Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater can fill a stage with excitement like few other dance companies can. It’s an organization whose performing members include forty dancers, singers and musicians, representing what the Company describes as “a magnificent mosaic of world cultures – Latin, North & South America, Asia, Middle East and Europe”. In their stated purpose to ‘preserve, promote, and present’ the many Dance and Music traditions of Spain — Flamenco, Folkloric, Classical, and Contemporary– they’ve developed a unique history, a unique repertory, and a unique choreographic voice.
They’ll be presenting their Flamenco Passion: A Tribute to Jose Greco’s 100th Anniversary at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts (on Friday and Saturday, June 15-16 at 7:30pm, and again on Sunday, June 17 at 3pm), and the program is an especially important and exciting one. Flamenco Passion features an in-depth tribute and celebration of the legendary achievements of José Greco, directed by Guest Artist Juan Mata. Greco was one of the most important dance stars of the mid-twentieth century, not only “the undisputed Spanish dance star of the ’50s and ’60s”, according to an obituary in the Los Angeles Times by dance critic Lewis Segal written on Greco’s passing in 2000, but also “the greatest of all dance stars until the advent of Rudolf Nureyev” in terms of box office power.
Flamenco Passion will also present the World Premiere of choreographer Carlos Rodriguez’ Mar del Fuego, and a performance of Ensemble Español Founder Dame Libby Komaiko’s classic and enchanting work Bolero.
DancerMusic asked Ensemble Español Artistic Director Irma Suárez Ruiz and Executive Director Jorge Pérez to share with us a little more about what we’ll see at The North Shore Center, and here’s what they told us:
Mata’s work debuting at the Flamenco Passion performances will be an outstanding tribute to Jose Greco, because it is created by someone who knows our company and knew Greco well.
Johnny Nevin: Can you tell us a little more about the tribute to José Greco that Juan Mata has created for Ensemble Español’s performances of Flamenco Passion 2018?
Jorge Pérez: Juan Mata is extended family of the Ensemble Español. He and his wife, Ana Gonzalez, are founding members of the National Ballet of Spain, and the Ensemble Espanol is extraordinarily lucky and grateful to have them be part of our organization as guest artists and faculty.
Mata was a student of the legendary José Greco. He and our founder Dame Libby have a long and creative history together as proteges of the legendary José Greco. Mata’s work debuting at the Flamenco Passion performances will be an outstanding tribute to José Greco, because it is created by someone who knows our company and knew Greco well. It is especially remarkable since it will feature three Greco children, Carmela, Jose and Lola, performing in honor of their Dad, on Father’s Day weekend no less.
Throughout the company’s 42-year history, Ensemble Español has changed lives through their education and outreach efforts.
Johnny Nevin: Since Greco was Ensemble Español founder Dame Libby Komaiko’s teacher, the celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of José Greco’s birth must have special significance for the Company. Can you tell us a little about that as well?
Irma Suarez Ruiz: José Greco gave Dame Libby her first scholarship in Spanish dance while she was a young artist in Chicago. That gave birth to her lifelong passion for Spanish dance and lead to the creation of Ensemble Español, in residence at Northeastern Illinois University since 1976.
Throughout the company’s 42-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.
At Ensemble Español we know how important it is to honor the traditions and legacy that José and the Greco family offered and continue to offer as they teach and perform with us. We also feel it’s important to make sure Greco’s legacy endures as an Italian American immigrant who found his talent and shared it with America, Spain and the world.
For those fans who have long supported and enjoyed Bolero, the work celebrates 20th century artists using a traditional art form. For those who are not as familiar with Bolero or who have never seen it, it quickly becomes a personal favorite
Johnny Nevin: Also on the program are Dame Libby Komaiko’s renowned signature work Bolero, which always makes a tremendous impression, and the world premiere of Carlos Rodriguez’ ballet Mar de Fuego (Sea of Fire). What can the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts audiences look forward to seeing in these two works?
Irma Suárez Ruiz: Bolero has been long considered Dame Libby Komaiko’s masterpiece. For those fans who have long supported and enjoyed Bolero, the work celebrates 20th century artists using a traditional art form. For those who are not as familiar with Bolero or who have never seen it, it quickly becomes a personal favorite. The vibrant red, swirling capes and its rhythms, power and passion are known to have inspired many of our dancers to audition for the Ensemble Espanol upon seeing this work.
Mar de Fuego explores the relationship between Spain and the Americas, and was inspired by Dame Libby’s love, passion, and commitment to the art form of Spanish dance, music, arts, culture and education.
Jorge Pérez: The world premiere ballet Mar de Fuego, dedicated to Ensemble Español founder Dame Libby Komaiko, will open the evening’s concert and fill the first half of the program. It is an outgrowth of our relationship with leading choreographer Carlos Rodriguez. Rodriguez is one half of the team Rojas and Rodriguez with whom Ensemble Español has an ongoing relationship. Rojas and Rodriguez collaborated on the creation of IROKO for Ensemble Español’s 40th anniversary in 2016.
Mar de Fuego explores the relationship between Spain and the Americas, and was inspired by Dame Libby’s love, passion, and commitment to the art form of Spanish dance, music, arts, culture and education. Created in the Flamenco contemporary style, Mar de Fuego also draws on The Red Thread of Fate legend, which says we are destined to connect with one another via this magical red cord from the lunar gods. Mar de Fuego has nine movements: Obertura (Overture), Miles de Seres (Thousands of Lives), Company La Esencia (The Essence), Los Mares (The Seas), Olas Crecientes (Rising Waves), Cristales de Sal (Crystals of Salt), Jaleos (Shouts), Profundidad (Depth), Mar de Fuego (Sea of Fire) and Finale. It will be performed by Ensemble Espanol artistic director Irma Suarez Ruiz and the Ensemble Espanol Company dancers.
Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater presents Flamenco Passion: A Tribute to Jose Greco’s 100th Anniversary at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts (9501 Skokie Boulevard – Skokie, IL 60077) on Friday and Saturday, June 15-16 at 7:30pm, and on Sunday, June 17 at 3pm. Tickets are available online from The North Shore for the Performing Arts, or you can phone the North Shore Center Box Office: (847) 673-6300.