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By Patricia Maresch, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In celebration of International Dance Day (April 29th), Rio’s central train station Central do Brasil, hosted a special presentation by the classical ballet youth company Dançar a Vida (Dance Life). In Nos Passos da Dança (Dance Steps) eighteen young dancers tell the history of ballet in a playful way.

Nos Passos da Dança, photo by Cachalote Mattos provided by Petite Danse
Nos Passos da Dança, photo by Cachalote Mattos/Petite Danse.

Approximately 600,000 passengers pass through Central do Brasil on a daily basis. The transportation company SuperVia sponsored the dance presentation through their Vida (Life) program, supporting social and cultural projects in communities around train stations in Rio de Janeiro.

Dançar a Vida is a social project from the Petite Danse school which serves children and adolescents from communities in Tijuca, Barra da Tijuca and Alto da Boa Vista. The project was created by the school’s director Nelma Darzi in 1999. In its first year 25 children were trained, now, the project serves 169 students, eighteen of whom dance in the youth project.

Six days a week, three years in a row, the young dancers learn classical ballet, contemporary dance, jazz, street dance and theatrical technique. The project also offers a technical training course for professional dancers, recognized by the Board of Education of Rio de Janeiro.

Darzi explains: “We are investing in discovering young talent and we have achieved very important results. Some alumni are now working as professional dancers in Brazilian companies as well as abroad. Other students teach ballet or work in fields of art such as theater or costume design.”

Sponsored by Eletrobras and the BNDES bank, Darzi organizes many free public performances in various parts of Rio. “These are very important for the dancers. They learn to dance in front of an audience and improve their techniques,” says Darzi. The dancers also receive a small wage, so they can begin earning their own income as professional artists.

Mayara Magri at the Prix de Lausanne, photo courtesy of Petite Danse
Mayara Magri at the Prix de Lausanne, photo courtesy of Petite Danse.

One of the biggest promises of Brazilian classical ballet, Mayara Magri, is the star performer in Nos Passos da Dança. Coming from a community in Tijuca, 16-year-old Magri started dancing at the age of eight after winning a scholarship from the Petite Danse school.

Since then the talented ballerina won competition after competition, even the Gold Medal at the prestigious Prix de Lausanne Festival in Switzerland and she was voted Best Dancer by the Swiss public. Magri also won the Grand Prix at the Youth America Grand Prix 2011 in New York.

As a result of this success, the young ballerina received a scholarship to study at the Royal Ballet School in London and be part of the corps de ballet at the Royal Academy of Dance. She will set off to the United Kingdom in September this year.

Mayara Magri’s success does not stand alone. A former Petite Danse student joined the American Ballet Theatre II in New York and another dancer the Royal New Zealand Ballet in Wellington. Two young talented male dancers have also recently won scholarships to continue their dance education in the United States and France.

For upcoming performances of Dançar a Vida, free entrance, go to: Dancar a Vida (website in Portuguese).

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