest artists Carmela Greco, Carlos Rodriquez and José Barrios and Ensemble Español Artistic Director Irma Suárez Ruiz. For more information visit EnsembleEspanol.org.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Irma Suárez Ruiz and Executive Director Jorge Perez, Ensemble Español is internationally recognized as the premier Center for Spanish Dance, Music and Culture in America. The company was founded by Dame Libby Komaiko in 1975 as a company of five student dancers and has grown to a full company of 40 dancers, musicians, singers. Forthcoming engagements for the company include 2019 Dance for Life at the Auditorium Theater, Aug. 17 and a tandem engagement with Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre as part of The Auditorium Theater’s “Made In Chicago” Dance Series, Oct. 4.
Throughout the company’s 43-year history, Ensemble Español has changed lives through their education and outreach efforts. To date it has awarded more than 2,600 scholarships, trained more than 160 youth dancers and 90 youth apprentices to become professionals in the arts world. This past season Ensemble reached over 30,000 students. Ensemble Español has been in residence at Northeastern Illinois University since 1976.