Featured Event: Ensemble Español creates a bold return to live performance with summer flamenco festival

Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, in residence at Northeastern Illinois University, presents three concerts as part of Zafiro Flamenco 45th Anniversary Festival. The program, performed at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, features the company’s world premiere of “Tangos de Granada,” choreographed by Wendy Clinard, artistic director of Clinard Dance. Two works in the bulerías and martinete (deep song) styles are choreographed by Nino de los Reyes, the first dancer to ever win a Grammy Award. The Chicago solo performance premiere of “Solea,” and world premiere of "Farruca," also by Reyes, complement the bill.

Other guest artists include Paco Fonta, a singer and guitarist based in Jaén, Spain and Miami; José Mareno, a percussionist and dancer based in Madrid, Malaga and New York; Patricia Ortega, a singer based in Cuba and Chicago; and David Chiriboga, a guitarist based in Ecuador and Chicago.

This year’s festival is dedicated to two beloved supporters and friends of Ensemble Español who passed away this past year: Dr. Miguel Suarez and José Barrios. Dr. Suarez was a former Ensemble Español ambassador, executive board member and father of artistic director Irma Suarez Ruiz. Barrios was a resident choreographer and dancer with the Ensemble, and of the Maria Pages Company and his own productions. Barrios’ “Algazara” (2013) will be performed by the company during the festival in his memory. A mix of audience favorites from Ensemble Español’s repertoire, including “Zapateado” (1976), choreographed by company founder Dame Libby Komaiko, complete the program.

These performances represent Ensemble Español and the youth company's return to live performance. Because they will be performing on a smaller stage and accommodating social distancing protocols, the Flamenco works will be performed by some—but not all—of the company. Still, the company looks positively on the opportunity the restrictions have provided to rethink staging and gain new insights into Ensemble Español’s work.

The Zafiro Flamenco 45th Anniversary Festival occurs at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 18 through Sunday, June 20. Virtual classes are also being offered with Carmela Greco, Omayra Amaya and Vida Peral. Visit https://www.ensembleespanol.org/festival2021/ for tickets and class reservations.