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

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Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater

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Murdered lovers, courtship from beyond the grave, exorcism--all are part of the libretto, based on Gypsy folklore, for Manuel de Falla's El amor brujo, a piece he composed in 1915 for flamenco artist Pastora Imperio. Its violence and passion and otherworldliness make it the perfect vehicle for Spanish dance, and indeed many choreographers have re-created the piece over the years. Now it's Ensemble Espanol's turn. Based in Chicago, the company has enlisted Juan Mata and Ana Gonzalez of the National Ballet of Spain to choreograph the first, traditional part and choreographers Timo Lozano and Manolete to create the cuadro flamenco final wedding scene, something of an innovation for this dance opera. Also departing from the norm is a prologue by Ensemble Espanol artistic director Dame Libby Komaiko: she uses projections of photographs and children's drawings and paintings plus a soundscape of voices speaking Spanish and trains rumbling overhead to set the scene--Chicago in 2003. Then there's a flashback to 1963 Andalusia, where the grandmother of the troubled young girl in the first scene confronts her own tragedies. The two settings reinforce both the continuity of Latin culture and its shifts: whereas in the opening bit young people gather around a boom box and fight, 40 years earlier youngsters gather to read and sew. In this production, a recording of Falla's orchestral score is supplemented by traditional music played live onstage. El amor brujo makes up the second half of the concert, the culmination of the company's annual American Spanish Dance Festival. Also on the program are Komaiko's 1989 La era romantica and a new piece she choreographed and performs with Lozano, Luna de Cordoba. Mata dances the U.S. premiere of Tu y yo, the solo he created for Gonzalez, his wife, and she performs her Paseando por el puerto with three male dancers. Manolete offers the Chicago premiere of A mi mama, and the full company dances Juanjo Linares's 1985 Danzas Vascas. North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673-6300. Opens Thursday, July 17, 8 PM. Through July 20: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 3 PM. $17-$32.

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