Eleven-year-old Maysa Barbosa is growing up in one of Rio de Janeiro's most dangerous neighborhoods. Many of her classmates spend their free time with local boys, often involved in the drug trade. Maysa doesn’t. She spends whole afternoons posing in front of her bedroom mirror, perfecting her Arabesque, her Grand Plié.
Maysa is one of the top dancers of Ballet Manguinhos, a ballet school located in one of the Rio de Janeiros most violent favelas. 250 children and adolescents study here, taught by teachers of the country's best dance academies. The school building is a concrete tower, surrounded by tens of thousands of brick-and-mortar shacks. It is also a shelter against the violence on the streets. For many favela children ballet promises a way out of the daily struggle, through fun and play, of course. Mostly though, through discipline.