Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, which has been in residence at Northeastern Illinois University for 40 years, has been awarded a major Growth Grant by Caerus Foundation, Inc. that will help the dance company expand its arts education programs and transition to a full-time professional company over the next three to five years.
The grant has the potential to raise $1.5 million through a matching campaign over the next three years, and the NEIU Foundation has created a website for contributions to the matching effort.
“This is a life-changer for us,” Ensemble Español Board President George Diaz said. “It will give us the opportunity to further expand our breadth and depth of programming and educational outreach, and to begin the important transition to a full-time dance company with full-time dancers, full-time administrative personnel, and permanent part-time staff.”
This marks the second time the Caerus Foundation has provided a significant grant to Ensemble Español. The first was in 2012, when the Caerus Foundation provided Ensemble Español a $450,000 multi-year grant to support their arts education programming.
“Caerus Foundation, Inc. is committed to supporting organizations that provide high-quality arts education and instruction to youth—particularly in underserved communities in Chicago,” said a spokesperson for the organization. “Ensemble Español's dedication to engaging youth through the Spanish dance discipline is evident in its ability to reach more than 30,000 school-age young people annually. The Foundation looks forward to Ensemble Español's growth as a professional performing arts organization, and the expansion of its educational arts programming as a central tenet to its mission.”
A private foundation established in Illinois in 2001, Caerus Foundation, Inc. aims to expand educational opportunities for young people, alleviate human suffering, cultivate a more inclusive arts community, and preserve the natural world. To achieve these goals, the Foundation makes grants in four program areas: Arts, Education, Environment and Global Health. The foundation’s domestic grants support organizations and programs primarily in the cities of Chicago and San Francisco, as well as in Wisconsin. International grants support activities across Africa and Asia, and in parts of Eastern Europe and Central America.
As the premier center for Spanish dance and music at a university, Ensemble Español reserves, presents and promotes the Flamenco, folkloric, classical and contemporary dance and music traditions of Spain. Founded in 1976 by Dame Libby Komaiko, and under the dynamic leadership of artistic director Irma Suarez Ruiz and executive director Jorge Perez, the company is comprised of 40 dancers, singers and musicians who represent a mosaic of world cultures. Performances reach an average of more than 50,000 audience’s members each year.
Komaiko is the founder of the first academic program of Spanish dance at a U.S. university. This commitment to arts education and higher education is central to the company’s mission, and includes three endowed scholarships for young dancers to receive tuition support for a four-year degree at Northeastern.
Ensemble Español dancers and works have been featured in television, opera, film and symphonic formats, and the company has performed at every major theater and university in the Chicago area. Recent national engagements have included the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Dance St. Louis, Chicago’s esteemed Dance for Life benefit concerts, and the Chicago Dancing Festival. Ensemble Español has toured throughout the United States, including Puerto Rico and Hawaii, and internationally in Mexico, Costa Rica, Poland, Australia, China and most recently, Spain.
From an extraordinary repertoire of more than 135 works, the Ensemble has worked with such prominent artists as José Greco; Nana Lorca; Edo; Mara Alba, Victorio Korjhan; Paco Alonso; Roberto Lorca; Juan Mata and Ana Gonzalez, founding members and former first dancers of the National Ballet of Spain; Carmela Greco; Paloma Gomez; José Barrios; Christian Lozano; Juanjo Linares and Manolete, among others. From these artistic relationships, the company has maintained its reputation for artistic excellence and cultural integrity, and has encouraged its dancers to pursue higher education, and artistic creation of their own.
Ensemble Español recently implemented a new “Raised in Chicago, Ready for the World” marketing campaign highlighting its profile as an established and major contributor to Chicago’s cultural identity. For more formation about Ensemble Español, its programs and upcoming events or charitable donations, visit ensembleespanol.org or call Director of Development Carolyn Aguila at (773) 442-5999.