Eight dancers strike poses on stage under blue lighting

Ensemble Español embraces ‘New Era, New Works, New Legacies’ in 45th season

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theatre, in residence at Northeastern Illinois University, marks its 45th season from August 2020 through July 2021. The season, titled “Zafiro Flamenco (Sapphire Flamenco): New Era, New Works, New Legacies,” will feature new partnerships, new works, virtual programs plus a new $300,000 anonymous matching grant opportunity with a total potential earnings of $1 million.

“Sheltering in place has brought out new creativeness and collaborative spirit from our dancers and staff,” Artistic Director Irma Suárez Ruiz said. “It’s like we are warriors fighting with added passion for established projects and inspiration for new projects as we fight to stand strong and build bridges of understanding during these uncertain times.”

Ensemble Español’s 45th season features new collaboration between Chicago Public Schools and  Northeastern Illinois University, where they will offer dual enrollment Spanish dance classes for the Honors program and create a global curriculum for all CPS schools to follow to offer Spanish dance.

Ensemble Español has also created a new educational program, the United Rhythms Youth Fusion Project. For this program, Ensemble Español, Eafon and Muntu African Dance Company are collaborating on a Flamenco dance cross-cultural exchange showcasing the similarities of the Spanish Flamenco culture and the percussive styles of African and African American dance. Current community partners include Segundo Ruiz Belvis Arts Cultural Center serving the Humboldt Park, Hermosa and Belmont Cragin neighborhoods; Gary Comer Center serving Chatham, Roseland and Auburn Gresham; and CXO Metroplex serving Woodlawn, Hyde Park and South Shore communities.

Ensemble Español is also teaming up with renowned guest artists from Spain and the U.S. for the “Flamenco en Vivo/Live Flamenco Virtual Dance & Music Community Series” on Oct. 3, 10, 17 and 24; Nov. 7 and 14; and Dec. 5. Featured artists will include La Lupi, winner of the 2007 National Flamenco Competition, with Flamenco guitarist Curro de MaríaCarmela Greco, daughter of the legendary Spanish dancer José Greco; international flamenco artist Omayra Amaya, grandniece of the legendary Carmen Amaya; Edwin Aparicio, recipient of the Cross of the Order of Civil Merit, granted by King Felipe VI of Spain; Grammy Award-winner Nino de Los Reyes and Paloma Gómez, former principal of the National Ballet of Spain.

Ensemble Español’s virtual performance events through December include: 

  • Dance for Life Virtual Past Performance (Aug. 10-15)
    Ensemble Español was featured in a video encore Founder Dame Libby Komaiko’s masterpiece “Bolero” in this year’s online edition of the popular annual gala in support of The Dancers’ Fund
  • Tales of Spain Virtual Concert Favorites (Sept. 15-Oct. 15 and Dec. 9-10)
    These free hour-long presentations show how Spanish dance is influenced by the ancient Celtic peoples, Moorish sensibilities, and the lives and passions of the Gitanos. Students, parents and teachers receive an in-depth survey of Spain’s special place in dance art forms. Read more.
  • Concierto Navideño/Holiday Concert Virtual Favorite Dances (Dec. 12)
    These dances feature Ensemble Español Company dancers, guest artists and members of Ensemble Español’s Youth Company. Performance highlights from Ensemble Español’s popular annual holiday program will be showcased for the first time in a virtual program.
  • Virtual Flamenco and Spanish ballet Performance Commentary Series (ongoing)
    Company dancers, choreographers, costume and lighting designers share insights into Ensemble Español’s most popular critically acclaimed works: Ron de Jesus’ “Mil Clavos,” Carlos Rodríguez’s “DeFalla, Out of the Box” and “Mar de Fuego,” “Amor Brujo,” Dame Libby Komaiko’s “Bolero,” Artistic Director Irma Suárez Ruiz’s choreographies and more.

Ensemble Español looks forward to returning to the stage in 2021 and capping the 45th Season with three “Zafiro Flamenco” performances at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie (June 18-20).

The program will include the world premieres of “Entre dos Aguas” (Between Two Waters) in the Flamenco Alegrías style by the late guest artist from Cordoba, José Barrios and “El Casorio” (The Wedding ) with choreography and costume design by Irma Suarez Ruiz, artistic director. These performances are part of the American Spanish Dance & Music Festival (June 18-26).

“We are grateful and fortunate to have a new board of directors and committee ambassador members on this special 45th anniversary season, from educators, dance professionals, advertising and branding executives from the City of Chicago, Microsoft, Hyatt, Goldman Sachs, to Grant Thornton and more,” Executive and Associate Artistic Director Jorge Pérez said. “They are helping us move forward with a five-year strategic plan that will lead us into our 50th anniversary, new fundraising initiatives and governance to see us through the challenges of COVID-19.”

To date the company has raised more than $190,000 during the COVID-19 pandemic and recently, Ensemble Español received a $300,000 matching grant opportunity from an anonymous donor. Funds will go to support the company’s outreach programs, dancers, teachers and staff. To receive the full economic impact of the matching grant, Ensemble Español has been charged with raising $300,000 over the next two years. To facilitate this, Ensemble Español just initiated a new fundraising campaign, “$45 for 45th Funding Our Future,” which continues through July 2022 for a $1 million financial support opportunity.

“Northeastern Illinois University is proud and honored to have had Ensemble Español in residence for 45 years and counting,” Northeastern President Gloria J. Gibson said. “This vibrant partnership is rooted in shared values, including integrity, excellence, access to opportunity, diversity, community and empowerment through education. Over the years, our partnership has blossomed into extraordinary collaborations and both national and international accolades. As Northeastern does for our students each and every day, the Ensemble opens an exciting window to the world and each of us is invited to join them. We celebrate and are most appreciative of the anonymous match donation for their tremendous support of Ensemble Español and Northeastern Illinois University.”