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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Courtesy Ava Noble

Go Behind the Scenes of USC Kaufman’s Virtual Dance Festival

Now more than ever, the students of USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance are embodying their program's vision: "The New Movement."

As the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, the dance world continues to be faced with unprecedented challenges, but USC Kaufman's faculty and BFA students haven't shied away from them. While many schools have had to cancel events or scale them back to live-from-my-living-room streams, USC Kaufman has embraced the situation and taken on impressive endeavors, like expanding its online recruitment efforts.

November 1 to 13, USC Kaufman will present A/Part To/Gather, a virtual festival featuring world premieres from esteemed faculty and guest choreographers, student dance films and much more. All semester long, they've rehearsed via Zoom from their respective student apartments or hometowns. And they haven't solely been dancing. "You have a rehearsal process, and then a filming process, and a production process of putting it together," says assistant professor of practice Jennifer McQuiston Lott of the prerecorded and professionally edited festival.