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Ensemble Español dance concert combines Spanish dance, Argentine tango

The world premiere of “Viejos Aires” by guest artist Antonio Najarro, the former artistic director of the National Ballet of Spain, is one of many highlights in Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater’s “Flamenco Passion.”

The annual dance concert is at 7:30 p.m. June 7 and 8 and 3 p.m. June 9 at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.

Jorge Perez, executive and associate artistic director of the company, praised Najarro’s work. “We’re excited to have him come and set this flamenco fusion with tango Argentinian music,” Perez said.

“Antonio made this creation very personal so it’s got a lot of his style in it, which also includes classical ballet. He added castanets. He also helped design the costumes. That suite is going to close our show.”

A duet in “Viejos Aires” will be performed by Samantha “Sammi” Micklewright and Jonathan Pacheco.

They were chosen for that duet because, “We immediately saw this chemistry between Sammi and Jonathan,” Perez said. Najarro agreed.

“I love being able to perform in a range of styles, all under the umbrella of Spanish dance,” Micklewright cited as one of the things she loves most about dancing with Ensemble Español.

She certainly has that chance with “Viejos Aires.”

“It is something completely new for our company,” Micklewright said. “It’s a fusion between Spanish dance and the Argentine tango. It’s sensual, it’s beautiful, it’s also incredibly complex from a technical standpoint.”

“I think Ensemble Español is one of Chicago’s treasures,” said Pacheco. “Our specialty being this ethnic dance form from Spain. Our focus is preserving, presenting, and promoting all of the different styles of Spanish dance—not just flamenco.”

Pacheco praised the choreographer of “Viejos Aires.” “Antonio Najarra is one of the greatest representatives of Spanish dance in the world,” Pacheo said. “It’s been a great honor and pleasure to work with him. I also had the pleasure of working with him last year at the Detroit Opera.

“Now being able to work with him here in Chicago at the Ensemble Español and bringing his choreography to light here for Chicago audiences is incredible.”

Pacheco will also do a solo in “Viejos Aires.”

Both dancers will perform in many of the other pieces in the show. “We have a diverse range of new premieres, which is very exciting,” Micklewright said.

In addition to Najarro, there are two other guest artists who have created world premieres for the company — La Lupi and Raquel Gómez.

Flamenco superstar La Lupi choreographed the Cuban-influenced “Compas de Seda” (“Silk Rhythm”) to original music by her husband, flamenco guitarist Curro de María.

“It’s going to have a tropical, light-hearted feel to it,” Perez noted.

Gómez, former principal dancer and rehearsal director of the National Ballet of Spain, created “El Bolero de Puerta de Tierra” (“Escuela Bolera”).

“’Escuela Bolera,’ is a very balletic Español-style dance which was originally set by the famous Spanish balletic dancer Antonio Ruiz. It’s a very difficult and challenging work,” Perez said.

Gómez will present the world premiere of a second work, “Resiliencia” (“Resilience”), which focuses on how people respond to challenges.

In addition, the company will perform some critically-acclaimed works from their repertoire. That includes “Pasión Oculta” (“Hidden Passion”) by Ensemble Español Artistic Director Irma Suarez Ruiz (2019), “Sur” (“South”) by Raquel Gómez (2015), and “Fantasia Suite Regional,” choreographed by Juanjo Linares and Nana Lorca (1977), as well as several other pieces.

Sixty dancers will perform the eclectic program.

“It’s going to have a really wonderful variety,” Perez said.

The dancers will be backed by five musicians — singer José Díaz, guitarists José Alconchel and Curro de María, and percussionists Diego “El Negro” Alvarez and José Moreno.

Myrna Petlicki is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

‘Flamenco Passion’

When: June 7-9

Where: Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie

Tickets: $25-$55

Information: 847-673-6300; ensembleespanol.org

Myrna Petlicki , 2024-05-30 12:09:01

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