[Interview] The Ensemble Español’s Kim Grigsby: “In ‘Flamenco,’ There Is A Constant Effort Of Seeking The Duende”

BTSCelebs: Who is Kim Grigsby professionally? 

Kim Grigsby: I am the Associate Executive Director of the Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater. I work directly under Jorge Perez in running the organization. I work in external affairs, development, educational programs, and new initiatives.

What piqued your interest in performing arts? 

I grew up in the arts. My grandfather was an artist who was chair of the art department at Arizona State University. I grew up over the summers being exposed to the arts. I was a selected by the governor’s office in SC to attend the Governors school for the arts in theater. I have acted, been in several commercials and started a fashion design degree some years ago. So being a creative is in my blood. Formally trained as an attorney, I was not satisfied with practicing alone, so I started working with nonprofits to help them organize, fund, and provide educational pipelines for people in the creative fields. 

Tell us about the highlights on your road to the associate executive director role with The Ensemble.

I have the wonderful honor of utilizing both my creative mind and my logical & legal sensibilities to push organizations to be more. I have several stand out moments working with the ensemble. 

  1. Over the last 2 years we have doubled down on providing organizational support to EE. We have hired an accountant, HR, and additional support staff to provide greater support to the company.
  2. Educationally, we have transitioned all our programs to meet cps standards to fulfill the fine arts credit for our residency programs. Also, we have created a couple new programs. One is Flamenco Arts & Culture which provides a deep dive into the world Flamenco.  Another is Fusion, where we teach students Flamenco & West African dance. This program is a collaboration with Muntu Dance company.  The class features a flamenco dancer & Guitarist and a west African dancer and drummer. The other program that we offer that is first in the state and the only program that we know of in the US where we offer Spanish Dance as a dual credit class. Allowing high school students to earn high school and college credit to learn Spanish Dance. 
  3. The other accomplishments that we are super proud of is that we have increased all of our key metrics post Covid, 5% increase in audience growth, 10% increase in teaching in terms of both students and school. We also have had an increase in financial support moving from about a $600k budget to more than $2M including our endowments and investments.
  4. And the project that means a lot to me is we have started to explore ways to bring more people into the artform by touching on themes that’s are specific to Chicago. We are healing and joining community by talking about the Black and Brown Roots is Spanish Dance. We just completed a symposium where we have more than 2000 online participants from 16 countries. 

We have been blessed over the past few years. 

Which segment from Ensemble Español’s “Flamenco Passion” best speaks to audience members from all ethnic backgrounds?

In Flamenco, there is a constant effort of seeking the Duende. The Duende is the spirit and the deep emotion that emotion evokes by the songs or cante.  From the song, we will feel emotions like love, despair, longing, joy and every other emotion. These emotions are universal to every person from any background. As a people, we all love, feel pain, happiness and sadness. It is through our music that resonates from the ground and our ears and we feel it through out bodies and what you will see from the dancer will exude the Duende, the spirit of Spanish Dance so it does not matter the language we all experience the emotions the same and that is the magic of the passion which we call Spanish Dance.

What part of your recent trip to Spain (with the leadership team) do you highly recommend to avid world travelers?  

OMG!  All of it. Each of the cities that we visited evoked a different emotion for me. In Madrid, you got the sensibilities of a modern city anywhere in the world, but the difference is that you will experience all the examples of the many cultures who inhabited its streets. From Moorish temples that have been converted to Catholic Churches. And the royal palace and gardens, the city is bustling. Which was very different from Seville.  There is no denying that Seville is the home of Flamenco. Here you can not only find wonderful music & dance you have the mushroom which orients you through the city center where all of our wonderful shops and shopping happens too be.  In Granada, you have to see the Alhambra and visit a tablao in a famous cave. These are a must. Then in Malaga, the city by the sea, you must put your foot in the Mediterranean Sea and marvel at the mountain which meet the sea and all of the cultures structures in between. From medieval cathedrals to the Picasso museum, this city is an open city to the world.

What projects can we anticipate from you for the remainder of 2022 into the first half of 2023?

We are excited to be participating in the Auditorium Theatre’s Made in Chicago dance series on October 1. It’s one of the highlights of the year. We also will be participating in our annual holiday show at our home at Northern Illinois University and we will be culminating our season with our American Spanish Dance and Music Festival in June 2023.  All the while we will be teaching in the schools offering community classes and sharing the richness of Spanish Dance along the way.

Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater performs tonight at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago at 7:30PM.

A Special Thanks to Kim Grigsby, Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater and The Silverman Group for the exclusive interview and image. 

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