Cultural education helps young Brazilian rise to the top
My name is Natan Lopes da Silva. I’m 24 years old and was born in Santo Cristo, a fairly poor part of Rio de Janeiro.
I didn’t choose dance. Dance chose me! I got involved with the Santa Teresa Ballet School in the Morro da Coroa favela when I was a teenager. The school is part of an art-education project supported by UNESCO through Criança Esperança. The school doesn’t just teach dance but also provides young people with free tutoring in a variety of subjects such as reading and writing, music and other cultural activities.
I started off learning ballroom dancing, then street dancing and finally fell in love with classical ballet when I was 18.
Despite my love for dance, I was keen to find a stable career and after graduating with a diploma in technical design I was offered a good job at a gas company. However, just before I was due to start, my father died suddenly in a car accident. He worked long hours as a fisherman in the Itaguai harbor and fell asleep behind the wheel. My father was my rock and I felt completely lost after he died. I began to question whether I should accept the job at the gas company or follow my dreams as a dancer.
My dance teacher was instrumental in helping me to decide, encouraging me to see that my father would have wanted me to follow my dreams. “If you do what you love, money will follow,” she said.
I have not chosen the easy option. Ballet requires dedication, concentration and discipline, all values that my father would have wanted me to learn. I now teach classes twice a week and the rest of the time, I dedicate to studying the art form.
In Brazil, it is very hard to earn a living as an artist but the best advice my father ever gave me was “Never give up. If you find an obstacle, build a bridge over it.” He must have been right because I have kept going and recently joined the Municipal Theatre of Rio de Janeiro as a performer. It just goes to show that dancing shoes can take you far indeed!
The UNESCO Youth Programme continues to support young people to be the change they wish to see in the world, through a variety of UNESCO initiatives.
The Youth Programme works on the development of programmes and policies that create an enabling and rights-based environment where youth prosper, exercise rights, regain hope and a sense of community, and engage as responsible social actors and innovators.
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• Contact: youthcontent(at)unesco.org
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