Scene from Ensemble Espanol's "Flamenco-Passion"

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater’s popular “Flamenco Passion” live dance and music performances will return to the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts on June 19 and 20. These performances are part of the 39th American Spanish Dance & Music Festival, showcasing the elegance and passion of Spain’s dance, music and culture June 10 through June 28.

Ensemble Español has been in residence at Northeastern Illinois University since 1976. “Flamenco Passion” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. June 19 and at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. June 20. Tickets are $26-$46 at (847) 673-6300 or

Positioned in the center of this year’s Festival, the “Flamenco Passion” performances feature 40 dancers, musicians and guest artists fusing classical, traditional, contemporary and Flamenco styles. Works will include world premieres by guest artists José Greco, II, Raquel Gomez and Ensemble Español Principal Dancers Claudia Pizarro and José Torres; a Chicago premiere by guest artists Carmela Greco and José Greco II; plus popular works from Ensemble Español’s repertoire including Ensemble Español Founder and Artistic Director Dame Libby Komaiko’s masterwork “Tiempos de Goya” and the company’s Associate Artistic Director Irma Suárez Ruiz’s Flamenco suite, “No Me Olvides” (“Do Not Forget Me”).

“Ensemble Español is thrilled that world-renowned Flamenco dancer José Greco II will be joining us along with his sister, Carmela Greco, a longtime friend of the company and an annual favorite at the festival,” Komaiko said.

Works scheduled to be performed in the “Flamenco Passion” performances are as follows:

“Sur” (“South”) — World Premiere

Renowned Spanish dancer and choreographer Raquel Gomez’s full company ballet “Sur” is set to the Flamenco rhythms of acclaimed Spanish composer and pianist David Peña Dorantes, with percussion by Javier Saume-Mazzei and features the 18th Century classical Spanish dance style of Escuela Bolera.

“Danza de la Gitana” (“Dance of the Gypsy”) — World Premiere

Guest artist Raquel Gomez performs this solo to music by Spanish classical composer, Ernesto Halffet (1905-1989). Halffet was a pupil of Manuel de Falla, widely considered one of Spain's most important musicians of the first half of the 20th century. Halffet adapted and conducted the music for “El Amor Brujo” (1967), the film version of Falla’s 1915 ballet, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

“Vivencias” (“Experiences”) — World Premiere

This work is choreographed and will be performed by Ensemble Español Principal Dancers Claudia Pizarro and José Torres in the Flamenco Fandango style.  Fandango's first sighting in a theatrical work was in Francisco de Leefadea's entremés (short comedic piece) "El novio de la aldeana," staged in Seville in 1720. By the late 18th century, Flamenco Fandango had become fashionable among the aristocracy and was often included in Zarzuelas (Spain’s light opera) and in ballets throughout Europe.

“Danza del Contrabandista” (“Dance of the Smuggler”) — World Premiere

This piece will be performed and choreographed by José Greco II based on his father’s legendary famous solo, “Zapateado,” (“Dance of the Horseman”) from the 1940s. While Greco Sr.’s work was originally set to the music of Spanish violinist and composer Pablo Sarasate (1844-1908), José Greco II has set his dance to a composition entitled “Zapateado,” by Spanish composer and conductor Tomas Breton (1850-1923).

“Cancion Andaluza” (“Andalucian Song”) — Chicago Premiere

“This duet, inspired by our father, was our first partner dance where our father challenged my and my brother’s technical and emotional mastery of Flamenco,” guest artist Carmela Greco said. Set in the caña Flamenco palo (style) to music in the “cante jondo” (deep song) format, this dance was choreographed and first performed by Camela Greco and José Greco II in the famous Tablao Flamenco in Madrid’s El Corral de la Moreria, in 1986.

“Tiempos de Goya” (“The Times of Goya”)

Ensemble Español Founder and Artistic Director Dame Libby Komaiko’s passionate, critically acclaimed full company classical/contemporary/Flamenco masterwork pays homage to the great Spanish painter, Francisco José de la Goya (1746-1828). De la Goya painted for 70 of his 82 years. His work was forged from his own fierce engagement with his times to the Napoleanic War. Inspired by some of Goya’s greatest works including “Pinturas del Parque” (“Pictures in the Park”), “Retratos de la Corte” (“Portraits of the Court”), and “Desastres de Guerra” (“Disasters of War”), Dame Libby sets a powerful ballet to the rich music of Enrique Granados (1867-1916; Spain), Luigi Boccherini  (1743-1805; Italy), Alberto Ginastera  (1916-1983; Argentina), Ludwig van Beethoven  (1770-1827; Germany/ Belgium) and finally to the Flamenco cries and rhythms of the Nanas (Lullabies) and Martinette.

“No Me Olvides” (“Do Not Forget Me”)

Ensemble Español Associate Artistic Director Irma Suárez Ruiz’s critically acclaimed full-company Flamenco suite returns to the stage with the drama, joy and passion only Ensemble Español dancers can produce. In a sea of blue costumes, designed by Ruiz, this suite combines the rhythms from the cante chico (light song) Romeras and Alegrias styles from the beautiful seaport of Cadiz. With the accompaniment of guest Flamenco musicians Manuel Palacin on vocals, Antonio Gabarri Jimenez and David Chiriboga on guitar and Javier Saume-Mazzei on percussion, “No Me Olvides” will be a memorable final work for the evening’s program.

Festival events are as follows:

June 10, 8 p.m., Duende Flamenco Music & Dance Concert, The Old Town School of Folk Music
Tickets: Free
Call (773) 728-6000 or visit

June 19, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 20 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., “Flamenco Passion” Gala Performances
North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie
Tickets: $26-$46
Call (847) 673-6300 or visit

Monday, June 22-24, 2:30-4 p.m., Spanish Dance History Seminar with Ana Gonzalez and Juan Mata
Northeastern Illinois University Dance Studios, Building J
For reservations or more information call (773) 442-5916 or email

June 22-28, 10 a.m.-8:45 p.m., 56 Spanish Dance Classes and Flamenco Master Workshops
Northeastern Illinois University Dance Studios, Building J
For reservations or more information call (773) 442-5916 or email