Saturday, June 8, 2024

REVIEW: ARTISTIC BRAVURA Ensemble Español's "Flamenco Passion" Program Superb

 Chi, IL Live Shows On Our Radar 




LaLupi with musicians Diego Alvarez, Jose Diaz El Chachito, Curio de Maria, 
Jose Moreno and Jose Alconchel.  Photo by Dean Paul

Exciting Premieres Include “Viejos Aires” / Flamenco Tango by Award-winning Choreographer Antonio Najarro 

“Resliencia” / Resilience and “El Bolero de Puerta de Tierra” by Former Principal Dancer with the National Ballet of Spain, Raquel Gomez; and 

“Compas de Seda” / Silk Rhythm by Flamenco Superstar La Lupi

Guest Review 

by Flo Mano


Ensemble Espanol at North Shore Center for performing Arts opened to dramatic lighting, marigold costumes, and jazz fusion that gave a modern feel to "Sur",  choreographed by guest artist Raquel Gomez.

In her solo world premiere, "Resilencia", Raquel Gomez was impassioned. Her exceptional dancing within the perimeters of a movable geometric rectangle to square was impressive to see. I enjoyed the lighting from above by Dustin L. Derry.

“El Bolero de Puerta de Terra”, a world premiere, was a feather like flamenco on ballet slippers by the entire company, choreographed by Raquel Gomez, and inspired by Dame Libby‘s “Seguidillas”.

This piece was followed by Flamenco guitarist, Curro de Maria, with “Mi Andalusia”.

Jonathan Pacheco with Ensemble Espanol Company Dancers in Fantasia Suite Regional-Tribute to Juanjo Linares. Photo by Dean Paul

Folklore legend Juanjo Linares’ “Fantasia Suite Regional” depicted exerpts from Galicia-Extremadura & Valencia, individual & intertwining seamlessly!

A stupendous performance of "Chamberi" was perfection, by guest artist La Lupi. Her mastery commanded the utmost attention, as the audience collectively held its breath, so as not to miss a second. Every precision move in her “Batas de Cola” was hypnotic, as she effortlessly tossed & swayed her long train dress. I was struck by the intensity of her jaleo sounds and facial expressions.

The musicians' synchronized percussion-palmas-Spanish guitar and singing transported one to Andalusia.

“Pasion Oculta" was danced by 5 couples to Escala electronic string quartet “Requiem for a Tower” & “Palladio” flawlessly, to loud applause!

"Compas de Seda", another world premiere choreographed by La Lupi, featured stylized fans & shawls. Flamenco Guajiras is a melange of Andalusian-Canary island and Afro-Cuban palo dance, and an amazing  ensemble piece. Loved the fade to silhouettes. 

La Lupi was superb in her solo “A Silvetio”!!! 

The final dance was a world premiere of Flamenco Tango, “Viejos Aires”, by multitalented Argentinian guest Artist Antonio Najaro, choreographer/dancer/costume designer extraordinaire! Very Impressive!! Astounding even!!!

Ensemble Espanol is stretching beyond in this exquisite production! They will be performing at old Town school of music & NEIU. 

DO NOT MISS!! Imbibe dance!!!

Florence Manolis (AKA: Flo Mano) is a Greek American CPS elementary teacher/librarian, hairdresser, and theater/dance/film fanatic who catches hundreds of Chicago shows annually. She volunteers at numerous film venues and theaters and has called Chicago home since she immigrated here from Greece in early elementary school. 

Jonathan Pacheco and Samantha Micklewright in Viejos Aires by Antonio Najarro. 
Photo by Casey Mitchell

Popular Works from Ensemble Español’s Repertoire in the Traditional and Contemporary Genres Complete the Program

Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, in residence at Northeastern Illinois University, brings their popular “Flamenco Passion” performances to the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, 9501 Skokie Blvd., 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8 and 3 p.m. Sunday, June 9. These performances are part of the company’s 48th multi-faceted American Spanish Dance and Music Festival (June 7-15).

“Flamenco Passion” program highlights include the world premiere of “Viejos Aires” / Flamenco Tango as reset on Ensemble Español by Antonio Najarro, award-winning choreographer and former artistic director of the National Ballet of Spain, choreographer of Disney movie "WISH.

” Najarro’s work features a fusion of Spanish classical style and Argentinean Tango and displays the sensuality, passion and elegance of Buenos Aires.

Additional world premieres include “Resliencia” / Resilience and “El Bolero de Puerta de Tierra” (Escuela Bolera) choreographed by Raquel Gomez, former principal dancer and Rehearsal Director of the National Ballet of Spain; and the Cuban influenced dance “Compas de Seda” / Silk Rhythm choreographed by Flamenco superstar La Lupi, to an original music composition by Curro de Maria.Works from Ensemble Espanol’s repertoire included in the program include “Sur” by Raquel Gomez (2015); “Fantasia Suite Regional” choregraphed by Juanjo Linares and Nana Lorca (1977) and “Pasion Oculta” /Hidden Passion choreographed by Ensemble Español Artistic Director Irma Suarez Ruiz (2019).Joining the members of Ensemble Español in performance will be guest dancer/choreographers includingRaquel Gomez, La Lupi and Antonio Najarro; and featured musicians including José Díaz “El Cachito”(singer), José Alconchel and Curro de Maria (guitarists); Diego “El Negro” Alvarez and José Moreno (percussionists).

“Every ‘Flamenco Passion’ festival performance is meant to entertain and highlight the timeless yet ever-evolving art that is Flamenco as performed by Chicago’s premiere Spanish dance company Ensemble Español,” says Executive Director and Associate Artistic Director Jorge Perez. “We also pride ourselves in our record of collaborating with some of the most exciting voices in Flamenco, Escuela Bolera, Classical and Folkloric as we maintain our important role as active participants in the continue evolution of this exciting music and dance form,” says Ruiz, Ensemble Español Artistic Director.

The “Flamenco Passion” performances are part of Ensemble Español’s 48th American Spanish Dance and Music Festival which also features these related events:

● VIP-Pre-Opening Night Reception: Preceding the Saturday, June 8 performance there will be a “Meet

the Artists” VIP Pre-Opening Night Reception in the North Shore Center on the 2nd level. Tickets are

$65 (includes VIP seating for that evening’s performance). To purchase tickets and for more information

visit or call 847.673.6300.

● Free Ethnic Dance & Music Symposium 2024 at NEIU (June 10-12) Topics include: “The Complexities of Covering Ethnic Dance & Music” and “Arts Economic Ecosystem: The New Workforce Development Plan to Build Strong Community” (June 10); :Ethnic Arts Crossing Genres” and “Expanding Flamenco Musical Language” (June 11) and “It’s a Family Affair Ethnic Art, Oral Traditions, Art as a Way of Life” and “From Flamenco to Tap and All That Jazz” (June 12). All sessions take place at NEIU, 5500 N. St. Louis Ave. Admission is free, but reservations are requested. For more information and to register visit

● Festival Spanish Dance Classes at Northeastern Illinois University Dance Studios NEIU, 5500 N. St. Louis Avenue (June 10-15) Over 100 Spanish dance and music classes in Flamenco, Classical, Escuela Bolera and Folklore. Single class rate $35. For more class information and registration visit or email at Patricia Mendez at

● Concerts at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave. –“Flamenco to Tap and All That Jazz” with Wendy Clinard, Bril Barrett, Diego "El Negro" Álvarez, José Moreno, José Diaz "Cachito", José Manuel Alconchel, 8 p.m. June 13; “Duende Flamenco” with La Lupi, Nino de los Reyes, Curro de María, Diego "El Negro" Álvarez, José Moreno and José Diaz "Cachito" 8 p.m. June 15. Tickets: $30.

For tickets visit

About Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater 

Ensemble Español, founded in 1976 by Dame Libby Komaiko, is the premiere Spanish dance company and center in the U.S. with a professional and unique residency at Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago. Under the artistic direction of Irma Suarez Ruiz and executive leadership of Jorge Perez, the Ensemble continues its mission of preservation, presentation and promotion of Spanish dance and culture which also includes the exploration of the country’s history in the; Flamenco, Folkloric, Classical and Escuela Bolera styles and identifies its influence on Latin American art and dance in both traditional and contemporary formats. They forge ahead as the leaders in Spanish dance and culture with a commitment to our communities, via performances, education, school residencies, academic university programs, festivals and tours. They remain committed to their roots in education and mission of educational, artistic, and social development. Their incredibly rich history includes serving over 30,000 students annually, training over 90 company dancers, training over 160 Youth Company dancers from ages 12 to 18, over 90 international guest artists and musicians from Spain and the Americas, over 2,600 scholarships awarded to talented aspiring dancers, musicians and educators, tours and residencies of U.S., including Hawaii, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Poland, Australia, Canada, China and Spain. For more information on concerts, performances, classes and residencies, visit

Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theatre in residence at Northeastern Illinois University is grateful to thefollowing 48th Season Festival Partners and Sponsors: Northeastern Illinois University, Interim President, Katrina Bell-Jordan, Ph.D., NEIU Department of Music and Dance, Caerus Foundation, Hurvis Foundation, Illinois Arts Council, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Microsoft, Eugene Jarvis and Sasha Gerritson, Salme and Michael Steinberg, Sonia Florian,Estate of Gregory Ragsdale and the Ragsdale Family, FourStar Branding, The Nest, Jaleo by Jose Andres, Atzimba Catering and Events, Stonewolf Studios, Clinard Dance Theater, Instituto Cervantes, International Latino Cultural Center, Negocios Now, HMS Media and Chicago Dance Supply.

Special thank you to the Northeastern Illinois University Board of Trustees, NEIU Foundation, the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts and festival official hotel sponsor, Holiday Inn & Suites Chicago North Shore and O’Hare.

Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater 

“Flamenco Passion” Performances 

at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, June 7-9

Act 1

“Sur” / South (2015)

Choreographer and Costume Designer: Raquel Gomez, Guest Artist

Music: David Dorantes, Pianist and Composer

Costume Production: Luz Creations Lighting Designer: Original concept by Nathan Tomlinson

Lighting design reimagined in 2023 by Dustin L. Derry

Dancers: Company

Raquel Gomez created this work that reaches back to the traditions of the Escuela Bolera (classical Spanish style) from the 18th Century, as it simultaneously embraces contemporary Flamenco music. “’Sur’ proves…that something with so much tradition and such deep cultural roots…can be current and keep its deepest history.” (Raquel Gomez)

Raquel Gomez performing her work Resiliencia. Photo by Dean Paul

“Resiliencia” / Resilience (Clasico Español), WORLD PREMIERE

Choreographer, Costume Design, Dancer: Raquel Gomez, Guest Artist

Music: Joni Fuller

Lighting Design: Dustin L. Derry

“The ability of the human spirit to overcome the obstacles that life challenges us with. It does not matter how much life challenges us with, what matters is how strong we become every time we get up.” (Raquel Gomez)

“El Bolero de Puerta de Tierra” (Escuela Bolera), WORLD PREMIERE

Choreographer: Raquel Gomez, inspired by Antonio Ruiz

Music: Isaac Albeniz (1860-1909)

Costume Design: Raquel Rodriguez Ruiz-Medrano

Costume Production: Luz Creations

Lighting Design: Dustin L. Derry

Dancers: Sammi Micklewright, Abigail Mosquera, Jonathan Pacheco, Irene Sivianes Fernandez, Martina Wensell

“My inspiration when putting together this choreography was the great teacher and dancer Antonio Ruiz. Ruiz was one of the first major artists to implement classical ballet in Spanish dance companies. This style and choreography requires great technical experience and artistry of classical ballet. My second inspiration was Ensemble Español’s beautiful and elegant choreography, ‘Seguidillas,’ performed by Dame Libby Komaiko. The work was set in 1977 by former artistic director of the National Ballet of Spain, Nana Lorca, to the Spanish zarzuela (light opera) music of ‘El Nino Judío’ by Pablo Luna.” (Raquel Gomez)

“Mi Andulicia”

Flamenco Guitarist: Curro de Maria

“Fantasia Suite Regional”

- Tribute to Juanjo Linares (1977)

Choreography by Nana Lorca, former artistic director of the National Ballet of Spain and (1984-2000): Juanjo Linares

Music: Traditional; Fernando Arias, Milladoiro, M. Padilla, Ginet, Guidi & Caserio

Costume Design: Juanjo Linares

Lighting Design: Dustin L. Derry

Dancers: Company

Maestro Juanjo (Sept.1933 -Nov. 2009) created 25 works for the full company from 1984 through 2000. As Spain’s foremost authority on folklore, Juanjo’s detail to the style, customs and celebration of the people of each region in Spain made him the legendary master on this art form. Now Ensemble Español honors his legacy by presenting excerpts from the regions of Galicia, Extremadura, and Valencia. Ensemble Espanol’s Irma Suarez Ruiz and Jorge Pérez have both performed and been a part of Juanjo’s works with the Ensemble Español since his first residency to Chicago in 1984.

“Chamberí” (Flamenco Caracoles) (2023)

Choreographer & Dancer : La Lupi, Guest Artist

Music: Curro de Maria & Pedro Medina

Musicians: Curro de Maria, Jose Alconchel, guitarists; Jose Diaz El Cachito, singer; Diego “El Negro” Alvarez, percussionist; José Moreno, singer, percussionist

Costume Design: La Lupi & Enrique Vicent

Lighting Design: Carlos Rodriguez

Chamberí, the oldest train station in Madrid. The cante por Caracoles, conceived by the singer D. Antonio

Chacón, pays tribute to the city as a key point for Andalusian artists who arrived and left for the capital. Madrid, with its open arms, welcomed these artists in a warm and hospitable way.

“Pasion Oculta”/ Hidden Passion (2019)

Choreographer and Costume Designer: Irma Suarez Ruiz, Artistic Director

Music: Escala

Costume Production: Luz Creations

Lighting Design: Dustin L. Derry

Dancers: Company

This Flamenco contemporary work, set on five couples of Ensemble Español Company dancers by artistic director, Irma Suarez Ruiz, portrays the hidden passions of love and desire. Ruiz set this sensual work to two songs by the all-female electronic string quartet, Escala: “Requiem for a Tower” and “Palladio.”

Act 2

“Compas de Seda” / Silk Rhythm, WORLD PREMIERE

Choreographer & Costume Designer: La Lupi, Guest Artist

Music Composition: Curro de Maria

Costume Design & Production: Enrique Vicent

Lighting Design : Dustin L. Derry

Dancers: Nalanie Molina, Sammi Micklewright, Abigail Mosquera, Irene Sivianes Fernandez, Maria Lujan,

Catherine Beza, Jose Torres, Juan Carlos Castellon, Luis Beltran, Jonathan Pacheco, Sergio Rojas, Miguel Conde

This work, in the Flamenco Guajiras palo/style dance, is based on the sung genre of Cuban music, a poetic art with music. A guajira is simply a song for voice and guitar with a series of similar letras. It became popular in the western and central regions of Cuba in the 17th century and consolidated as a genre in the 18th century. It has Andalusian and Canary Islands origins, and it integrated African elements in Cuba. The Flamenco guajira is the adaptation to Melos Flamenco of the Cuban point, the peasant point, a genre that brings together a series of songs called Guajiros that are grown in the rural areas of the island of Cuba.

“Duende Flamenco”

Music: Curro de Maria, Jose Alconchel, guitarists; Jose Diaz El Cachito, singer; Diego “El Negro” Alvarez, percussionist; José Moreno, singer, percussionist

Lighting Design: Dustin L. Derry

“A Silverio” (2022)

Choreographer and Dancer: La Lupi

Music: Curro de Maria and Livio Gianola

Costume Design: Enrique Vicent

Lighting Design: Tito Osuna

“…a bravura showcase of Flamenco Abandolaos and Serrana styles” (WTTW).

“Viejos Aires” / Flamenco Tango, WORLD PREMIERE

Choreographer, Dancer, Costume Designer: Antonio Najarro, Guest Artist

Music: Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)

Costume Production: Enrique Vicente

Lighting Design: Dustin L. Derry

Dancers: Section 1: “Otoño Porteno” - the Company; Section 2: “Fuga y Misterio” - Antonio Najarro, Guest Artist

Antonio Najarro performs a solo in his Viejos Aires. Photo by Dean Paul

Section 3: “Viejos Aires” – the Company

“Choreographing my creation 'Viejos Aires' on the Ensemble Español dancers represented a personal reunion with the repertoire of my own dance company. ‘Viejos Aires’ has a choreography that has given me numerous successes throughout its presentation and performances in the best theaters around the world. Irma and Jorge’s invitation to set this work on the Ensemble Español as part of their extensive repertoire was exciting. I wanted to merge two very different styles in terms of technical elements: Argentinean tango and Spanish dance, including my own personal style. In Ensemble Español, I clearly saw a company with great desire and enthusiasm to assimilate, face and interpret this complex work. ‘Viejos Aires,’ from my point of view, is a timeless passionate choreography that speaks from the heart to the heart. (Antonio Najarro)

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