Friday, April 15, 2016

Yolanda Demetrio: "We do have ballerinas in the favelas."

Foto: Cesar Salomao... Yolanda with some of her little ballerinas!

When one thinks of favelas and dancing, the first image that comes to mind for many is to see girls "twerking" to Baile Funk music. The heavy sounds that bellow out of 12 foot tall by 50 foot wide speaker systems is the "norm" here, but theres another dance scene going on here of the more classical type. One does not associate ballet with favelas. Ballet is usually seen as a dance style of upper class or rich kids.

Well, Yolanda Demetrio of Espaco Aberto in Rocinha, is trying to change that image. A dance instructor, her passion is spreading the knowledge to the many girls and young adults here who have a thirst for this kind of cultural education. Yolanda is a ballerina, choreographer and dance teacher. 
Yolanda came from humble beginnings being born in Cruzada Sao Sebastiao in Leblon, a set of 9 buildings or equal to what would be housing projects. But she moved to Rocinha as she got older. Currently she is residing in Barra de Tijuca because she is 8 months pregnant and concerned about the Zika Virus. She was one of the principal founders of Espaco Aberto. She is a graduate of Physical Education with a specialization in dance from Estacio de Sa University. She has over 20+ years of dance experience with troupes in Barcelona and Rio de Janeiro.

Espaco Aberto opened in 1998 in order to discover and enhance the skills of art and dance for children, adolescents and young people through workshops and practical classes. The majority of students are from the favela where such opportunities like this are more costly very difficult to obtain.

In addition to the classes, students of Espaco Aberto have the chance to become members of professional dance companies and attend festivals and events as well as to upgrade the artistic practice of dance. 
There are several graduated students who are dancing professionally and have created their own dance companies. The courses of Espaco Aberto has provided a way of life for them and their families.

Her school has been portrayed on television as with the fotos below were a recording from Tv Record a network here in Rio, profiling the ballerinas dancing on a rooftop in the favela.

Currently in addition to more than 100 children, starting at 3 years old, the space has parents who also participate as students. Espaco Aberto has dance classes consisting of Contemporary, Jazz, Ballroom, Afro, Samba, Stilleto and Hip Hop. The dance school has their own team of dancers and they will be participating in the Opening ceremonies for the Olympic games this august. 

Yolanda she teaches dance 3 times a week, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 6-9pm at Espaco Aberto in the area of Fundacao in Rocinha. But the school is open 5 days a week.

Check out some of her work with her students here, here and here. Each video shows different age groups and different styles of dance.

She welcomes volunteers to come and assist her classes but he true joy is being able to exchange information with dancers from all over the world. Having met her I endorse her as a kind caring individual and doing wonderful things here in Rocinha for those that have an interest in dance. 

She has a website here and you can email her at