Seville, Spain (CNN.com)–The air in the small basement room is thick with perspiration as seven young women stamp their feet in the same complicated rhythm again and again, still not getting it quite right. Their hard heels relentlessly strike the wooden floor, throwing up a deafening clatter as they’re pushed to perfection, or almost to the breaking point. The next room, just as sweaty, is filled with another wall of sound, this one created by a platoon of guitarists. Their synchronized strumming intensifies as numbed fingers fly over frets and strings, struggling to match a tempo that keeps getting faster and faster.
And at the end of the corridor, in another smaller room, seated around a twirling dancer, a group claps its hands in time to a mysterious beat. Their formidable instructor regularly halts the class to chide her pupils over seemingly minor imperfections. These are everyday scenes at the Heeren Flamenco Foundation (Avenida de Jerez, 2, Seville, Spain; +34 954 21 70 58), a cheerful blue-walled institution currently housed in the shadow of a soccer stadium on the southern fringes of the Spanish city of Seville. Heeren specializes in schooling singers, guitarists and dancers in the technical skills needed to perform the art that has come to symbolize Seville and the surrounding region of Andalusia. It’s no shock to find that it takes hard work to reach the high standards expected by flamenco audiences in Spain and around the world. What is a surprise though is the number of non-Spanish students hoping to reach this level.