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Saturday, 10 June, 2000, 03:24 GMT 04:24 UK
Ballet boys from Brazil
Dance
There were 20,000 applications for less than 150 places
The Bolshoi Ballet has launched its first school outside Russia - in a town in southern Brazil.

The dance school in Joinville provides classical ballet training for 141 pupils - with a large majority drawn from among local low-income families.

These pupils were drawn from 20,000 applications, with families seeing the dance school as a way of escaping hardship and poverty.

Bolshoi ballet
The ballet school emphasises the importance of discipline
Helping to bring the school to Brazil, rather than the opposing bids from the United States and Japan, was Brazilian dancer, and former Bolshoi teacher, Jo Braska Negrao.

"You can always tell a Brazilian dancer right away. They have a natural musicality, a gift for corporal expression. They are true performers," said Ms Negrao.

The best of the pupils will go on to study and perform with ballet dancers in the Bolshoi's base in Moscow.

Machismo

Three teachers from the Bolshoi have come to Brazil, bringing with them the ballet's strict approach to producing world-class dancers.

Maristela Teixeira, artistic and technical co-ordinator, said: "We breed discipline first, so the children know where they want to go and how to reach their goals.

"The tradition of Brazilian education makes this very difficult, especially for boys, because they always have someone to spoil them."

The school also had to overcome the culture of male machismo, which threatened to reduce the number of boys applying to be dancers. "We told them dancers were simply athletes on stage," said Ms Nagrao.

Among the parents who changed his mind about sending a son to the ballet school was construction worker Odorico da Silva, whose nine-year-old son attends the Brazilian Bolshoi.

"He loved to dance, but I told him they would make him into a sissy on television. The Bolshoi is different. I saw a television show about them, and I know they are serious.''

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See also:

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08 May 00 | Education
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27 Jul 99 | Education
Pupils' online showcase
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