Spanish Dance Icon Libby Komaiko Dies at 69
Dame Libby Komaiko, one of the most important female figures in Spanish dance in the United States passed away on February 2, 2019. A trailblazer for Spanish and Flamenco dance in the United States, she leaves behind a strong and flourishing legacy which includes the Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, The Ensemble Español Center for Spanish Dance and Music, the Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Youth Company, the Northeastern Illinois University Spanish Dance Program and the annual American Spanish Dance and Music Festival.
An admirable, visionary leader, Komaiko successfully trained and maintained the same administrative and artistic personnel for decades, bringing an uncommon level of stability and consistency to a genre of dance dominated by pick-up companies. She leaves the company with more than 100 works of choreography.
Komaiko was often mistaken for Spanish but was actually Jewish of Lithuanian and Russian descent. She was born in Chicago in 1949 and grew up in Evanston. Her parents were both musicians exposing Komaiko to music since infancy. Inspired by a live performance of the Nutcracker, Komaiko studied classical ballet and character dance as a young child and as a teen studied jazz, modern and musical theater.
At 18, Komaiko went to watch auditions for Jose Greco's Dance Company where she was unexpectedly asked to audition by Greco. Komaiko said to Greco, "I'm not a Spanish dancer," in which he replied, "Just try." Greco offered Komaiko a spot in the company, which were her first steps in a life-long career in Spanish dance.
In 1972, Komaiko was invited to teach as an artist-in-residence at Northeastern Illinois University. Shortly thereafter she began teaching full-time and developed the Spanish Dance Program there. In 1976 she incorporated Ensemble Español and the company received in-residence status at the university.
In 1983 she was granted the Lazo de Dama de la Orden de Isabel la Catolica (the Ribbon of the Dame) from the King of Spain, His Majesty Don Juan Carlos I. Komaiko was the first American artist to be awarded the distinction. In 1986 she was featured on the cover of Dance Magazine and was also featured in DanceTeacher magazine in 2001. In 2003 she received the coveted Ruth Page Award and in 2004 received the prestigious International Latino Cultural Center Lifetime Achievement Award. President Barack Obama congratulated Komaiko's efforts in 2011 for the company's work globally.
Komaiko successfully overcame the many challenges and barriers for women in Spanish dance. A culture of sexism still today exists for female artists in Spain, particularly in leadership roles, making Komaiko's international success notable. As well, American-born artists struggle in the United States to gain the same level of respect that Spanish-born artists automatically receive from American audiences. Komaiko overcame these challenges with grace and persistence while enduring an autoimmune condition which she was diagnosed with in 1994.
Komaiko is survived by her brothers Daniel Komaiko and William Komaiko, her sister Leah Komaiko, her birth daughter Jen Miller and birth granddaughter Amanda Miller.
What do Percy Jackson, Princess Diana and Tina Turner have in common? They're all characters on Broadway this season. Throw in Michelle Dorrance's choreographic debut, Henry VIII's six diva-licious wives and the 1990s angst of Alanis Morissette, and the 2019–20 season is shaping up to be an exciting mix of past-meets-pop-culture-present.
Here's a look at the musicals hitting Broadway in the coming months. We're biding our time until opening night!
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
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Ah, stretching. It seems so simple, and is yet so complicated.
For example: You don't want to overstretch, but you're not going to see results if you don't stretch enough. You want to focus on areas where you're tight, but you also can't neglect other areas or else you'll be imbalanced. You were taught to hold static stretches growing up, but now everyone is telling you never to hold a stretch longer than a few seconds?
Considering how important stretching correctly is for dancers, it's easy to get confused or overwhelmed. So we came up with 10 common stretching scenarios, and gave you the expert low-down.