The women stamp a hard-edged beat into the floor with their feet and use their arms and hands to make circles over their heads and against their chests as if they are scooping the music in toward themselves for inspiration. The men stand ramrod straight, moving their hands in quick, full-body circles that always end in the region of the hips, which jut slightly forward and outward. They turn each duet into a bullfight, a contest of wills. In flamenco, both parties flirt to conquer. The Ensemble Espanol, under the artistic direction of Dame Libby Komaiko, provides plenty of flamenco dancing during its 17th annual American Spanish Dance Festival, now in progress. The whole second half of the program consists of various flamenco dances: the bubbly and playful alegrias, the impassioned soleares and bulerias, the rhythmical zapateado (in which the dancers contrast fast and slow footwork, trying to show how musical their feet are). The farruca, a man’s dance that accents the virile line of the bullfighter, will be danced by guest artist Victorio, known for his lightning-quick moves, often getting on his knees to sweep himself across the dance floor as he swings his vest over his head in a furor. Former company member Vida Peral (Vida Bitinas when she danced with the original company) returns as a special guest, fresh from international engagements throughout Europe–including Madrid, where she has been living and performing since 1984. The first half of the program features other forms of Spanish dance: the neoclassical bolero, a dance titled Soldier’s Return, and one of Spain’s many regional folk dances, the jota, which makes use of large seashells rubbed against each other for musical accompaniment. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 3 through July 18 in the auditorium of Northeastern Illinois University, 5500 N. Saint Louis; $8-$15, free for NEIU students, faculty, and staff with ID. Call 583-4050, ext. 3015, or 583-4062 for info and tickets.

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