3 user 17 critic

Only When I Dance (2009)

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Two young kids try to dance their way out of the favelas of Rio.


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Cast overview:
Irlan Santos da Silva ...
Isabela Coracy Alves Nascimento Santos ...
Mariza Estrella ...


Defying the idea that ballet is an art form steeped in the history of the wealthy white elite, this documentary captures the dreams of two black children from the Favela in Brazil, who, despite constant prejudice and doubt, are both determined to beat the odds and follow their dreams to use dancing as an escape rarely found in their tough day to day lives. Written by Filmfinders

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Release Date:

April 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Tanz, mein Leben  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$2,923 (USA) (2 July 2010)


$7,150 (USA) (20 August 2010)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1 / (high definition)
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Did You Know?


Featured in Grierson 2010: The British Documentary Awards (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

everything is beautiful at the ballet
18 July 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is a really lovely documentary that follows two Brazilians, Irlan and Isabela, both from poor families, who want to be professional ballet dancers.

Ballet is one of the most difficult art forms to break into, and one of the most beautiful. In order to succeed, you need discipline, an iron will, perseverance, ability to take criticism, and talent. I put talent last because as a creative artist myself, some of the most incredibly talented people I've ever known did not have careers because they gave up or didn't try.

These two young people are at an added disadvantage - Isabela because she's black, and both she and Irlan are poor.

The director of the Centro De Danca Ballet school of Rio de Janeiro, Mariza Estrella, does a lot for the students, including purchasing expensive toe shoes and not charging for the lessons of the poor students. But when it comes to entering international competitions - - which are essential to bring a dancer to the attention of an opera company - the parents have to make big sacrifices to get their children there -- the ticket, the hotel, the registration, food - it adds up to people who can't afford $50 for toe shoes.

We see that Irlan has star quality - a handsome young man, an excellent dancer, with a dramatic presence. Irlan travels to Lausanne, Switzerland where he competes and, as a finalist, is offered a scholarship that will cover his expenses to the big international competition in New York.

Irlan and Isabela are both in New York, but Isabela does not make the finals. She is devastated, but she does not quit. Rather than go the next year, it is decided that she will continue her preparations, which includes losing a little weight. Irlan is invited to join the American Ballet Theater.

I looked both of these talented youngsters up to see what happened to them after the film. In 2015, Irlan was moved up to Senior Artist from Junior Artist by the American Ballet Theater. Isabela has had a career with Ballet Black, a group of black and Asian dancers that travels throughout the world. Isabela performs as a soloist.

These are two people who fought their way out of the slums and mean streets of Rio with the support of their families, which I think is important as well in working toward their goals.

Very inspiring.

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