Brief History

Classical ballet as an example of citizenship


After a period of learning from a very special teacher, former dancer Tatiana Leskova, Thereza Aguilar went to the Staatliche Ballettschule Berlin, in Germany, to specialize in her training as a dancer, moving then to Camaguey Ballet, Havana and to the National Ballet of Cuba. Thereza returned to Brazil in the early nineties, when she took the first steps into creating the project Dançando Para Não Dançar, inspired by the example of the National Ballet of Cuba with poor children. Her objective was to contribute to the social and artistic development of the population in the poor areas of her hometown, Rio de Janeiro.


At the end of 1994, with the support of members from the local association of Pavão-Pavãozinho and Cantagalo, children of the community were invited to take dance classes. On the day of the audition for the first class, 250 children showed up for the 40 places offered. This is how Dançando Para Não Dançar began its activities.


Along came the first institutional support: Rio de Janeiro State Lottery (Loterj), Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Rio de Janeiro (Faperj), Vídeo Filmes (of movie director Walter Salles) and the work of volunteers such as ballet dancers and professionals of the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro.


On February 1995, six children of Cantagalo and Pavão-Pavãozinho who took part in the project Dançando Para Não Dançar entered the prestigious Maria Olenewa Dance School, of Rio de Janeiro Municipal Theater.  Before, only middle and high class children had had the opportunity to join this school.  From this moment on, the project moved forward and started showing up its activities in the media.


In only a year, Dançando extended its activities to the communities of Rocinha and Mangueira, where the coordinator of the project, Thereza Aguilar, gave ballet classes in rooms offered by the local associations and CIEPs (municipal and state schools).


In 1996, twelve more children succeeded in entering the Dance School of Municipal Theater. There were some hard times, but these only brought more encouragement to the Project Coordinator. This year was very important to the history of the project, for Dançando produced the first classical ballet presentation in a slum back then. Ana Botafogo, prima ballerina of the Municipal Theater, went up to Cantagalo hill to dance with the students of the project in order to show her art to the community. This production triggered out the process of making classical ballet more available to the population through a social project. Throughout the years, Dançando has counted on the fundamental support of the media, which has respected and believed in the project with a serious and careful approach in each published article about it.


In 1997, Petrobras decided to sponsor the Project through Lei de Incentivo à Cultura, as a recognition to the years of hardwork, seriousness and dedication to the Project. Along came the partnerships with Ministério da Cultura, through Lei Rouanet of Faperj, Vídeo Filmes, Lufthansa and Vila Olímpica da Mangueira and also associations with Staaliche Ballettschule Berlin and Balé Nacional de Cuba. These partnerships allowed the increasing number of services rendered to the children and the expansion of the project to other communities.


Another important performance was the one produced at the end of 1997, where the stage was built under the bridge of Mangueira. Famous for its samba and Carnival, Mangueira for once allowed the classical ballet and music to take their place. Once more, Ana Botafogo danced with the project and received the title of Godmother of Dançando, while movie maker Walter Salles became its Godfather.


On November 10, 1998, the Associação Dançando Para Não Dançar was founded, with the objective of catering to the increasing number of demands, expanding its services to other communities and offering full dedication to the social integration of children who live in dangerous areas of slums in Rio de Janeiro.


Aside from the classical ballet classes, the Project started to offer musical classes (theory and practice) , social and educational support, medical and dental assistance, psychological help, social assistant services and speech therapy, extendable to the direct family members.


Today, Dançando is present in eleven communities: Cantagalo, Pavão-Pavãozinho, Rocinha, Chapéu Mangueira, Babilônia, Santa Marta, Mangueira, Morro dos Macacos, Morro do Tuiuti, Jacaré and Salgueiro, catering to the needs of 840 children aged between five and nineteen.


The Association counts with the support of an exellent team of professionals: seven classical ballet teachers (some of them top dancers of Municipal Theater), piano players, music teachers, ballet monitors, a doctor, a dentist, psychologists, a speech therapist, a social assistant, a press assistant, a secretary and two janitors. The teachers give classes six days a week, even during school vacations, under the supervision of Thereza Aguilar, with only a week recess.


In order for the children to develop and perfect their skills, the Association makes several public performances, such as the anniversary of the Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro, presentations at public institutions and non-governmental organizations. Dançando also takes part in many events such as the National Campaign against Polio, in Fundação Oswaldo Cruz. Says Thereza Aguilar: “Some years ago, no one would imagine we would see children of poor communities dancing at the glorious stage of the Municipal Theater.”


Since 1996, the Project has been organizing a huge presentation every December, putting together all students of the assisted areas and professional dancers invited for the occasion. The Association also takes the children on cultural tours and ballet performances throughout the city.


Each month, the team of professionals gets together for meetings concerning the development of the children, so there is a continuous exchange of information regarding their progress. Together with the children, they build up strategies to follow up the school performance of those kids, which leads to very good results (99,9% had approval rates). There are also collective breakfasts for students, parents and families, with the objective of promoting fuller integration and participation among the many areas covered by the project.


The Association Dançando Para Não Dançar has a website with all the information about the Project in five languages: Portuguese, English, Spanish, French and German. It also has a small office in Vila Olímpica da Mangueira, with a ballet classroom, a computer classroom, a dentist and a doctor’s office and seven other dance classrooms in other communities.


The Project won the contest of BNDES “Transformando com Arte” in 2002 and 2005. As a prize, it received the resources to finance 10 presentations of classical ballet in different areas of the city of Rio de Janeiro, in 2003/2004 and 2006/2007. In 2004, Dançando Para Não Dançar received an hommage of the city of Rio de Janeiro for the work the association had been developing in the poor communities of the city. The coordinator, dancer Thereza Aguilar, was honored with Pedro Ernesto Medal, awarded by Câmara dos Vereadores. In 2005, the project was awarded with Tiradentes Medal, by Assembléia Legislativa do Rio de Janeiro.


Says Thereza Aguilar: “Ten years ago, it was just unthinkable to go up to the communities and listen to classical music coming through the windows. Today, this has become a real fact.” The recognition of the Project can be measured up by the increasing number of requests of new branch openings in different communities (over 100 new ones).


Dançando has built a solid work in the social and educational area, mainly in the segment of classical dance and support to the development of these children and their families. Within this context, two subprojects were created: “Dançando em Família” and “Dançando com Cultura”. “Dançando em Família was created to offer support to the families of the children assisted by the project who live in extremely poor conditions and risky situations. The main focus of this program is the support of professional and financial development of these families. Social assistants offer health, nutritional, educational and social integration programs, aside from medical and dental care within the community. The program also offers psychological care and material support, such as “cestas básicas” (food items), “vale-transporte” (transportation tickets), medicine and water filters.


“Dançando na Cultura” promotes the access of students and families to cultural events in theaters, movies, museums, and mainly to dance performances and presentations, all through partnerships. Dançando Para Não Dançar invests in the professional development of students with the objective of organizing the first dance company made by young students belonging to poor communities.


Close to one hundred children of the eleven slums covered by the Project had access to the prestigious Maria Olenewa Dance School, of Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro. Students of Pavão-Pavãozinho, Cantagalo, Mangueira and Rocinha were sent to special programs in Germany and Cuba. One of the girl dancers was hired to work in the German dance company Volkstheater, in the city of Rostock. In Brazil, the project has boys and girls dancing in prestigious companies such as Stagium Ballet and Deborah Colker.


The Associação Dançando Para Não Dançar has the goal of creating a dance school with ballet classrooms, a theater, costume and scenery working offices, parents’ meeting room, library and study room, cafeteria and dorms to serve students and expand the project.


Dançando em Família


The program Dançando em Família is a very special part of the Project. It works as a complement of the Project and started as an answer to the problems caused by the vulnerable situation of students and their families, reflected daily in the classes through constant absences, changes of behavior and bad performance. With the financial support of Instituto Desiderata (a fund formed by businessmen who invest in social programs), Dançando em Família could invest in professional development and also help the students’ families. It also offers programs on health, nutrition, school development, family relationships, social integration, medical and dental care, material support such as food, transportation tickets, medicine and water filters.


Morro do Salgueiro was chosen as the initial focus of this program. Afterwards, six families of Mangueira were also included in the project, according to their social and economical profile. Due to the partnership with Daltro Course, some members of the families could go back to school to finish up their studies and proceed with technical courses. Through the integration of families, children were the main motivators of their parents’ learning process.




Many goals were achieved with the program, such as the graduation of 13 participants and the conclusion of different technical courses. The students created Clube das Mães (Mothers’ Club) and Buffet Família (a catering service). Some mothers were hired as janitors and for other general services, which increased the self esteem of the families.


Second Phase – Mothers, as family providers, were given priority in the program. The objective was to qualify them professionally and prepare them for some kind of position in the job market. The project was extended to the mothers of Salgueiro, Mangueira, Rocinha, Pavão-Pavãozinho, Cantagalo, Jacarezinho and Dona Marta. These women shared basic characteristics, such as an average of three children, a minimum wage income, were out of the formal job market, very low educational background and were exposed to domestic violence. The results of the program were highly positive, with 100% frequency in group meetings, commitment to their studies, group integration and team work.


Dançando com Cultura


Dançando com Cultura promotes through partnerships the access of students and their families to cultural events in the city. Besides promoting leisure and culture, the project aims at the integration of all members of Dançando Para Não Dançar in the eleven communities that take part in it.


Through partnerships, Dançando Para Não Dançar receives tickets and arranges transportation for students and families to go to musical events, plays, movies, lectures and dance performances. Dançando em Família is coordinated by the student Ingrid Silva, who chooses the program for the week. Every three months, the program organizes a huge breakfast, integrating families and students. Teatro Leblon and Theatro Municipal are also partners of this program.