Guest choreographers Carlos Rodriguez (far left) and Angel Rojas work with dancers Abigail Ventura and Juan Carlos Castellon during rehearsals for “Iroko.”

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Featuring three showings of its popular “Flamenco Passion” concerts, Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater will continue its 40th-year celebration with the 2016 American Spanish Dance & Music Festival from June 8-25. The annual event includes performances, classes, seminars and lectures showcasing the elegance and passion of Spain’s dance, music and culture.

This year’s “Flamenco Passion” performances feature more than 40 dancers, musicians and guest artists in an array of classical, traditional, contemporary and Flamenco styles. The world premiere of the highly anticipated “Iroko,” choreographed by Angel Rojas and Carlos Rodriguez, internationally acclaimed dancers, choreographers and founders of Nuevo Ballet Español, is a centerpiece of this year’s festival. Named for an African tree, "Iroko" is the perfect title of this work that celebrates the roots and branches of Spanish dance and its relationship to Europe, Africa and the Americas. Rojas and Rodriguez will join the Ensemble Español company dancers in this new Flamenco contemporary ballet, choreographed to original music composed by Juan Parrilla.

The varied program includes popular works from Ensemble Español’s repertoire including Paloma Gomez’s “La Boda de Luis Alonso” (2012), Ensemble Español Artistic Director Irma Suarez Ruiz’s “El Baile de Luis Alonso” (2010), Juan Mata and Ana Gonzalez’s “Alegrias y Jaleos” (2006), and Ensemble Español Founder Dame Libby Komaiko’s iconic masterwork, “Bolero” (1993). Additional performances include José Barrios (Cordoba), principal dancer of the Maria Pages Company; Carmela Greco (Madrid), daughter of the legendary José Greco; Flamenco guitarist Antonio Gabarri Jiménez (Madrid); Flamenco singer and guitarist Paco Fonta (Miami); Flamenco guitarist David Chiriboga (Ecuador); Flamenco singer, Manuel Palacin (Madrid) and Venezuelan-born percussionist, Javier Saume Mazzei.

In residence at Northeastern Illinois University, Ensemble Español is internationally recognized as the premier center for Spanish dance, music and culture in America. Throughout the company’s 40-year history, Ensemble Español has awarded more than 2,600 scholarships and trained more than 160 youth dancers and 90 youth apprentices to become professionals in the arts world.

Festival schedule

Duende Flamenco Music & Dance Concert
Wednesday, June 8, 8 p.m.

The Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
Tickets: Free
Contact: (773) 728-6000 or

International Passion
Tuesday, June 14, 12:15 p.m.

Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theatre, 78 E. Washington St.
A panel discussion with Juan Mata and Ana Gonzalez, founding members of the National Ballet of Spain; Paloma Gomez, former National Ballet of Spain dancer and acclaimed choreographer; and Carlos Rodriquez, co-founder of Spain’s Nuevo Ballet Español and co-choreographer of “Iroko.” Ballet Chicago’s Dan Duell moderates.
Tickets: Free
Contact: Joséphine DiCesare, (773) 442-5916 or

“Flamenco Passion”
Friday, June 17, and Saturday, June 18, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, June 19, at 3 p.m.

North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie
Tickets: $26-$46. Free parking is available.
Contact: (847) 673-6300 or

Spanish Dance Classes and Flamenco Master Workshops
June 20-25

Northeastern Illinois University Dance Studios, Building J
5500 N. St. Louis Ave., Chicago
Registration/more information: Festival coordinator Joséphine DiCesare, (773) 442-5916 or

Top photo: Guest choreographers Carlos Rodriguez (far left) and Angel Rojas work with dancers Abigail Ventura and Juan Carlos Castellon during rehearsals for “Iroko.”