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Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 17:00 GMT
Blind ballerinas of Brazil
Blind ballerinas of Brazil
The classes have boosted the dancers' self-confidence
Seven years ago a Brazilian institute for the blind decided to set up a ballet school and it now has more than 30 students who perform in local dance festivals.

The school's founder told BBC World Service's Arts In Action programme how she has created a special teaching technique to ensure the students achieve their dancing dreams.

Fernanda Bianchini's parents regularly showed their support at a Sao Paulo institute for the blind's charity fundraisers. But when asked by a patron if blind people could be taught to dance, Bianchini was unsure.

Seeking advice from her father, the young dance instructor was inspired by his words and immediately began to teach blind would-be ballerinas.

"My dad told me never to be afraid of facing a challenge," she explained, "because it is from challenges that come the best opportunities of our lives."


When I have to show them a jump, I lie on the floor and I do the movement as if I was really jumping

Fernanda Bianchini

Without being able to show the students how a move should look, Bianchini initially found it difficult to instruct.

"I started with five girls. Everything started really small because I wasn't sure how I would teach them," she admitted.

But then the students began to suggest movements and ways in which she could teach and from there, her classes have taken shape.

"They would touch my legs and feel what I was doing," she said.

"When I have to show them a jump, I lie on the floor and I do the movement as if I was really jumping.

She said they had created a "whole new technique" in order to teach them, adding that it was hard at first but "in the end everything worked out and they know all of the stories of the ballets".

Ballet dancers on stage
The dancers must constantly remember they are on stage
After the difficulty of learning to keep their balance while on their toes, and always maintaining a straight posture, there was still the issue of dancing on stage with others and not crashing into each other.

One dancer, who has been dancing for five years, explained that this was not so difficult to learn.

"If we sense that a friend is a little lost we call to her softly so that no one notices," she said.

"Most of the stages have linoleum flooring and there are tapes on the floor, so we find ourselves feeling for them as we dance."

Perseverance

The girls hope to perform outside of Sao Paulo later this year. But in the meantime, as a means of building the dancer's self confidence, the classes have undoubtedly been a huge success.

As even when small accidents do happen, the dancers pick themselves up and keep on moving.

One 14-year-old dancer recalled: "Last year when we were performing in a school we had to change places on stage. As we were changing I jumped and suddenly I noticed that I was in the middle of the audience.

"Bianchini was desperate," she said. "The girls started to call me. I went on stage again, listened to the music to see where we were and continued dancing."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Fernanda Bianchini speaks to Arts in Action
"Legs straight, toes out, head high"
See also:

27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Brazil
15 Oct 01 | Scotland
Ballet website warned over content
19 Dec 01 | England
Chilly dancers call off ballet
15 Jan 02 | Scotland
Scottish Ballet pirouettes into row
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