Even in the final days of her life, Dame Libby Komaiko remained involved in almost every aspect of Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, the company she founded in 1975. Executive director Jorge Pérez, who started training with Komaiko in 1985, sat at her bedside in the ICU, consulting about music and costumes for an upcoming show. “We worked harder because we knew that the company was keeping her going,” Pérez says.
Komaiko died in February, at 69, and in her memory Ensemble Español pressed ahead, trying to match her passion and tenacity. “There was no downtime to mourn the way you normally would,” Pérez says. “We just kept working.”
The company is dedicating its appearance at the Auditorium Theatre’s Made in Chicago dance series to Komaiko, as it did in June with its American Spanish Dance and Music Festival. Like the six world premieres featured there, this repertory concert will showcase the company’s trademark flamboyant costuming and kaleidoscopic lighting.
The program, a double bill with the Latino-focused outfit Cerqua Rivera, includes artistic director Irma Suárez Ruiz’s Pasion Oculta, a high-octane modern flamenco piece, and Komaiko’s Ecos de España, a boisterous folkloric dance set to the Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol. The night also marks the return of the company’s premier dancer, Claudia Pizarro, an exhilarating performer who was on leave for part of last season. “The theme is passion,” says Pérez of the lineup. “It’s hot, it’s Latin. This is the hottest ticket in Chicago.”
Five More Things to See
1 A Toast to Lar Lubovitch
The Harris Theater highlights the cofounder of Chicago Dancing Festival, the summer mainstay that ran for 10 years. The program features high-caliber performers from Hubbard Street, Joffrey, and elsewhere presenting works from the choreographer’s 50-year career.
2 More Literary Heroines at the Joffrey
Last season gave us the world-premiere smash hit Anna Karenina. So it’s only natural for the Joffrey to take on British choreographer Cathy Marston’s adaptation of Jane Eyre, with a masterful score by composer Philip Feeney.
3 A Dance Nerd’s Delight
Modern-day luminaries like Pol Pi and Noé Soulier headline at Between Gestures, a festival aimed at introducing Chicago to the European dance and performance art scene. If you’re unfamiliar with what’s going on across the Atlantic, expect to see everything from postmodern dance and vogue to butoh.
4 Something Old, Something New from Giordano Dance
In a bluesy premiere, Peter Chu reconnects with the musical origins of American jazz dance by riffing off classic chord progressions. Bonus: The Bournés, a vivacious gospel choir, join Giordano dancers for the rollicking Can’t Take This Away.
5 Telling 65,000 Years of History with Modern Dance
The top-shelf Australian dance company Bangarra Dance Theatre uses rich theatricality and gorgeous design elements to shine a contemporary lens on indigenous oral histories. For its local debut, Bangarra performs a compilation of its three decades of work. — L.W.