4 Continents, 40 Years, 4,000 Performances and Counting

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Ensemble Español

The dance company prepares for their fortieth season.

This year marks 40 years since Dame Libby Komaiko founded Ensemble Español, now  a globally recognized and accredited Spanish dance company teaching Classical, Flamenco and Folkloric dance.

Ensemble Español calls Northeastern Illinois University home. They provide instruction in several divisions, from children four years and up to professional adult dancers. This year, the company will tour across the United States to New York, Washington D.C., Florida, Vermont, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Missouri. Directors of Ensemble were thrilled to accept an invitation to perform in Madrid in August of 2016. Consensus among the dancers is that they are excited, yet nervous to perform a Spanish dance for the people of Spain themselves.

Ensemble Español recognizes these 40 years of passion and their aim is to “Honor the past, celebrate the present and secure the future.” As history has it, they have quite a bit to celebrate. From 2014 to 2015 alone, Ensemble Español reached 26,000 students nation-wide through arts education programming like the After School Matters Program. The company has trained a total of 95 professional dancers and secured three endowed scholarships for Ensemble Español Dancers to attend NEIU. They are currently making efforts to pursue Komaiko’s vision of implementing an Alumni Foundation to foster and secure the future of Ensemble Español.

The core of Ensemble Español’s mission lies with “Transforming lives one dance step at a time.” Ensemble Español alumni like Ron De Jesus, have benefited from the impact Ensemble Español has had on people in Chicago communities.

De Jesus was a high-school drop-out. After being inspired by an Ensemble Performance, De Jesus sought the advice of Komaiko; she advised De Jesus to go back to school and to find her after he graduated, which was exactly what he did. De Jesus has performed on Broadway and currently dances with the Hubbard Street Dance Company. De Jesus continues to remain involved with Ensemble Español.

Ensemble Español has influenced Spanish dance and education on a National Level.  Komaiko is the founder of the nationwide Academic Program for Spanish Dance. In 2011, Ensemble’s excellence was recognized in a letter from the White House signed by President Barack Obama.

Outside of the United States, Ensemble Español has impacted the marriage of dance and academia on a global level. Juan Mata, of the National Ballet of Spain, said: “As a Spaniard, I am proud knowing that in Chicago there is an accomplished Spanish Dance and Culture Center that is underwritten by a university. That is an educational and cultural achievement that we have yet to achieve in Spain.”

On Oct. 8 and Oct. 9 Ensemble Español will be performing the series “Tales of Spain” at NEIU. All are welcome to come celebrate, learn and see what drives modern Spanish Dance, while helping to preserve the history of its beginnings.