Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater 

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Flamenco encompasses a wide range of styles and moods, from stately ensemble dances employing politely held fans and sedate walking patterns to wild, passionate solos. But they all convey a sense of pride, with jutting shoulders, lifted arms calling attention to a torquing torso, clothing dramatically clasped and whipped, and wrists and fingers twirling in slow motion. The dramatic footwork might be fast or slow, light or heavy, but it's always sharply defined; at its best flamenco gives an impression of transcendent self-discovery. Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater, based at Northeastern Illinois University, has been practicing the form for 25 years, exploring its possibilities in a repertoire of more than 110 dances choreographed by artistic director Dame Libby Komaiko, company members, and guest artists from around the world. The troupe's annual American Spanish Dance Festival, a two-week program of classes and workshops also celebrating its 25th anniversary, culminates in four performances featuring guest artists Edo, Juan Mata, Ana Gonzalez, Timo Lozano, and Celia Fonta, as well as numerous musicians and singers. The program includes five premieres and such company favorites as Komaiko's Clavos y Canela (1979), Ecos de Espana (1982), and Bolero (1993), an updated version of flamenco set to Ravel (which smooths off a few too many of the form's rough edges for my taste). North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673-6300. Opens Thursday, July 19, 8 PM. Through July 22: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 3 PM. $15-$30. Note: Thursday-night benefit tickets are $75 and include a preshow reception; call 773-442-5930 for information.

--Laura Molzahn

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