Image from VICE by Frederick Bernas & Rayan Hindi. Brazil, 2018.
Image from VICE by Frederick Bernas & Rayan Hindi. Brazil, 2018.

"Na Ponta dos Pes" (On Tiptoe) is a ballet project in the Alemão favela complex in Rio de Janeiro. It's the brainchild of Tuany Nascimento—a 24-year-old dancer who represented Brazil at international events during a flourishing career that was abruptly cut short by lack of resources.

Rather than letting her head drop, the setback strengthened Tuany's determination to help troubled communities through dance. In 2012, she started teaching classes in the Morro do Adeus favela, where she lives. It's one of the roughest parts of Alemão, which is currently at the center of a roiling feud between rival drug cartels.

Many students in Tuany's group of girls, aged 4-15, come from families caught up in narco turf wars and afflicted by the chronic crisis of opportunity that exemplifies urban poverty across Brazil. With an average of 30 incidents of weapons fire every day in Rio, last year saw 6,590 deaths. Many of the victims were innocent citizens caught in the crossfire. Intensifying violence in Alemão has heightened Tuany's motivation to find support for the construction of a community center which will give her girls a safe space to dance and study.

After the challenges of her own career, Tuany knows her students can't all become pro ballerinas—but the discipline she teaches will transcend the act of learning to dance, setting them up with a better chance to escape the bitter cycle of hardship which swallows up so many young lives in Brazil.

This is a film about the power of culture to instill hope, and about how art can transform reality—even in the most marginalized places.