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Ballet dancing changes lives of teenagers in Brazilian favelas
No audience, no applause, and no lights. In front of the most beautiful new houses in the entire favela (Brazilian Portuguese for slum), David Rocha and Isabela de Sousa were dancing and spinning with the music.
Dancing from favela to the world on the cloud platform, is a dream for all young dancers of the Paraisopolis Ballet in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
On the eve of China's National Day in 2021, some of the teenagers from favela have moved closer toward their dreams by participating in the "Dancing in Cloud," a special program initiated by the Chinese Embassy in Brazil. The program also includes other teen performers from Beijing and Sao Paulo.
On the satellite map, Paraisopolis is a gray and messy area of Sao Paulo, the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere. Images of this community shows a sharp contrast with the surrounding green vegetation and neatly planned red-roofed urban area of the city.
Similar to other poor communities in Brazil, Paraisopolis is challenged by poverty and crime featured by gangs, drug trafficking, and gun battles, with young people at the center of the victim group.
In 2012, Monica Tarrago decided to run a ballet in the Paraisopolis community, hoping dance can be "a means of social change" to develop and shape the potential and ability of young people in poor communities.
"Respect, determination, perseverance and strict rules learned in the ballet classes will accompany the students throughout their lives," said Monica.
After a 570-day suspension of performances in the COVID-19 pandemic, on Aug. 13, Monica's ballet troupe ushered in its "come back" premiere -- participating in the "Dancing in Cloud."
The outdoor public areas of the community became their stage. In the video of the special program, the teenagers were dancing in the streets, narrow alleys, and roofs.
When the coronavirus was rampant in Brazil, the Paraisopolis community was the hardest hit due to dense population, poor sanitation, and lack of medical staff. The ballet company delivered more than 2,000 food baskets and many personal hygiene products to families in the community.
Rocha has lived here since childhood. In 2012, he joined Monica's ballet and became one of the first male members. At that time, he had to face prejudice and argument as a male ballet dancer. He managed to persist with his love for ballet and the support of his family.
With a contemporary solo dance "So Close," in 2019, 14-year-old Rocha won the first place at Joinville Dance Festival, the largest of its kind in Latin America.
The founding of the Paraisopolis Ballet also gave girls here the hope to change their lives.
De Sousa moved to Paraisopolis with her family at the age of nine. With the support of her mother and sister, she joined the group 2015, and soon won an award at the dance festival.
In 2019, the girl went to the United States at the invitation of the Brazilian Foundation to participate in a master class held by Brazilian dancer Isadora Loyola at the American Ballet Theater.
Since 2012, over 1,000 young people from impoverished families have come into contact with art at the Paraisopolis Ballet, where they cultivate healthy hobbies and an optimistic attitude towards life.
After nine years of learning, training and testing, these ballet teenagers from the poor community have taken on a global perspective.
"Participating in China's National Day special program is of special significance to us: we resumed the choreography, got new ideas, and launched new works," said Monica.