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While the world has been focused on the athletes in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic venues, another group performs their moves on a basketball court nearby.


But they’re not shooting hoops. This group of young girls is dressed in soft pink leotards and tights. Their teacher charges nothing to inspire them to stand tall- “Na Ponta dos Pes,” or “On Tiptoe,” as they practice their adagio, battement, and chassé movements on the surface of an abandoned neighborhood basketball court. Their barre work is done with the aid of the railings on the chain link fence enclosure.

Tuany Nascimento escorts her classes to the hilltop outside their Complexo de Alemão favela, a Rio slum that offers no safe place for the girls to study ballet. They must often suspend a relevé to find shelter during the sound of gunshots in the area.

The former rhythmic gymnast who used to represent Brazil in international competition now inspires young Brazilian girls to rise above their circumstances and find the beauty within.

Although the government of Brazil launched a crime-deterrent program in 2010, Nascimento reports that the favelas may be even more dangerous than before. Her goal is to show her students that they can reach higher than what they see on a daily basis.

Since he discovered the existence of this little dance troupe in 2014, photographer Sebastian Gil Miranda returns to the area to capture their beauty amid the pervasive poverty. Although he has photographed professional ballet companies all over the globe, but this one touched his heart, saying, “The little girls dancing there, it’s incredible,” he said. “The first time I took pictures, I started to cry.”

See his touching photos here.

Miranda became invested in Nascimento’s dream by promoting a GoFundMe account for the community, seeing the initiation of the construction of a community designed with a library, computers, and a dance studio. But because of the recent and dramatic economic downturn, political upheaval and rampant crime, the improvements have been stalled.

Nascimento’s informal program isn’t the only one that exists in Brazil.


“Growing up amid drug dealers and addicts, Gabriela has yet to learn how to read. Yet she and other girls from a rough neighborhood known as a “cracolandia,” or crackland, are learning the graceful art courtesy of a local church group that also offers them food, counseling, and Bible studies. The class is among several groups where young dancers hope to catch the eye of a respected Brazilian ballerina who recruits dozens of disadvantaged girls for an annual workshop.”

Twenty young aspiring ballerinas, girls growing up in the slums of Sao Paulo are given a temporary escape.  Riding in a cramped minivan they arrive at the House of Dreams, where they don leotards, tights, and ballet shoes donated by a local dancewear shop.

Classical ballet was introduced to Brazilians in the 1920s, establishing a Bolshoi school that are the stuff of dreams for young girls who long for a better life than the ones they’ve endured in the favelas.

Just as professional sports have inspired boys and young men in depressed communities all over the world, providing them the hopes of a rare opportunity to rise above the poverty and violence of their slums, the discipline of dance feeds the dreams of girls who aspire to brighter futures.


Photo credit: Associated Press

Hudson Reed Showers