With MLK-themed dance, Lula Washington delivers leaps that are well-timed in so many ways

Krystal Hicks performs "Temporary Spaces" during the Lula Washington Dance Theatre program at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. (Kevin Parry / The Wallis)

Krystal Hicks performs "Temporary Spaces" during the Lula Washington Dance Theatre program at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. (Kevin Parry / The Wallis)

Los Angeles Times
Written by Laura Bleiberg

January 12, 2018

"On the same day the president of the United States allegedly spat out profanity against African and other countries, Lula Washington Dance Theatre began a three-night run here that celebrates in dance and music African peoples and their American descendants. What timing!

Lula Washington founded her multiethnic company in urban Los Angeles, but the troupe’s first concert almost 40 years ago was at Beverly Hills High School, so call the Wallis Annenberg Performing Arts Center shows running through Saturday a homecoming.

A different program for each of the three shows is a luxury for this company — for any group, in fact. That allowed Washington to delve into her extensive repertory devoted to African American culture and history...

...And thanks, too, to Washington, for staying the course and reminding us of the joys and responsibilities we all have to make a better world. An important message to keep in mind on this MLK holiday weekend."



Ensemble Español named Best dance in dance 2017 by Chicago Sun-Times

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"Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts and the Auditorium Theatre: This company may be rooted in flamenco, but as these two programs once again proved, its dancers possess an astonishing facility to move brilliantly in any style — from the buoyant, high-speed jumps of classical Spanish dance, to contemporary ritual, to performance art drama. Every performance by this ensemble is a precision-tooled theatrical dream."

-By Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

Ensemble Español named Best dance in Chicago in 2017 by Chicago Tribune


"Ensemble Español ’s “Raices” at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in June: Style, flair and bravura are never lacking in an evening presented by Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater, but this summer’s “Raices” was particularly special with the world premiere of Angel Rojas’ “Defalla, Fuera de la Caja” and “Iroko,” the latter a collaboration with Carlos Rodriguez. In both cases, Ensemble Espanol is forging a new future for flamenco — a visually striking, distinctly contemporary genre that echoes other concert forms without losing sight of its roots."

--Lauren Warnecke, Chicago Tribune


Ensemble Espanol to Return to the Auditorium Theatre This Fall

Irma Suarez Ruiz & Jorge Perez, First Dancers of Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater in Dame Libby Komaiko's, Bolero.Photo by Joe Davis..jpg

Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater returns to the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on Friday, October 6, with a new program that brilliantly blends flamenco, classical, contemporary, and traditional forms of dance. The company opens the Auditorium Theatre's 2017-18 "Made in Chicago" Dance Series.

"As the Theatre for the People, we aim to highlight cultural traditions from around the world while also presenting the best artistic companies from Chicago," says Tania Castroverde Moskalenko, Auditorium Theatre CEO. "Ensemble Español ties the Chicago dance community to the traditions of Spain, and we are thrilled to have them return to our historic stage."

"We are honored and excited to return to the Auditorium Theatre," says Jorge Perez, executive director of Ensemble Español. "The Ensemble is truly grateful for this opportunity to celebrate Chicago's diverse dance culture via the 'Made in Chicago' Dance Series. Just like our city, our dancers reflect a mosaic of world cultures, all in the name of presenting traditional and contemporary forms of Spanish dance and music. ¡Ole!"

Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater performs four critically acclaimed pieces at the Auditorium Theatre: Iroko, a full-ensemble piece that modernizes flamenco dance, choreographed by Angel Rojas and Carlos Rodriguez of the Nuevo Ballet Madrid and called "virtuosic" by the Chicago Sun-Times; Defalla, Fuera de la Caja (Defalla, Out of the Box), Angel Rojas' contemporary take on a portion of the classic ballet The Three-Cornered Hat (originally performed at the Auditorium Theatre in the 1930s by Serghei Diaghilev's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo), set to the music of La Vide Breve (The Brief Life) by Manuel De Falla; Ecos de España, a 1983 work by Ensemble Español founder Dame Libby Komaiko, set to Spanish folk music and inspired by the paintings of Francisco de Goya; and Bolero, Ensemble Español's signature work and Komaiko's masterpiece, set to the titular score by Ravel.

Turning Points: Dance season to feature creative and socially conscious works

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Dance Alive National Ballet is Gainesville’s own professional dance company, performing original, full-length narrative ballets and contemporary works as well as classical greats.

The company’s season begins Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m. with “Aspire!” a socially conscious mixed bill in conjunction with “What is the Good Life?” the signature course of the UF Humanities Department.

“UF students have a course that’s supposed to encourage people how to live a ‘good’ life,” says Dance Alive artistic director Kim Tuttle. “Not a wealthy life, not a partying life, but a socially aware and morally just life. Part of the course requirement is to attend certain performances, and Dance Alive developed this program with the course of mind.”

“Aspire!” starts with a section of the Balanchine masterpiece “Apollo.” The program then transitions into three social commentaries before concluding with “Constellations,” a Dance Alive original.

Also in the company’s season are “L’Amour,” a Valentines program on Feb. 14, and “The Ring” on April 7. Both performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. “The Ring” (think Wagner) is based on Norse mythology. “It is the original ring saga,” says Tuttle, “the one that gave birth to the books and movie series we all know. The story’s centerpiece is a magical ring, with greed and the desire for power as the leading forces to conquer.”

All Dance Alive performances are at UF’s Phillips Center, which primarily serves as a venue for UF Performing Arts, Gainesville’s premier arts presenter.

Chicago Tap Theatre pays homage to David Bowie via ‘Changes’

"From June 30 – July 16 at Stage 777, the company will reprise one its most popular shows, “Changes,” a “tap dance opera” that pays homage to the science fiction serials of the 1940s and to the music of David Bowie. Choreographed by Yonally, directed by Harrison McEldowney, and featuring all new arrangements of Bowie’s music by Kurt Schweitz, it tells of a planet inhabited by peace-loving aliens, and the events that unfold when they encounter both a power-hungry species from another world, and a potential hero in the mold of Major Tom. Yonally plays Altego, the bad guy, who, along with two henchmen, arrives on the planet, subjugates its inhabitants and takes their wings.

“We wanted to bring this show back to honor Bowie,” said Yonally, who, along the way, has learned that one of Bowie’s kids even takes tap lessons in New York. “For the previous two incarnations of ‘Changes’ we just used the original Bowie tracks, but with his death [in January 2016] we thought: People want to hear his voice. So we found tracks of him singing without any background orchestrations, added live violin and cello, and created something I think is special.”

By Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times, 6/28/17

Ensemble Espanol’s ‘Raices’ shows flamenco’s roots and mostly moves beyond the fans and ruffles

"Indeed, flamenco’s roots are as deep and complex as Spain itself, which is perhaps why Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater is still able to excavate new and interesting material after 41 years of making dances. Through Sunday at Skokie’s North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, the company’s most recent program, “Raices,” which literally means “roots,” touches on flamenco’s cultural origins as well as those of Chicago’s longest-standing, best-known presenter of Spanish dance."
-Lauren Warnecke, Chicago Tribune

James Sewell Ballet and OHS bands team up for unique Band It concert Sunday

The Owatonna High School bands will provide the musical soundtrack for a performance of the James Sewell Ballet in a one-of-a-kind show at 4 p.m. Sunday in the OHS gym.

“This is definitely unique,” said Peter Guenther, director of bands at OHS. Simply put, a collaboration of this type in Owatonna between OHS musicians and a ballet company, he said, “has not been done before.”

Chicago Tap Theatre Named one of the Best Dance of 2016 by the Chicago Tribune for We Will Tap You!

"Chicago Tap Theatre with "We Will Tap You!" at the Athenaeum Theatre in June: Led by fearless Mark Yonally, this company has never hesitated to go out on a limb. But tap dance got a major shot in the arm with the vastly entertaining variety show "We Will Tap You!," set entirely to Queen songs (played live) and performed the night before Chicago's Gay Pride Parade. Major props to hilarious MC Mattrick Swayze and his dotty Swayzettes, but also to the stunt bicyclist, the marching band, the cheerleaders and the CTT dancers. Way to have fun."

-By Laura Molzahn

Chicago Tap Theatre named Best New Production for Time Steps in Dance Magazine


Time Steps - Best New Production by Dance Magazine 2016

"It isn’t easy to use tap to tell a psychologically nuanced and narratively complex story. Yet that is exactly what Chicago Tap Theatre did to riveting effect with Time Steps, a tale of romance, time travel, unexpected encounters and mortality. This wasn’t the first time CTT and its artistic director and choreographer Mark Yonally have spun stories through tap; past productions have dealt with everything from Chicago gangsters to the rock band Queen. But Time Steps turned out to be particularly haunting as it posed the questions: What if a time salesman could offer you the chance to revisit important moments in your life? Would you do anything differently? The sense of time moving backward and forward was skillfully suggested by counterclockwise circling and light, and the nervousness that comes with an interaction between strangers was conjured by alternately hesitant and excited taps. Each character had their own tap language and inflection, and each relationship played out with a distinctive back-and-forth of emotional footwork."

-By Guillermo Perez, Madeline Schrock, Hedy Weiss and Lauren Wingenroth