It’s May 23 and it’s got to be one of the hottest days of the year so far. I’m on foot, on campus at Northeastern Illinois University. And I’m lost, trying to find a low-rise building adjacent to Bohemian National Cemetery. I think I spot it, then I’m certain: Its front door bears the logo of Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater.
In the performing company and school’s half of the building — shared with NEIU’s maintenance staff, carpenters and electricians — there are two practice studios and open office space. A hallway dividing the low-rise down its center is lined on Ensemble Español’s side with ten tall, wooden doors.
Irma Suarez Ruíz, associate artistic director, and Jorge Pérez, administrative director, open the first pair of these doors for me, to reveal a huge closet filled with brightly colored costumes and props. There are racks of full skirts, trimmed and ruffled to the utmost; and a plastic bin labeled Embrujada (“bewitched” or “haunted”) Shoes. There are collapsible fans, lots of them, bin after bin of show fans; short vests and gossamer blouses, jewel-toned velvet gowns, and accessories galore: sashes, shawls, belts, headpieces and hats. I notice more high-heeled shoes of various types, both for men and for women. Still toasty from my walk from the bus stop, I can’t keep my eyes off the fans, even though there’s so much more to take in.