A stray dog sleeps while young ballet dancers practice in a studio at a public school in the Chorrillos neighborhood, a poor part of Lima, Peru. (AP)

A stray dog sleeps while young ballet dancers practice in a studio at a public school in the Chorrillos neighborhood, a poor part of Lima, Peru. (AP)

On any given afternoon, excited parents peer through the studio's windows to watch their daughters. Many are experiencing ballet for the first time. (AP)

On any given afternoon, excited parents peer through the studio's windows to watch their daughters. Many are experiencing ballet for the first time. (AP)

Maria del Carmen Silva, a former professional dancer, instructs ballet students, (from left) Ariana, Ivana, Claudia, and Dana. (AP)

Maria del Carmen Silva, a former professional dancer, instructs ballet students, (from left) Ariana, Ivana, Claudia, and Dana. (AP)

Maria del Carmen Silva and her ballet students search and collect recyclable plastic bottles for money in the Chorrillos neighborhood. (AP)

Maria del Carmen Silva and her ballet students search and collect recyclable plastic bottles for money in the Chorrillos neighborhood. (AP)

Ballet student Maria Cielo Cardenas, 16, poses in her ballet uniform. “When I dance I forget about everything. It’s as if I were flying,” she says. (AP)

Ballet student Maria Cielo Cardenas, 16, poses in her ballet uniform. “When I dance I forget about everything. It’s as if I were flying,” she says. (AP)

Ballet students wait for the start of their lesson in Lima, Peru. (AP)

Ballet students wait for the start of their lesson in Lima, Peru. (AP)

Ballet in Chorrillos

Posted: July 1, 2019

In this neighborhood in Peru, running water is a luxury. Girls here can forget having enough money for ballet shoes! Right?

Not anymore. In the classroom at a public school in the poor Chorrillos neighborhood of Lima, girls line up at wooden ballet barres. They curve their arms. They point their toes . . . in expensive pointe shoes.

Their teacher, Maria del Carmen Silva, used to be a professional dancer. Now she brings classical ballet to the poor community. But she wants to do more than teach girls how to plié. (A plié is one of the first dance moves a ballet dancer learns. To plié, turn out your toes and keep your heels on the ground. Bend your knees. Unbend them. Tada!) Ms. Silva wants to get girls ready for a new future—a future where they leave their poor neighborhoods. She takes them to dance in the wealthiest parts of the city. She hopes the girls will make new friends with other dancers from richer places in Lima. If she can raise enough money, she plans to take them to Florida to compete too.

“When I dance I forget about everything,” says 16-year-old Maria Cielo Cardenas. “It’s as if I were flying.” Few people in her hometown think about ballet at all. The sport is just too costly. To dance, you have to be able to buy pointe shoes, leotards, and costumes. But now in afternoons, parents peer through the dance studio’s windows. Their daughters practice to the sound of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's “Waltz of the Flowers.” In Peru, seven million people live on just $105 a month. Usually, ballet is only for the rich. Many parents say they are experiencing ballet for the first time through their children.

For Maria, the chance to practice in richer parts of the country is like taking a step into a new world. She loves walking through leafy streets. She marvels at simple things like running water—something she doesn’t have at home.

“When I entered four years ago, I felt uncomfortable,” she says. Now she dances with girls from entirely different backgrounds from her own. “Now we are classmates, like sisters.”

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. ― Proverbs 13:12