A Ballerina’s Tale: From Brazil’s City of Steel to the Spotlights of the World

There are two types of persons in the world: the ones who believe they cannot, and the ones who believe they can. This happens due to something that Psychology explains as “mindset”. People with a fixed mindset think in a limited manner, see obstacles as a sign to stop trying and that everything is impossible to happen.

But people with a growing mindset are always expanding their abilities, exploring new possibilities and learning in a constant process. These are the ones who make the world turn. And there is someone who can even make the world stop just to look at her. She is a Brazilian ballerina. Her name is Camila Schäefer D’ornellas Rodrigues. Let me tell you about her.

Camila was born in a city called Volta Redonda, in the interior of Rio de Janeiro, that was founded by the great force in the steel industry. In a family with engineers for several generations, still as a child, Camila knew engineer was not her path. In 1999, her parents registered her in a small dance academy, but it was not enough, she wanted more.

Until one day, noticing her talent, the ballet teacher orientated Camila’s parents to invest in her potential and make her study ballet as a professional career. In 2007, after one-year training, Camila auditions for the best and world-renowned dance school in Brazil, the Escola Estadual de Dança Maria Olenewa. Approved, the parents move with their daughter to the capital so she could study dance and follow her dreams.

The time in EEDMO was a rehearsal for what Camila’s life would become. Long hours of class and training, high competitivity among dancers, little belief from teachers in her potential. But Camila had a call inside of her, an inner voice of perseverance and courage to move on.

Since Brazil is not a country with great investments in culture, much less ballet, and knowing that she wanted to follow the career of a ballerina, Camila decides to try other ways. Finally, her mom in 2010 gets in contact with Nora Esteves, the greatest Brazilian dancer, who teaches at Centro de Movimento Deborah Colker. Nora has so much influence in ballet in Brazil and in the world, that in Camila’s time as a student, she had a drawing of Nora as the symbol of the school sewn on her leotard.

The contact with the ballet master directs Camila’s studies to another direction. Camila says, “Nora gave me tips that I carry with me until today and her corrections will always be by my side. She even compared me to a statue of Edgar Degas, La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans, who portrays a ballet dancer from the ballet school of the Paris Opera. Today, I have pictures of the statue everywhere near me, including a picture on top of my bed, which reminds me every morning of where I came from and who I really am.”

Under Nora’s direction, Camila goes to the ballet school where Nora herself went and where her international career started, the Joffrey Ballet School in New York, USA. More dedication and preparation are required from the dancer. However, Camila’s desire to grow was so strong and her commitment so high that in just one week, she was chosen to join the Joffrey Ballet Concert Group, where she danced for two years and toured in China, Canada and several cities in the United States. She was the only Brazilian in the company for almost two years and not having English as her first language, communication was a huge challenge.

Dancing about eight hours a day, in addition to being physically tired, the dancer also mentions arriving home mentally exhausted by always having to pay close attention to English conversations. She explains that “the dance language is the best and most complete way that exists for me to be able to express myself. Without words and a lot of emotion, this is the way that I dance every day and show what I have inside of me.

I am very perfectionist and classical ballet requires a lot of perfection, even not being possible to achieve it. I believe that this is another reason why the ballet moves me so much and makes me always want to improve and give the best of me. Ballet also shows me what I am capable of, even before knowing it myself.”

From 2017, her career begins to take off. She participated in two international ballet competitions: The World Ballet Art Competition Grand Prix, where she won first place in the semifinal in New York and in the final, in Niagara Falls, Canada; and Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition, where she won the Best Interpretation of the Contemporary Compulsory in the final in New York.

She went to all competitions alone and on her own. With the support of friends and family, but without technical support, she took care of costumes and rehearsals by herself. She says that “if there was no one to rehearse me, I would put my cellphone on the floor, I would play the music and I would dance. At the end of each variation or solo, I would watch the video and correct myself, and that way I got very far.”

In 2017, she became Ambassador of the brand Capezio (#TeamCapezio), the largest dance brand in the US and one of the largest in the world. She already had several photo shoots with the brand and she has the role of promoting the products meeting the need of dancers. In addition to the partnership with the brand, Camila has already been photographed for exhibitions in art galleries, books, and media.

In September 2018, she had the opportunity to be photographed by Solanne Fardel, a French photographer residing in the USA, for the “Usual Day” series, in which the purpose was to show the contrast of New York on an ordinary day with a dancer going to work wearing her stage clothes.

During her last trip to Paris, in January, she teamed up with Anthony Richelot, a professional cyclist in Paris, who has won two of the three editions of the Keirin Caviar (famous bicycle competition in Paris) and Danish brand Pas Normal Studios (one of the best brands of clothes for cyclists).

With ballet shoes and bicycles, Camila and Anthony decided to join these opposing worlds, these two cultures so different, these two languages that at first do not communicate, but that have so much in common, creating a beautiful unique material.

This series became a major worldwide success. Anthony says, “Like ballet, cycling is a sport of elegance. The position of the body on a bike, how one holds one’s handlebars, how one puts one’s fingers on the brakes, the way one folds one’s arms, the position of one’s head. Just like the dance, cycling is a visual sport. You have to be elegant on your bike. Cycling is a sport of nobility.”

Currently, Camila lives and works in New York, always looking for the next expression of her art. The dancer reveals: “Today I dance in New York to choreographers known worldwide and I know that my journey is still only beginning. There is a voice inside of me that tells me to go on, to not look back, but acknowledge where I came from and always represent Brazilians as people who know what they want, who do not give up and that nothing will stop us from fighting for what we love.”

What can be said of a mindset like Camila’s? She knows what she wants. And she will only stop when she conquers what she came for. She is the embodiment of La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans (The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer). The big spotlight will still follow Camila for a long time, no matter where she goes. The dance needs the art of Camila, the world needs to see her statement.



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It seems the future never arrives in Brazil What Lies Ahead in Brazil? Brazil Has No Exemplary Past or Present. But What Lies Ahead for the Country? Europeans, US, developed country, developing country. Bolsonaro, future B. Michael Rubin For years, experts have debated what separates a developing country from a developed one. The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of a country is one simple way to measure its economic development. Another way to measure a country's progress is the extent of public education, e.g. how many citizens complete high school. A country's health may be measured by the effectiveness of its healthcare system, for example, life expectancy and infant mortality. With these measurement tools, it's easier to gauge the difference between a country like Brazil and one like the U.S. What's not easy to gauge is how these two countries developed so differently when they were both "discovered" at the same time. In 1492 and 1500 respectively, the U.S. and Brazil fell under the spell of white Europeans for the first time. While the British and Portuguese had the same modus operandi, namely, to exploit their discoveries for whatever they had to offer, not to mention extinguishing the native Americans already living there if they got in the way, the end result turned out significantly different in the U.S. than in Brazil. There are several theories on how/why the U.S. developed at a faster pace than Brazil. The theories originate via contrasting perspectives – from psychology to economics to geography. One of the most popular theories suggests the divergence between the two countries is linked to politics, i.e. the U.S. established a democratic government in 1776, while Brazil's democracy it could be said began only in earnest in the 1980s. This theory states that the Portuguese monarchy, as well as the 19th and 20th century oligarchies that followed it, had no motivation to invest in industrial development or education of the masses. Rather, Brazil was prized for its cheap and plentiful labor to mine the rich soil of its vast land. There is another theory based on collective psychology that says the first U.S. colonizers from England were workaholic Puritans, who avoided dancing and music in place of work and religious devotion. They labored six days a week then spent all of Sunday in church. Meanwhile, the white settlers in Brazil were unambitious criminals who had been freed from prison in Portugal in exchange for settling in Brazil. The Marxist interpretation of why Brazil lags behind the U.S. was best summarized by Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan writer, in 1970. Galeano said five hundred years ago the U.S. had the good fortune of bad fortune. What he meant was the natural riches of Brazil – gold, silver, and diamonds – made it ripe for exploitation by western Europe. Whereas in the U.S., lacking such riches, the thirteen colonies were economically insignificant to the British. Instead, U.S. industrialization had official encouragement from England, resulting in early diversification of its exports and rapid development of manufacturing. II Leaving this debate to the historians, let us turn our focus to the future. According to global projections by several economic strategists, what lies ahead for Brazil, the U.S., and the rest of the world is startling. Projections forecast that based on GDP growth, in 2050 the world's largest economy will be China, not the U.S. In third place will be India, and in fourth – Brazil. With the ascendency of three-fourths of the BRIC countries over the next decades, it will be important to reevaluate the terms developed and developing. In thirty years, it may no longer be necessary to accept the label characterized by Nelson Rodrigues's famous phrase "complexo de vira-lata," for Brazil's national inferiority complex. For Brazilians, this future scenario presents glistening hope. A country with stronger economic power would mean the government has greater wealth to expend on infrastructure, crime control, education, healthcare, etc. What many Brazilians are not cognizant of are the pitfalls of economic prosperity. While Brazilians today may be envious of their wealthier northern neighbors, there are some aspects of a developed country's profile that are not worth envying. For example, the U.S. today far exceeds Brazil in the number of suicides, prescription drug overdoses, and mass shootings. GDP growth and economic projections depend on multiple variables, chief among them the global economic situation and worldwide political stability. A war in the Middle East, for example, can affect oil production and have global ramifications. Political stability within a country is also essential to its economic health. Elected presidents play a crucial role in a country's progress, especially as presidents may differ radically in their worldview. The political paths of the U.S. and Brazil are parallel today. In both countries, we've seen a left-wing regime (Obama/PT) followed by a far-right populist one (Trump/Bolsonaro), surprising many outside observers, and in the U.S. contradicting every political pollster, all of whom predicted a Trump loss to Hillary Clinton in 2016. In Brazil, although Bolsonaro was elected by a clear majority, his triumph has created a powerful emotional polarization in the country similar to what is happening in the U.S. Families, friends, and colleagues have split in a love/hate relationship toward the current presidents in the U.S. and Brazil, leaving broken friendships and family ties. Both presidents face enormous challenges to keep their campaign promises. In Brazil, a sluggish economy just recovering from a recession shows no signs of robust GDP growth for at least the next two years. High unemployment continues to devastate the consumer confidence index in Brazil, and Bolsonaro is suffering under his campaign boasts that his Economy Minister, Paulo Guedes, has all the answers to fix Brazil's slump. Additionally, there is no end to the destruction caused by corruption in Brazil. Some experts believe corruption to be the main reason why Brazil has one of the world's largest wealth inequality gaps. Political corruption robs government coffers of desperately needed funds for education and infrastructure, in addition to creating an atmosphere that encourages everyday citizens to underreport income and engage in the shadow economy, thereby sidestepping tax collectors and regulators. "Why should I be honest about reporting my income when nobody else is? The politicians are only going to steal the tax money anyway," one Brazilian doctor told me. While Bolsonaro has promised a housecleaning of corrupt officials, this is a cry Brazilians have heard from every previous administration. In only the first half-year of his presidency, he has made several missteps, such as nominating one of his sons to be the new ambassador to the U.S., despite the congressman's lack of diplomatic credentials. A June poll found that 51 percent of Brazilians now lack confidence in Bolsonaro's leadership. Just this week, Brazil issued regulations that open a fast-track to deport foreigners who are dangerous or have violated the constitution. The rules published on July 26 by Justice Minister Sérgio Moro define a dangerous person as anyone associated with terrorism or organized crime, in addition to football fans with a violent history. Journalists noted that this new regulation had coincidental timing for an American journalist who has come under fire from Moro for publishing private communications of Moro's. Nevertheless, despite overselling his leadership skills, Bolsonaro has made some economic progress. With the help of congressional leader Rodrigo Maia, a bill is moving forward in congress for the restructuring of Brazil's generous pension system. Most Brazilians recognize the long-term value of such a change, which can save the government billions of dollars over the next decade. At merely the possibility of pension reform, outside investors have responded positively, and the São Paulo stock exchange has performed brilliantly, reaching an all-time high earlier this month. In efforts to boost the economy, Bolsonaro and Paulo Guedes have taken the short-term approach advocated by the Chicago school of economics championed by Milton Friedman, who claimed the key to boosting a slugging economy was to cut government spending. Unfortunately many economists, such as Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, disagree with this approach. They believe the most effective way to revive a slow economy is exactly the opposite, to spend more money not less. They say the government should be investing money in education and infrastructure projects, which can help put people back to work. Bolsonaro/Guedes have also talked about reducing business bureaucracy and revising the absurdly complex Brazilian tax system, which inhibits foreign and domestic business investment. It remains to be seen whether Bolsonaro has the political acumen to tackle this Godzilla-sized issue. Should Bolsonaro find a way to reform the tax system, the pension system, and curb the most egregious villains of political bribery and kickbacks – a tall order – his efforts could indeed show strong economic results in time for the next election in 2022. Meanwhile, some prominent leaders have already lost faith in Bolsonaro's efforts. The veteran of political/economic affairs, Joaquim Levy, has parted company with the president after being appointed head of the government's powerful development bank, BNDES. Levy and Bolsonaro butted heads over an appointment Levy made of a former employee of Lula's. When neither man refused to back down, Levy resigned his position at BNDES. Many observers believe Bolsonaro's biggest misstep has been his short-term approach to fixing the economy by loosening the laws protecting the Amazon rainforest. He and Guedes believe that by opening up more of the Amazon to logging, mining, and farming, we will see immediate economic stimulation. On July 28, the lead article of The New York Times detailed the vastly increased deforestation in the Amazon taking place under Bolsonaro's leadership. Environmental experts argue that the economic benefits of increased logging and mining in the Amazon are microscopic compared to the long-term damage to the environment. After pressure from European leaders at the recent G-20 meeting to do more to protect the world's largest rainforest, Bolsonaro echoed a patriotic response demanding that no one has the right to an opinion about the Amazon except Brazilians. In retaliation to worldwide criticism, Bolsonaro threatened to follow Trump's example and pull out of the Paris climate accord; however, Bolsonaro was persuaded by cooler heads to retract his threat. To prove who was in control of Brazil's Amazon region, he appointed a federal police officer with strong ties to agribusiness as head of FUNAI, the country's indigenous agency. In a further insult to the world's environmental leaders, not to mention common sense, Paulo Guedes held a news conference on July 25 in Manaus, the largest city in the rainforest, where he declared that since the Amazon forest is known for being the "lungs" of the world, Brazil should charge other countries for all the oxygen the forest produces. Bolsonaro/Guedes also have promised to finish paving BR-319, a controversial highway that cuts through the Amazon forest, linking Manaus to the state of Rondônia and the rest of the country. Inaugurated in 1976, BR-319 was abandoned by federal governments in the 1980s and again in the 1990s as far too costly and risky. Environmentalists believe the highway's completion will seal a death knoll on many indigenous populations by vastly facilitating the growth of the logging and mining industries. Several dozen heavily armed miners dressed in military fatigues invaded a Wajãpi village recently in the state of Amapá near the border of French Guiana and fatally stabbed one of the community's leaders. While Brazil's environmental protection policies are desperately lacking these days, not all the news here was bad. On the opening day of the 2019 Pan America Games in Lima, Peru, Brazilian Luisa Baptista, swam, biked, and ran her way to the gold medal in the women's triathlon. The silver medal went to Vittoria Lopes, another Brazilian. B. Michael Rubin is an American writer living in Brazil.

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