A small room in Cidade de Deus, a favela in Rio de Janeiro has become an improvised ballet studio in Brazil. The community became famous worldwide after the 2002 movie by the same name, where it depicted the violent drug wars and the brutality of the police. These are still very real today and part of the daily lives of the residents.
Three young ballet dancers from Cidade de Deus train here on Thursdays as they prepare to join the Ajkun Ballet Company in New York. Daniel Coelho, Ana Carolina Baptista and Gabrielle Bezerra have dreams for bigger stages.
"When I left home, I felt something weird, it was too quiet. When I arrived at the corner, shooting started, I was hitting the door (to come in) but the girls were not listening, I was saying "open the door, open the door" and the shooting was going on, I had to come up", 19-year old Daniel Coelho recounts.
For 16-year old Gabrielle Bezerra "Living in a community (favela) is not easy. But for those who have a dream, we always go get it; those who want something, go get it", she said.
Teacher Valeria Martins is pushing her young ballet trainees to reach for the stars.
"The bedroom became a classroom, became a room of opportunities, because they come in with a very big dream. They come in saying, 'this is the place that will save me, this is the place that will allow me to be transformed so I can leave this place", the former ballerina said.
Coelho got the scholarship last year, but had his term rescheduled to July 2021 due to the pandemic.
Baptista and Bezerra will join the ballet company in 2022 after being approved through a remote video test that had to be done twice. During their test, a shootout started and damaged the transmission line, cutting their power.
Teacher Valeria Martins somehow solved the issue and both dancers could take the test again in hopes of making their dreams come true.