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Documenting Stories of Resilience: Ballet in Brazil’s Favelas
December 19, 2018 | Middle School, High School
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A group of young ballerinas from one of the most violent favelas in Rio de Janeiro use dance to strive for a brighter future. Image by Frederick Bernas and Rayan Hindi. Brazil, 2018.
1. Make a list of your favorite hobbies. Pick one that you would do every day if you could.
2. Poll:
3. Discuss: Imagine that your community became unsafe, and that your families no longer wanted you to go outside. How might that impact your life? How would you respond?
4. Reflect: If your community became unsafe, and you were unable to leave, how would you navigate your life differently from the way you do now? How could you still connect to your hobbies? What would you do or create to help spread the word that your community needs support?
5. What is “resilience,” and what might it look like to be resilient in a community that has become unsafe? Click here for the Merriam Webster dictionary definition of “resilience.”
Introducing the Lesson:
This lesson examines how film is used to explore the stories of dancers who live in Brazil’s favelas, which are highly populated neighborhoods in the country’s capital city of Rio de Janeiro. The stories were captured as part of a short documentary film by Frederick Bernas and Rayan Hindi for VICE News.
"With an average 20 incidents of weapons fired every day in Rio, last year saw more than 100 police deaths – as well as hundreds more civilians, many of whom are caught in the crossfire of confrontations in their local areas,” write Bernas and Hindi in an article accompanying their film.
Watch and Analyze:
As you watch the film, use the questions below to check your predictions, and to analyze why you think that the journalists chose to depict this story using film.
1. Analyzing the story:
2. Analyzing the structure:
3. Making a connection:
Extension Activities:
Option 1. Drawing and Collage: Visualize a dance studio for the ballerinas
Approximately 14 minutes into the film, the dancers describe their ideal dance studio. Use their description to create a visual of their dream studio. Feel free to use any medium you like: collage, paint, pencil, etc. Share your studios with the ballerinas and journalists by taking a photo of your project and emailing it to education@pulitzercenter.org​.
Option 2. Communicating Through Dance
The film shows many clips of Tuany and the girls warming up and dancing. How can you interpret their movement symbolically? Think, for example, about the following clips: a student performs a turn in her kitchen (5:52-6:04), the girls do a lift on the site of their imagined future dance studio (13:27-13:36), the final shot (16:26-16:34)
Work with a small group to choreograph a dance that communicates the theme of resilience. Practice and film a performance. You can share your dance with the ballerinas and journalists as a message of solidarity by emailing the video to education@pulitzercenter.org​.
Option 3. Researching Violence in the Favelas
Why are the favelas in Rio de Janeiro so dangerous? Do some research to find out, and consider: what could be done to make these communities safer? How could you and your community help? Present your findings and recommendations to the class.
Educator Notes: 
Common Core Standards
Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
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Ballet and Bullets: Dancing Out of the Favela
Warm Up: Reflecting on our hobbies, and how our daily lives would be impacted if we were no longer able to leave our homes.
Film Screening and Analysis: "Ballet and Bullets: Dancing Out of the Favela" from VICE News
Discussion and Reflection: Analyzing the film's structure and brainstorming local connections to the story
Extension Activities:
1. Drawing and Collage: Visualize a dance studio for the ballerinas
2. Communicating Through Dance
3.  Researching Violence in the Favelas
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“We will illuminate dark places and, with a deep sense of responsibility, interpret these troubled times.”
—Joseph Pulitzer III (1913-1993)