Travel to Spain without leaving Illinois
Updated: Jun 25, 2022
June 17, 2022
Sitting in the audience of the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts watching Ensemble Español in Flamenco Passion rip up the stage, I had this feeling I had left Skokie and was now in Madrid. Surrounded by superfans of the guest artists I was transported to another place and time. I was also struck by the similarity between Ensemble Español and some recent Joffrey Ballet concerts: both serve up masterful classics and innovative new repertory that pushed the envelope of the genre. Both ballet and Spanish dance embody a movement vocabulary that has evolved over centuries, and both utilize a proscribed vocabulary of movements that modern day practitioners elevate to stunning new heights.
The yearly festival of Spanish Dance offered by Ensemble Español does not disappoint either the neophyte or the connoisseur of the art form. It's more of a tapas spread than a smorgasbord of course, but the three hour program has something for everyone. It was the first time I realized that Bob Fosse may have borrowed some arm movements from Flamenco. The fast footwork, precise ensemble unison sections, and the passionate drama of the pieces will assure that audience members will never be bored. The costumes and lighting and projections are visually delightful. Of particular note was the exquisite artistry of the guest artists: La Lupi and Elisabet Torras who added world premieres and dazzling artistry to the varied program. La Lupi’s use of an overstated ruffled train in Juanaca (Cantiñas)and shawl in Airoso Fleco (Taranto) took these standard costume items into the realm of high art. La Lupi is a master artist whose long history on the stage is conveyed with subtlety and wisdom: Grandma of Flamenco takes to the stage and shows us all how it is done. And this is an art form that respects all types of bodies and ages and shows off their gifts.
The dances and music ranged from the classical El Baile de Luis Alonso based on a zarzuela from 1896 to the fresh from the rehearsal studio Pasos Largos/Long steps (La Caña) world premiere by La Lupi. There is also live pulsing music and percussion, redolent of passion and sorrow. Musician Jose Moreno, a singer, and percussionist, hypnotized the audience with his La Resonancia del Alma/Resonance of the Soul (Solea) another world premiere. It was deep, sometimes funny and a brilliant conversation between dancers, musicians, and the audience.
Ensemble Español has concluded this inspiring series at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts but they are a Chicago based treasure and they have more coming up: Zorro the Musical will hit the boards at the NSCPA in August, the company will take the Auditorium Theatre stage on September 30 2022 with Tales of Spain and a Flamenco concert on October 1. Now that we have emerged from our Covid isolation you won’t want to miss the sheer joy of Ensemble Espanol– get a date on your calendar to leave your world behind and enter the passion of Ensemble Español. Go to www.EnsembleEspanol.com for more information. For information on classes, and an upcoming symposium on the Black and Brown Roots of Spanish Dance and Music visit EnsembleFlamencoPassion.org.