Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rhythmic Brazilians Set To Learn Bolshoi Method

SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Brazil may be famous as a dancing nation with its carnival samba marathons and other sensual, fiery dances, but its classical ballet could take some Russian lessons, organizers of a Bolshoi ballet school say.

The school, due to open next March in the town of Joinville in Brazil's southern Santa Catarina state, could become the famed Russian ballet troupe's first such venture abroad.

Moscow's Bolshoi Theater has signed a protocol of intent with Joinville authorities and some 2,000 choreographers and dancers had already signed up to be students or teachers during last month's Joinville annual international dancing festival, said Joao Prestes, an entrepreneur behind the planned school.

"Nobody teaches a complex method here and this is the problem of the Brazilian classic ballet. The Russian Bolshoi Theater's ballet school in Brazil will do exactly that," Prestes said.

The Bolshoi, itself a ballet school as well as an opera and ballet company, has produced or had in its troupe such ballet legends as Maya Plisetskaya, Rudolph Nureyev and Irek Mukhamedov.

"The Bolshoi method will be adapted to the Brazilian reality and students will get a chance to learn from people who bring up the best ballet dancers in the world," Prestes said.

The aim of the school is to train 300 dancers in the next 10 years in hopes the Bolshoi trademark will open doors to famous international troupes for the most talented disciples. Plans call for some 30 percent of the students to be selected from poor families and study for free.

"This is important for Brazil," Prestes said, referring to the Latin American country's legendary slums which, although full of poverty, gave rise to a rich tradition of dance.

Alla Mikhalchenko, the Bolshoi's prima ballerina and head of the project from the Russian side, said both sides were likely to benefit from the venture, which would bring together the Bolshoi's technical polish and Brazil's distinctive style.

"The Bolshoi is very happy to be able to start this project. The theater will provide its expertise and method but it will be enriching itself with the talents of its disciples, with the profound and unique Brazilian dancing culture," she said in televised remarks.

Indeed, there are things for the Bolshoi to learn. The 223-year-old company has seen some hard times since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Many dancers, trained in the Bolshoi school since 8 years of age, are unhappy with their low incomes in Moscow and go to work or live abroad.

The new school will allow at least two Bolshoi dancers or choreographers to do half-year stints in Brazil, making some money for themselves and for the theatre and probably bringing back some fresh ideas.

One does not have to be a dancing expert to know that Brazilians have music and dance in their souls. The country, a melting caldron for hundreds of different cultures, has given birth to a range of unique dance streams.

Many say samba, and a range of other steamy dances such as lambada, coco, forro and maracatu, have more to do with sex than dance, but it is precisely the sexy basic movements and passion that the dancers put into them that give them their unique and natural beauty.

Brazil's expressive traditional dances and music have given a big boost to the development of two other branches of ballet - jazz ballet and modern dance - at home as well as in the rest of the world.

Experts say Brazilians hardly have a match in those fields. Several modern dance companies from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, as well as from the state of Minas Gerais, perform regularly and successfully in Europe and North America.

"Even with the absence of a clear classic ballet school, several Brazilian ballerinas have made it to the best troupes in Europe," Prestes said. "This is impressive."