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Libby Ann Komaiko[1] (June 30, 1949 – February 2, 2019) was an American classical dancer and educator, whose career spanned 50 years in culturally specific art, dance and education. She is the founder of the Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater in residence at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, Illinois.


Early lifeEdit

Born in Chicago to Dorothy, a concert pianist and educator, and Robert, a music educator who served as the fine arts coordinator at Kaplan Jewish Community Center, Libby Komaiko's passion for dance began at the age of nine after seeing a performance of The Nutcracker.[2] She began her dance training with Elisa Stigler at the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University. At 18, after an invitation to audition for a scholarship, Komaiko earned the opportunity to train and perform with the legendary Jose Greco's Spanish Dance Company.[3]


Komaiko put aside her dream of being on Broadway and continued to commit herself to Spanish dance.[4] She studied in Spain and the U.S. with Maria Alba,[5] Nana Lorca, Lola Montes, José Greco, and Edo, as well as her partner for several years, Roberto Lorca.[2][6] Teaching ballet, modern dance, and creative movement across Chicago, Komaiko became part of the Artists in Residence program at Northeastern Illinois University in 1974. Eventually advancing from instructor to full professorship, Komaiko (B.A. ’78 University Without Walls)[7] founded the Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater in residence at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago in 1975. As a dance professor in the school's department of music and dance, she created, developed, directed and taught the first complete academic program for classical, folkloric and flamenco dance and music.[2] In 1983, she was granted the Lazo de Dama de la Orden de Isabel la Católica.[8]

In 1985, committed to bringing this art form and education to a range of students across the city to change lives, Komaiko and Lillian Hemnover, executive director of the Frederick Funston School, launched the Ensemble Español’s youth company. With a mission to preserve, promote and present the flamenco, folkloric, classical, and contemporary dance and music traditions of Spain, Ensemble Español grew from seven students to over 40 dancers, singers, and musicians. It presents over one hundred Spanish dance educational programs a year, reaching nearly 20,000 students in arts education programming, and has performed hundreds of concerts worldwide.[2]

Komaiko contributed flamenco, ballet, folkloric and classical choreography to over 60 of the company’s 125 original works and collaborated with founding members of the National Ballet of Spain, Juan Mata and Ana Gonzales, as well as other Spanish dancers Paco Alonso, Manolete, and Juanjo Linares.[6][7]

Komaiko retired from dancing in 1994.[3] In 2011, she became professor emerita of Northeastern's Department of Music and Dance.[7] She died on February 2, 2019 at the age of 69.[9]


External linksEdit


  1. ^ "Libby Komaiko Obituary". Retrieved 2019-02-10.
  2. ^ a b c d "The Book - NEIU About". Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Hispanic dance troupe has Jewish roots". Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  4. ^ Alexia Elejalde. "Libby Komaiko, Ensemble Espanol founder". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  5. ^ Jennifer Dunning. "Maria Alba, Flamenco Dancer And Teacher Noted for Passion". New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  6. ^ a b "NEIU – In Common Magazine 2015". Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c "Dame Libby Komaiko selected to receive Northeastern's 2015 Distinguished Alumna Award - Academics". Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Dame Libby Komaiko - Ensemble Español". Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  9. ^ "Dame Libby Komaiko, founder of Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance, dies at 69". 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2019-02-10.