Interview with Marisa Zafra

Interview with Marisa Zafra

The Aula Magna newspaper interviews Marisa Zafra, director of ESAEM.

"It is a misconception that artists do not need a culture level"

Marisa Zafra

Andalucía.- The director of the High School of Performing Arts in Malaga talks about her work, her students and the profession of artist. ESAEM, founded in 2005  in the Plaza Mayor complex, is a pioneer School in Europe in which the crisis has not been noticed:   they handle an employment rate of 90% of their students, mostly in renowned musicals inside and outside Spain.

P. How did Marisa Zafra arrive in the world of Performing Arts? 

R.   My academic background is in Educational Sciences, specialty in Language and Literature; although I have also studied medicine. But curiously my professional beginnings were within in the audiovisual world collaborating in a TV program in which education issues for health were treated. 

 From then I was hired to coordinate the 'School of Radio and TV ', I was also part of the executive of  the  High School of Communication, later on I inaugurated together with the actor Salvador Guerrero the Acting High School  in Granada.

P. When did  ESAEM arise?  

R.   It was during this last stage. I considered the shortcomings that had only Spanish actors were trained in subjects of Dramatic Art, opposite the American actors who were experts in Performing Arts. 

P. What distinguishes ESAEM of other schools in the same field? 

R.   It's a  private initiative which was born in order to anticipate a multidisciplinary artistic's training

 We inaugurated the School in February 2005, after a casting for access of over 250 applicants in every city in Andalusia. We were the first School of Europe joining the three disciplines of the Performing Arts: Acting, Dancing and Singing, a pioneer project to create the "complete artist".

P. Which is your School's philosophy?  What do you base your daily work in?

R.   Discipline, work and constancy are our working weapons and we tried through them to instil a different way to understand the life on our pupils and to live it.

 The aptitude is not that important to us, no doubt it is something that is going to help us enormously, but the attitude towards life and the challenges it involves. A pupil that want to be in ESAEM must win his/her place and it does not concern us if you take long  in understanding concepts or choreographies ( for that matter the professors are absolutely involved ).  What we care about is its their personal effort, their desire to achieve the goals they have set.

 They must prove to us that they truly want to get their dream. Since they enter the school their life habits change: Good nutrition, a lot of water intake, reading... Definitively we transmit them that their quality of life and the focus that they give to it must be what  they mostly work for if they want to be dedicated to this profession.

P. Which is the main profile of a student in your school?

R.   This year about 450 pupils will come to ESAEM. But what's most important is that more of the 40 % come from cities like Barcelona, Gerona, Tarragona, Madrid, Salamanca, Bilbao, Corunna, Majorca, Badajoz or the Canary Islands. Although, we also have some pupils from cities such as: Paris, London and even EE UU.

P. When a boy or a girl tells his/her parents that he or she  want to dedicate himself or herself to performing arts, normally the decision is not welcome, since it used to be thought that the professional exits at this field do not exist .

R.   Yes, this often happens. Parents always prefer their children to choose professions such as lawyers, doctors, journalists.. But the fact that the boy or girl  wants to dedicate himself /herself to the "artistic world" as it is known, is not very well accepted for parents.

 Indeed when they come to register them, they do it as a reward when they study something else to or when they get good marks in baccalaureate or in the school if they are little. The error is to think that the artist's profession does not require a high level and at this moment they are mistaken 100 %. The actors must have a high cultural level  ( Language, Diction, Literature, Policy, Geography, Social Protocol ) in addition to a perfect English.

P. The crisis has also affected the performing arts' sector. How has it affected the School?

 Thank God, this year our school is full. We no longer have school places in the Kindergarten and in the Elementary Grade. And regarding the performing Arts Degree we increasingly have more registered students, and overall, from Malaga's very distant cities what says very much of the quality of our school.

 At this moment, so economically difficult that many families are going through, parents do everything possible so that their children are well prepared. It's the only way of getting a labour job and perhaps the force which may push the country forward: Formation.

P. Does the ESAEM really offer professional possibilities to its pupils?  Which is the employment rate that you manage?

R. ESAEM has emitted the three first promotions with over 90 % of employment rate. Having pupils working not only for our own Dance Company, but also in prestigious musicals like ‘Mamma Mía’, ‘High School Musical’, ‘Hoy no me puedo levantar’, ‘Los 40 Principales’… and well known TV series, Canal Sur, Antena 3, Telecinco, even with finalists pupils for the successful program for Channel Four ‘Fama, a Bailar’

 Moreover, our pupils are hired for important shows in Madrid or Barcelona, and also in teaching, which is being one of the most important claims for our graduates. Definitely we thought that the formation that ESAEM's graduates have is so complete than when they arrive to a casting, they take them without a doubt!

P. Talking about teaching... how are the School's professors?

  ESAEM began his academic path with a tough selection for the professors' team than in addition to an outstanding curriculum in the discipline they were competing for, they were asked for a longstanding artistic professional career.

 It is for ESAEM essential to rely on active professionals, it increases the added value as to be with full capacities to transmit to their students the requirements and demands for their professional future.

 In addition to the motivation it means for the students to have teachers who are Carlos Baute's, David Bisbal, Paulina Rubio, Alejandro Sanz and Marta Sánchez choreographers among others; or seeing their professors in daily TV programs, that they even prepare and practise those choreographies in the classroom or the sequences they will see on screen later on.

P. According to what you are telling us, musicals are the preferred professional path of your pupils.  Why do you believe that this happens?

R.   ESAEM anticipated what the claim of trained professionals in Performing Arts has been. I was the two first years convincing the pupils that were enrolling of the need for their formation to be multidisciplinary. This was the only way artists could always work. When artists for the musicals that began to be seen in Madrid were requested, it was my students who were hired.

 This was very important to give meaning to the tough academic program which was done in ESAEM. It has been very emotional to me to get to ‘Mamma Mia’ or any other musical and to see my pupils on the stage and even more, with important roles.

P. Which of the courses that you offer are being more successful, that is, it has the greatest number of students?

R.   The most requested training courses are the Dancing  and Performing Arts Degree (  from 16 years ) and the Elementary and Performing Arts Degree ( from 8 years ). As I said before, they are also mostly requested from other cities not only from Spain but from Europe.

P. You have offered some very innovative studies this year:  Model Acting.  What does it exactly consist in?

R.   It has become increasingly important an artist's training to be complete.I had an epoch that casting's directors asked me for actors or actresses with a very good image who could also sing and dance.

 From there the "Model Acting" emerged, a specialty within the Dancing  and Performing Arts' Degree in which every pupil who are more than 1.70 m high  are also trained in subjects of Technical and Choreographic Catwalks, Photographic Pose, Protocol and Social Etiquette. It's an own qualification of ESAEM  and it is being more requested day by day. We have already got the first promotion with very good professional results.

P. What activities do you usually do out of the School?  Do you collaborate with any private corporation or institution?

 We have accomplished a multitude of events since we arrived to Málaga. The first 'Dance Marketing'  made in Malaga was made by us for Paco Rabanne: One Million's brand,  it was with it that the executives of Paris so delighted. For Guerlain ( to which we even did the tour of Barcelona, Madrid and Andorra) , 'Kenzo'...

 In addition  to collaborate with the city of Malaga for everything it has needed: Inauguration of the Car Museum, advertising campaigns, events for the UNICAJA team, advertising campaigns for commercial centres like the 'Miramar'  in Fuengirola or 'Alcampo' in Seville, in Puerto Banús and Marbella... as well as in many other Spanish cities that have asked us for collaboration.

 We also have our own private television channel "ESAEM TV" which develops an important platform for our pupils' formation. ESAEM TV has covered up events such as the "Punto Radio Rewards" with live interviews to outstanding professionals like Luis del Olmo and Jaime Cantizano, among many others..

P. ESAEM organizes each end of the course an award price-giving ceremony to which numerous personalities attend to.  Do you remember any anecdote or curious piece of information on any one of the prize winners?

R.  ESAEM Performing Arts Awards are becoming increasingly important and more and more artists and personalities of the Cultural World attend to our event.

 The most emotional and important moment  we've had  in the last two editions  was the visit and the support that our Mayor D. Francisco de la Torre gave us, for so nice words he had about ESAEM' s educational project and how the school was positioning Malaga as a referential city in the Performing Arts Culture.

 Besides his presence in the Magna Classroom of our school, in which I remember the enormous excitement and the motivation that he produced in the pupils when they saw him getting to the backstage. The Mayor surprised us again in this last edition when one more time he attended to The Red carpet of our ESAEM Awards.

P. Which are the near future projects of the School?'

 Parents from Galicia or Madrid are calling us and want to know if we can offer their children the Bachelor of Performing Arts too.

 ESAEM' s path goes that way, our following step forward  will be to offer a Dancing and Performing Arts Campus with boarding pupils that may realize the bachelor in ESAEM at the same time as they go into the Performing Art Degree. Definitively a High Training School in which since they are 16 we may work with the students and in four years time we can be able to export high-level professionals. The age we catch on the pupils is very important for ESAEM, that's why it would be magnificent to have them studying the Bachelor with us.


P. Definitely,  Which is your school success, ought to? How do you think is ESAEM contributing to a city like Malaga?

  Malaga got ahead of what today has become the essential claim for the artists' hiring in musicals. ESAEM has turned the school elected by pupils not only from Spanish cities (Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Santander...) but also from  the rest of Europe and USA.

  This is the most important thing: We have managed to place ESAEM on a very outstanding place as a school of a High Training level, and it's chosen as a first choice for the future professionals.

 We have achieved the process to be reversed: Students come from Madrid or Barcelona to live and study in Malaga.  It's no longer exclusive to move to other cities to have a magnificent training.

P. What can you tell us about the subjects offered in the School?  And what about its facilities?

 ESAEM is provided with the best facilities, over 1500 square metres for classrooms and our own theatre and film set where pupils can perform the practices and shows.

 Our experience in this type of comprehensive training in Performing Arts allows us to develop teaching adapted to our pupils' different ages. The objective is to bring the students' classroom the subjects of study that they will be confronted in their future employment with: Musicals, Theatrical Screen Acting, Singing, Ballet, Jazz, Hip hop, Fencing, Tap-dancing, makeup, clothes, casting's techniques...

P. Which are your students' aged between?

From the Early Preschool Classroom for Dancing and Performing Arts ( 4 to 7 years old ) to the Dancing and Performing Arts Degree ( from the age of 16 ). We also have an Elementary Dancing Degree and specialization in Performing Arts ( from 8 to 15 years old ) homologated by the "Conserjería de Educacion" as an Elementary Dancing Conservatory' s Degree.