Rio’s Favela Ballerinas | Close Up | Latin America

The Complexo do Alemao favela in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro sprawls over the hills west of the main airport. Here, and in other favelas, is where most of Brazil’s murders – more than any country in the world – happen.

Tuany Nascimento grew up here and, at the age of five, she started dancing ballet, an unusual activity in this favela of 70,000 people more concerned with survival than dance.

Focused on her dancing, Tuany wanted to turn professional but was unable to pursue that dream when she realised she would need money to support herself and her family. So, she quit dance and got a job.

But the 26-year-old kept dancing, practising wherever she could, and eventually enough curiosity about what she was doing grew in the neighbourhood girls, and they began to join in.

Tuany never forgot growing up accustomed to seeing dead bodies on the street or drug dealers on every corner. As her dance school, Na Ponta dos Pes (On Tiptoes), came together she wanted to teach her students that they can and should strive to be all they can, possibly more than they think they can achieve.

Most of the dozens of girls who are her students have brothers, fathers or uncles who are in some way involved in criminal activities, and now they have a way to express themselves through dance.

Several times a week, they meet to practise their graceful dance at a sports court in the favela, a neighbourhood that police will only visit wearing bulletproof vests and toting assault rifles.

Director: Johannes Musial

DOP: Ruda Capriles

Editor: Andrew Phillips

Fixer: Henrique Hermann

Sound: Paulo Anomal

Executive Producer: Andrew Phillips

Source: Al Jazeera

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