Ensemble Espagñol

August 7, 2008

North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Skokie, IL

June 27, 2008

Drama simmers beneath the exterior of five silhouetted dancers. They are bound together in slow progression traversing the stage as if in a horse-drawn coach, a journey across time and memory. The stunning image began Flamenco Passion, the gala concert of Chicago based Ensemble Espagñol’s two-week American Spanish Dance Festival.

    Before the concert even began, the packed performance hall buzzed with excitement, bringing together the Chicago Latino community with dance enthusiasts to celebrate Spanish dance, music, and culture. The audience cheered the performers with “olés” and “bravos” throughout an impressive and varied program featuring live music and renowned guest artist Carmela Greco, daughter of the great José Greco.  Additional guest artists Cristian Lozano and Paloma Gomez, former soloist and principal respectively of the National Ballet of Spain, contributed choreographic depth to the program.

    From the classic opening Suite Albeniz, choreographed by company director Dame Libby Komaiko and Paloma Gomez, to the historic folk ballet, Costumbres Valencianas, choreographed by Juanjo Linares, and culminating with Dame Libby’s modernist Flamenco take on Ravel’s Bolero, the evening was a joy to behold. But the highlight was Carmela Greco’s solo performance of La Union, her tribute to her father’s legacy.

    Greco, who took on the challenge of finding the feminine side of the Farruca, her father’s signature dance and a style performed exclusively by men. She appeared in pants, a striking statement in itself, which added to the poignancy of her performance. The drive and rhythmic core of her dancing radiated outward from the center of her body, giving the Flamenco gestures an emotional grounding that many of the younger dancers had not yet achieved.  Her exquisitely articulate hands created a lyrical counterpoint to the complex rhythms of her feet, adding to the dramatic intensity to her character. It was as if her dancing had summoned her father’s spirit into her body. She transformed before our eyes, giving us both herself and her beloved father, a rare double gift indeed.