“Ensemble Español” Review- Spanish Dance Theatre at the Auditorium for Hispanic Heritage Month

Dancers of Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater in "Bolero" by Dame Libby Komalko; photo by Joe Davis
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Ensemble Español returned to the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress, on October 6th to open the 2017-18 “Made in Chicago” Dance Series. A company referred to as made up of “extraordinarily beautiful, passionate, superbly skilled dancers”, and “exciting, sensual, and breathtaking”, the troupe, resident at Northeastern Illinois University, put on a program that “brilliantly blends Flamenco, classical, contemporary, and traditional forms of dance”.

The Spanish art form of Flamenco is comprised of guitar playing, song and dance. Although it originated in the southern Spanish regions, it’s believed to be influenced by many world cultural traditions, and Latin American, Cuban and even Jewish traditional arts are apparent when you view this wonderfully exciting music and dance combination. The dance form itself is romantic, sentimental, deeply stirring and emotional. The dancers express their feelings in body movements and facial expressions, as well as by kicking their feet and clapping; many snap castanets. The costumes run the gamut from black to vivid colors, ruffled and formal, tight and dramatic.

The program consisted of:

“Madrileño (Madrid), choreography by Irma Suárez Ruiz and Paco Alonso, danced by Company and Youth Company Grade School Division; guest singers Erica Rose Saunder, soprano, and Luis Galvez, tenor. This operatic performance, opening on a colorful street scene, comprised a partnered dance, known as “the schotis”. Performed at traditional festivals, it is reminiscent of a polka.

“Sentimento” (Sentiments), dancer and choreographer Carlos Rodriguez. This was a daring and thrilling single dancer performance of strong percussive steps coupled with vivacious upper-body gestures, “a blend of wrenching music and blazing dance”.

From “Ecos de España”; photo by Joe Davis

“Ecos de España”, (Echoes of Spain), choreography by Dame Libby Komalko in collaboration with Edo Sie of Fandango Asturiano, danced by the Company before a backdrop of projected artwork by Francisco de Goya to the music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. This inspiring dance was composed of numerous dance styles and was thrillingly evocative of Spanish folk musical “rhythms and colors”. The mesmerizing nude gowns trimmed in orange gave way to black and white costumes stunning in their severity; the use of shawls was breathtaking.

“Pasion Flamenca” (Flamenco Passion) was a diverting musical interlude featuring David Chiriboga, Flamenco guitarist; Patricia Ortega, Flamenco singer; and percussionist Javier Saume-Mazzei. The calling voice coupled with the insistent beat was rhythmically special.

-“La Liebre”, (The Hare), choreography by Jose Torres, performed by dancers, apprentices, and the Youth Company, Senior Division. This was a form of folk music/dance from Sevilla and its region, “Sevillanos”, derived from an old Castillian folk and dance genre, influenced by Flamenco. Bright and exciting, it has unique set steps.

“Mi Deseo” (My Desire), choreographed by Carlos Rodriguez; featuring guest artist Irma Suárez Ruiz coupled with flamenco singer Patricia Ortega and percussionist Javier Saume-Mazzei; this was a sensuous and moving work.

“Fuera de la Caja” (Out of the Box), choreographed by Angel Rojas, a modern version of this famous ballet set to the music of Manuel de la Falla, danced by the Company. A thrilling, hypnotically beautiful piece, in which each dancer is shown to perfection, a series of red-gowned women wake up one by one to be partnered and swirled across the stage.

– “Iroko”, choreographed by Angel Rojas and Carlos Rodriguez, was a very special new ballet danced by the full Company which celebrates the relationship of Spanish dance to the that of “Europe, Africa and the Americas”.

From “Iroko”, photo by Dean Paul

-“Duende Gitana” (Gypsy Soul); danced, choreographed and with costume design by Irma Suárez Ruiz, featuring Flamenco singer Patricia Ortega and percussionist Javier Saume-Mazzei, this was a visually and aurally stirring Flamenco interlude.

“Una Obra de Arte” (A Work of Art), choreographed by Claudia Pizarro, Jorge Peréz, danced by soloists, Company dancers and apprentices. This is a rhythmically challenging piece traditionally danced by men, here with a virtuoso female soloist, a very strong and intense work.

“Luna Metallica”, (Metallic Moon), choreographed by Manuel Liñan, danced by guest soloist Carlos Rodriguez; this jaw-dropping work of immersive modern percussive/Flamenco artistry brought forth cheers.

“Bolero”, choreographed by Dame Libby Komalko to the unmistakable strains of Maurice Ravel’s haunting “Bolero”, with a background of projections of the drawings and paintings of Pablo Picasso, this was a full Company piece. With gorgeous costumes in red and black, and tossing cape work, the moving light effects brought the program to a flashing, turning dramatic close.

The program, a timely vision for “Hispanic Heritage Month” was sweeping in its scope, fulfilling and exceeding all expectations in the wonderful imagery and immediacy of the totality of the presentation. Kudos to the entire production team of lighting, sound, projection and costume designers.

For all the fine performances/programs at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, “The Theater for the People”, go to the auditoriumtheatre website



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