Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater

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It's been around for 26 years, but under the direction of Dame Libby Komaiko, Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater is still making a joyful noise. I thought my heart would fly out of my chest when the six dancers in Ritmos del Flamenco began beating on the cajones--the hollow boxes or "drawers" on which flamenco dancers and musicians sometimes sit--to play rattling rhythms with their hands while stamping out different cadences on the floor with their feet. The six also take turns dancing solos and duets, their movement coming to an abrupt halt several times, then rising again slowly in tempo and intensity with an undeniable sensuality despite the almost militaristic rhythms. In the duets, the man and woman rarely face each other, instead approaching obliquely, looking slightly askance, then swerving away. Even when Timo Lozano's choreography puts them face-to-face and the woman rests her fingers lightly on the man's chest and he places his hands on her shoulders, the encounter doesn't last or intensify but ends with a playful, delicate push apart. The same angles, typical of flamenco, mark Komaiko's choreography in Bolero, an homage to Pablo Picasso for some 20 dancers set to Ravel's music: she's sensitive to the implications of facing one another and facing away and sets up diagonal lines and great wheeling spokes of dancers to create space-filling stage pictures. There are lots of other pieces on the program and guest artists galore: dancer-choreographers Ana Gonzalez and Juan Mata of the National Ballet of Spain; singer Maria Elena "La Cordobesa"; singer-guitarist Paco Fonta; guitarists Greg Wolfe and Mateo; percussionist Mick La Briola; and pianist Juan Antonio Mata. Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, 312-902-1500. Saturday, November 2, 7:30 PM. $22-$52.

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