Cristina Aguilera in her De Agua, Plata y Tierra. Javier Fergo, Courtesy Jerez Festival

Meet Cristina Aguilera, Spain's Rising Flamenco Star

In just two years, dancer and choreographer Cristina Aguilera has performed her solo works at the two most important flamenco festivals in the world: the Seville Flamenco Biennial and the Jerez Festival. In De Agua, Plata y Tierra in Jerez, Aguilera brought drama and lyricism, but also the raw energy and precision that preserve traditional flamenco within a contemporary context. Unlike many of her colleagues who are taking an avant-garde approach, Aguilera maintains the classical line that comes from conservatory training, often trading fury and lightning speed for elegance and moments of thoughtful calm.

Companies: Cristina Aguilera Company, Fuensanta "La Moneta" Company, Eva Yerbabuena Company

Age: 27

Hometown: Granada, Spain

Training: Studied with Mariquilla and at Maite Galán Spanish Dance Studio before receiving her degree in Spanish dance and flamenco from Madrid's Carmen Amaya Conservatory

Accolades: First prize, Andalusian Young Flamenco Artists Competition; first prize, Tablao Villa-Rosa Competition

\u200bCristina Aguilera kneels with arms raised as sand slips through her palms.

Cristina Aguilera in her De Agua, Plata y Tierra

Javier Fergo, Courtesy Jerez Festival

Cracking the code: Aguilera's first professional gig was at age 8, dancing at a tablao, a venue where flamenco is performed predominantly for tourists. When she returned to dancing professionally at about 17, she already understood how to perform with a rotating cast of musicians and dancers. Aguilera says, "It didn't make me nervous like other dancers who are not yet familiar with the codes of the tablao."

Naming her latest show: While she was developing De Agua, Plata y Tierra, an audience member at a tablao told Aguilera in a Facebook message that her dancing had inspired him to write a poem. "The final line said that I was a dancer 'of water, silver and earth,' " she says, and the phrase became the name of her new show. "The choreographies work with and against the textures and properties of these elements."

What Jesús Carmona is saying: Aguilera danced with Carmona for two months in his Camino, a production for three dancers. He explains that he chose Aguilera because "her perseverance, her self-assuredness and her desire to dance, work and grow will make her not only an example of outstanding flamenco in Granada but across the globe."

Finding her voice: Aguilera invited Carmona to direct De Agua, Plata y Tierra, an experience that taught her about taking charge behind the scenes. She remembers talking with the musicians about how she wanted them to perform a song: "They would say, 'No, no, let's not do it that way.' And I felt uncomfortable telling them what to do. But Jesús would say, 'No. You have to tell them. Come on, Cristy.' "

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AMDA students learn how to present their best selves on camera. Photo by Trae Patton, Courtesy AMDA

AMDA's 4 Tips for Acing Your Next Audition

Ah, audition day. The flurry of new choreography, the long lines of dancers, the wait for callbacks. It's an environment dancers know well, but it can also come with great stress. Learning how to be best prepared for the big day is often the key to staying calm and performing to your fullest potential (and then some).

This concept is the throughline of the curriculum at American Musical and Dramatic Academy, where dance students spend all four years honing their audition skills.

"You're always auditioning," says Santana Trujillo, AMDA's dance outreach manager and a graduate of its BFA program. On campus in Los Angeles and New York City, students have access to dozens of audition opportunities every semester.

For advice on how dancers can put their best foot forward at professional auditions, Dance Magazine recently spoke with Trujillo, as well as AMDA faculty members Michelle Elkin and Genevieve Carson. Catch the whole conversation below, and read on for highlights.

July 2021