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Ensemble Espanol

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It's a theatrical truism that firelight onstage is effective, whether it's a candle, a candelabra, or a lit cigarette in the dark: natural burning light magnifies the presence of the performer who holds it. So imagine two dozen dancers holding lit candles as they march from the back of an auditorium down to the stage, which the Ensemble Espanol and the Junior Ensemble Espanol will do as part of the finale in their annual Concierto Navideno ("Christmas concert"). Usually the candlelight processional opens their seasonal concert, but this year it'll be part of the second act, an all-flamenco tribute to ten-year guest guitarist Luis Primitivo, who passed away this November. Flamenco, even in its bubbliest forms, is always more somber and dramatic than any other kind of Spanish dance, though it has plenty of lively moments. The first half of the program will feature a mix of dance styles--including the jota, a fast, bouncy, joyful folk dance performed entirely on half toe. It requires counterturns--spins in the opposite of the expected direction--followed by leaps with one foot folded below and the torso bent out over the lead leg, all at a breakneck speed. Also in the first half Dame Libby Komaiko, the ensemble's artistic director, will perform a sobering solo, Suenos de solea ("Nightmares of a dream"). Komaiko's former dance partner, Roberto Lorca, who died of AIDS six years ago, choreographed it for her as a way of coping with his imminent loss, and in it she seems to tear the stage apart with grief in the vein of Martha Graham's Lamentations. Graham, seated and shrouded in a sack, pushed and poked and punched at the confining material; Komaiko, who begins and ends the dance seated, does the same to the air around her with a fiery anger, rebelling against the confinement of her long, trailing dress as she turns and travels across the stage. It's as cathartic to watch as Greek tragedy. Friday and Saturday at 8 in the auditorium of Northeastern Illinois University, 5500 N. Saint Louis; $8-$15. Call 583-4050, ext. 3015, or 583-4062 for tickets and information.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Virgilio Diaz.

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