March 10, 2009


Irlan Santos da Silva

Eighteen-year-old Irlan grew up in Rio de Janeiro's most violent favela, the Complexo do Alemão, where his family still live. He first discovered dance at the age of 12, when his cousin invited him to join a dance class and the teachers were quick to notice his talent; he won a scholarship to the Centro De Danca Rio and has never looked back. The elite world of classical ballet is in stark contrast with his impoverished upbringing, and Irlan often says he is caught between the two opposing worlds, that of the favela and that of ballet. While he is dark skinned, he isn’t considered to be black like Isabela, and so doesn’t experience the same racial prejudice that she has to cope with. In 2005 he won first place at New York's Grand Prix Ballet competition, as well as Brazil's prestigious Joinville competition, and although he appeared in media articles throughout Brazil, his teacher Mariza Estrella thought he wasn’t ready to take up any of the training places he was offered, and so held him back. The documentary follows what may well be his last opportunity to gain a place at an international ballet school.

Isabela Coracy

Seventeen-year-old Isabela started dancing at the age of 10 and is the only black girl at the Centro de Danca Rio, and also one of the most talented. She lives with her parents and brother in Cachambi, a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Rio. All she has ever wanted to do is dance, but becoming a professional ballet dancer is unheard of around there. The documentary sees Isabela preparing for her first international dance competition – the New York Grand Prix, that took place in April 2008. In order to realize her dreams of studying ballet abroad – the only option for a black ballerina in Brazil – she must win a prize in New York. Yet to get there she must negotiate the other girls' jealousy of her talent, and also the wider difficulties and added difficulties posed by her gender and her race.

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