At age eighteen, Tuany Nascimento wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. The Brazil native had been trained in gymnastics and ballet from a young age, but she was too old to keep going with it, and besides, she needed to help out at home. So she took an office job and practiced her dancing during whatever free time she had. She had no idea her dancing would be the start of a social project to give the young girls of Rio’s roughest neighborhoods hope for the future.
“When I was training, there were always one or two curious girls looking, and they started asking me to teach them,” she says in a gorgeous new short film detailing the start of her teaching career. “So I was always helping these girls out, but that became a constant thing…With time, the number of girls increased and it turned out to become a routine.”
That’s when Nascimento realized she wasn’t training anymore — she’d become a teacher.
“I didn’t wake up wanting to have a social project,” she says. But that’s exactly what her open ballet classes, Na Ponta dos Pés (On Top Toes), became. Now, she teaches over forty girls between the ages of four and fifteen. “I know I’m not going to train professional ballerinas. So I think it’s important to be real with them, to plant this idea so they grow in a different way.”
Just by being exposed to Nascimento’s ballet classes, the girls are forced to step outside the reality of their everyday lives and enter into a radically different setting. “I try to show them that they can have much more than this,” Nascimento explains. “They have to try to achieve what is beyond. You can’t accept everything as being real. You can’t accept the life you have as being your destiny.”
It’s tough work, transforming a generation of disadvantaged girls. But it’s work that Nascimento is passionate about, and because of her passion for dancing, she perseveres. “Dancing transformed me, so why not use this art to transform these girls?” she asks.
Check out the full video below.