Crystal Ruiz as Irma Suárez Ruiz

“Believe in yourself, work hard, have a positive attitude and you will be surprised at how many good things will come your way.”
– Irma Suárez Ruiz

Irma was born in Chicago, but shortly after moved to Mexico City, where she grew up.  As a college freshman, she was in the theatre of Northeastern Illinois University with her father when she first saw Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theatre perform under the direction of founder Dame Libby Komaiko.  She was entranced by the performance and set out to be a part of it.  She took any and all the dance classes she could, including Spanish dance.  By the time she graduated from NEIU, she had added dance as a minor to her degree and was a company member of Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theatre.  She has studied under and worked with numerous world renowned Spanish dancers and with Spanish dance companies from all over the world.   Irma has created a lifelong career out of her passion for dance.  She worked her way through the ranks in the company as a dancer, soloist and is currently the Artistic Director.  She works with students and company members daily as a teacher, choreographer, designer, mentor, and carries on the legacy and vision of Dame Libby Komaiko.  Irma is also on faculty at NEIU in the Department of Music and Dance, as she continues to choreograph for and perform with Ensemble EspañolSpanish Dance Theatre.  

Crystal Ruiz honoring Irma Suárez Ruiz

“Irma just so happens to be my mother, so I have a connection to her on a lot of different levels.  She was my introduction to Spanish dance.  I have been told she danced while pregnant with me and, as a child, I remember sitting under the ballet barre watching her rehearse.  It’s a special physiological link that we share.  We literally danced connected by body and in physical space.  We have shared studios and stages now for 21 years. I don’t think many artists get to say they have lived such an experience. My mom’s movement is her own and knowing who she is as a mother and a dancer is eye-opening.  My quiet, reserved, loving mother is a powerhouse when she steps on stage.  She commands attention, she holds her own, she is graceful and can be strong, she is the music and the music is her.  She is someone else.  I have always dreamed to be like her. My memory of this begins long ago as a young child watching her from one of the front rows of the theater.  I wanted to keep watching.  I wanted to learn to do what she was doing and feel so happy, because that is what it looked like she was feeling.  I wanted to join her up there on that big stage.  It is because of her that this wish came true. Her movement is important to me because it is extremely personal and it embodies all of this experience; experience that I now know, having followed in her footsteps. She is a different person as a dancer than in real life, and has shown me that there is a sacred space to show the world the truth of who you really are.  It’s a space to be vulnerable but also so free. Her movement has guided me and my passion for dance far greater than I can ever express in words, so I have to use my body to do it instead.  She has been my idol for a long time and it is not something that I get to say to her very often, but I hope that she can see it when I dance.  That excitement I experienced watching her dance as a little girl still happens today.  Now, I want to be that for my daughter, Emily.  I want her to know dance just like I do and I want her to know that grandma led us here.  Our history of dance is such an important element to share with all dancers and students because it helps them understand the origins of the movements and feelings we are asking them to represent.  Over time, I have found that sharing dance history supports quality improvement because it gives a story to reference.  It’s my turn to support the expansion of Spanish dance education.  I feel great joy working with my dancers and constantly remember that structure and technique are extremely important, but there should always be an element of fun.  This is what I have learned from my mother’s movement and I plan to carry that with me until my teaching days are over.”

-Crystal Ruiz

Principal Dancer and Youth Company Instructor with Ensemble EspañolSpanish Dance Theatre