Largest flamenco school in the world to open in Seville
The world’s largest flamenco school can now be found in Seville, in a rehabilitated building covering 1500m2, whose original façade and tiles have been kept in an effort to connect tradition to modernity. The project is being carried out by Cristina Heeren Flamenco Art Foundation, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary.
Heeren had been pursuing the dream of bringing all her schools together under a single roof for ages. And her dream came true in the district of Triana, which has played a key role in the development of the so-called arte jondo. At Calle Pureza 76, the Foundation expects to have more than 160 students next year.
Heeren has been tutoring flamenco students for 20 years – more than 6000 so far. She learnt to love flamenco from her father: ‘He used to take me to flamenco shows and tablaos,’ she recalls. When she was 11 years old, she saw a performance by Antonio Ruiz Soler, aka ‘El Bailarín’, and she could never do without flamenco again – like many other people around the world.
The flamenco school in Triana has nine classrooms, two courtyards, several study/rehearsal rooms and a function room seating 100 people, where students will show what they have learnt and where they will get training in such areas as sound or lighting.
In addition to being larger and unified, Heeren’s new flamenco art centre will offer a new syllabus too. It was designed by Pepa Sánchez, PhD from the University of Seville and Master of Arts from the State University of New York specialising in History of Flamenco. In addition to an annual flamenco course, there will be summer crash courses and afternoon/evening workshops. Today, the Foundation has 86 students, half of which are international.
Students can take guitar, dance or singing courses, divided into three levels for each discipline. They also get practical guidance to make a living from what they have learnt.
Besides curricular issues, the Foundation is embarking on a new edition of its Flamenco Talent Competition, which has been held for more than a decade. Now supported by Acciona and the Andalusian Agency for Cultural Institutions, this competition looks for talented young flamenco singers, dancers and guitarists (aged 16 to 30) in Andalusia.
A flamenco centre brimming with talent
The Cristina Heeren Foundation was established in 1996, in an old house on Calle Fabiola, Seville. ‘The first year, we only had seven students taking dancing, singing and guitar lessons,’ Cristina recalls. Ten years later, she found a new place in the residential district of Heliópolis, adding dancing rooms in El Juncal soon afterwards. ‘I’m really happy that we’ve been able to bring all students under the same roof, in a better building for school activities,’ she says.
Current and former teachers at Heeren’s school include Naranjito de Triana, Manolo Soler, José de la Tomasa, Milagros Mengíbar and Paco Cortés, among others, while renowned students include Manuel Lombo, India Martínez, Rocío Márquez and Antonio Molina ‘El Choro’. However, Heeren adds, ‘many former students have won accolades like the Mining Lamp at Las Minas Singing Festival or are working for big companies, teaching at conservatories or pursuing solo careers.
Like every other project developed by the Cristina Heeren, the flamenco school is 100% funded by private sponsors. ‘When with a group of renowned artists we decided to establish a training centre for flamenco, I knew it wouldn’t be a project to make money. I just wanted to offer the best possible training,’ Cristina explains. For this philanthropic endeavour, the Foundation has received multiple accolades and cultural recognitions.
Heeren’s next challenge is to get academic recognition for her flamenco school, turning into the top international reference in flamenco studies. To achieve this, the school is already working on a programme of lectures, talks, master classes and book presentations, among other activities.