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Posts Tagged ‘James H. Burnett III’

We watched Only When I Dance on Netflix last weekend, and afterward my husband did a Google search on the dancer who won the awards.

(The other dancer was heartbreaking. She was told that because she was black, there would be no opportunity in Brazil to join a company and she’d have to win a place abroad. Abroad, they told her she weighed too much — even though she was quite slender. Her family was poor and sacrificed everything for her.)

Dancer Irlan Silva ended up at the Boston Ballet.

James H. Burnett III wrote about him for the Globe. “At 23, Silva is a rising talent with Boston Ballet. But six years ago he wasn’t sure whether he’d even live long enough to see his dream of a career in ballet come to fruition. …

“Where he came from — a gritty favela in Rio de Janeiro — was documented in a critically acclaimed 2009 documentary called Only When I Dance, in which Silva and another dancer from the slums of Rio, Isabela Coracy, battle the odds in pursuit of their careers. Favelas, shanty towns that surround the city, are rife with poverty and violence. …

“Silva’s interest in ballet developed when he attended a professional performance at the age of 10. ‘I was hooked immediately,’ he says.

“He says his natural flexibility and leaping ability carried him until he was able to receive formal training, but not every flexible would-be dancer in Brazil was able to land a spot in Centro de Dança Rio, the nation’s premier ballet school.

“ ‘My teacher — a great teacher — Mariza Estrella  is responsible for inspiring me and pushing me on my way, out of the nest.’ …

” ‘Ballet can be expensive,’ he says. ‘My mother ran a cafe from her home. She still does in the same place. And she just made sure I had whatever I needed, like ballet shoes. …

“His father … Irenildo Santos, a factory worker in Rio, said through an interpreter in a recent phone interview that his son’s dancing ability was what convinced him that ballet was a worthwhile pursuit.

“ ‘We live in a very tough community. It can be very dangerous. There is crime. And there are even people who wish to harm you if you don’t behave in a certain way or fit a certain mold. … But when I saw him dance the first time, I was very moved. And now I am his fan. I am his biggest fan.’ ” Read more.

Photo: Essdras M Suarez/Boston Globe
Dancer Irlan Silva

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