Bridgit Lujan first pitched the idea of a flamenco course at Central New Mexico Community College several years ago. After a lengthy approval process, CNM offered its first flamenco course last fall—its first-ever dance class (along with a new African class). “The reason we have flamenco at CNM is because of the hard work Bridgit put into laying down a foundation,” says Leonard Madrid, discipline chair of the college’s theater and dance department. “She worked with the faculty and staff at CNM to create a space for flamenco.”
But Lujan isn’t one to rest on her laurels. Since then, she’s managed to cultivate a student body that’s nearly half male, form a student repertory group that she coaches in her free time and translate a book by flamenco historian Juan Vergillos from Spanish to English, so her students will have a textbook. After her first class was held in a portable classroom that didn’t have mirrors, she found mirrors and marley and negotiated for them to be donated for the 2017–18 school year. “She’s driven, industrious and creative,” says Nicole Ortega, who serves on the board of directors of Dulce Flamenco Internacional, a nonprofit organization Lujan created to oversee a professional touring flamenco company. “She doesn’t wait for opportunities—she makes them.”
Photo by Nicole Ortega, courtesy of Lujan
Though New Mexico’s two largest universities offer dance degrees specializing in flamenco, those courses are often limited to dance majors. As a community college, CNM can offer dance to a broader demographic of students inexpensively, and the credits are transferable to a four-year institution. Lujan’s long-term hope is that CNM can establish an associate’s degree in dance, as well as a chapter of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts.
The diversity of her students is, for Lujan, a particular perk of teaching flamenco at CNM. “Some come just to dance, some are full-time students, some are high school students in dual enrollment and others are retirees. All these different perspectives create a flamenco community much like you see in Spain,” she says. “It’s an artform that celebrates who you are and the expression of your personal story. I often say in class: ‘Don’t apologize. Don’t retreat when you are struggling. There is no such thing as a mistake in flamenco. Own what you are doing—this is your story.'”