Ballet, livros e outras histórias
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Inspiration comes from everywhere. For me, it is in movies I watch, personal stories I hear, watching someone at work, and mainly in books I read. That has been constant in my life. I have always relied on what I read for guidance. Books have opened my eyes to many things and have helped me cope with the worst of times. It isn’t just a matter of being transported to a different world, but also how I resonate with characters and see part of me living that "reality" too.
The first book I fell in love with was Soprinho, by Fernanda Lopes de Almeida. I must have been six or seven years-old when mom used to read it to me, and I still recall the curious tone of her voice. I loved it so much that I decided on copying the entire book by hand. It seemed like a great idea at first, until my hands started to get very sore from writing and the number of pages left didn't seem to be going down. Well, I didn't carry on the task very far. Perhaps some day -I thought - I'll be writing my own book.
'All the forests in the world are enchanted. If you don't believe it, it's because you don't know Soprinho. Only he has the power to make us see everything differently. You discover a world inhabited by fairies, magicians, goblins, geniuses, all of them given over to a mysterious job. And finally, unravel the great enigma - after all, who is good and who is bad in the realm of nature? But Soprinho leaves another question in the air - what is good and what is bad in our own life?'
The only thing I remember of Soprinho is that one afternoon, a boy in the shape of a cloud interrupts three kids who played in a veranda, persuading them to go on an adventure through an enchanted forest (I got this far with my writing). I have no idea what the purpose of their journey was, only that every time Soprinho blew air in their faces, the children were able to see magical beings who lived in the forest.
Even though I end up forgetting its plot, the essence of a book stays with me. I remember exactly how it made me feel. Curious, hopeful, thoughtful, happy, or sad, how I change the way I perceive my own life. The books I love carry a deeper meaning that resonates with me, exerting a certain influence that motivates me. They are a source of inspiration for how I portray many roles.
My diaries have been filled with passages from novels, biographies, quotes, even lyrics that provoke memories and emotions. Ever since I was little, I had the urge to make a record of things that stir me, as if by writing them down I was imprinting the words in my heart. Or maybe I just thought I'd need to remind myself of them one day, of how true all of it seemed to me.
In my pre-teens, I became obsessed with a series of mystery books. It strikes me as odd that I have never read any of Agatha Christie's novels, since I very much enjoyed this sort of suspenseful plots, doing the detective work. I remember very little about them, but I read lots from the Vagalume collection. These were the years when I used to get told off by my father for wanting to just stay in my bedroom devouring books, even in sunny days when my cousins were playing outside. Very antisocial of me.
No one in my family really enjoys reading. My mom does it occasionally, on trips or holidays. She says she doesn’t have the time for it, her life is too hectic. Leo, my brother, enjoys hisTop Gear issues and all kinds of astronomy and space news, but I don’t think I have ever seen him sat down with a book in his hands. Dad is a lost cause. I have tried to encourage him but every book I have given him, he can’t read pass the foreword. It's even become a joke in the family. I always felt like a fish out of water, wondering where my interest in literature came from.
Thankfully, my godmother was there to save the day. A book lover herself, madrinha (as I call her) always gave me books for Christmas, or birthdays, or for no special reason at all. In most of her visits, she would bring me a little rectangular gift wrapped in gold paper. I knew it straight away that she had been to Saraiva, my favourite bookshop. She was the one to introduce me to the The Princess Diaries series, by Meg Cabot, another of my favourite teenage readings, and The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. Later on, she would also get me into Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You series.
I also shared my love for books with my great aunts, tia Cida and tia Cleide. I always looked forwards to opening their presents. Tia Cleide brought me The Little Prince and books by Isabel Allende (I’ve read quite a few from her) and Jostein Gaarder (The Christmas Mystery and Sophie’s World). Some of these I came to appreciate even more as I got older. I used to visit book shops with tia Cida and always followed her recommendations, like The Book Thief, one of my favourites.
The first book I ever read in English was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone. It was a worthy challenge! I believe I started it during summer school in Toronto as a way of keeping occupied and not missing my family, but also of learning the language. And of course, I became a huge fan of the series, looking forwards to every new book or film. England already had a special place in my heart, and as silly as it sounds, after following Harry through Hogwarts and the streets of London, my admiration and desire to live here only grew!
When visiting Edinburgh on tour with Northern Ballet, I made sure to make a stop at a little cafe regarded as 'the birthplace of Harry Potter'. As soon as I walked in, I thought.. really?? Is this really where J.K. Rowling used to sit and write her stories?? There was nothing special about 'The Elephant House', although I do remember seeing a grand, old school outside their window that slightly resembled Hogwarts. I'm not sure how much of it is true that she really felt inspired there, or if I just really wanted to convince myself it was true.
At school in Canada, I read a lot of biographies of dancers and artists I admired, wanting to discover their secret to success. NBS had a library with a great selection of ballet books and novels, and I borrowed many to read in my spare time. I was greatly inspired by the autobiography of Margot Fonteyn, and transfixed by Gelsey Kirkland’s account on her troubles with drugs and eating disorder in her Dancing on my Grave. A dancer's life comes with much sacrifice and devotion, that I could be sure of. There is a lot that goes on beneath the surface, beyond the beauty, grace, and magic that we see on stage.
Reading about people’s success stories, their journeys and struggles, have always helped me tremendously. What do all these heroes have in common? What advice can I take from them? What difficulties have they overcome? A couple of years ago, I read the biography of a Brazilian Olympic athlete, Joaquim Cruz. O Matador de Dragões (The Dragons' killer) deals with the emotional side of competing, how Cruz dealt with anxiety (what he calls "dragons") and swiftly recovered from serious injuries, being a great example of strength and resilience which I also seek in my profession. Michelle Obama's Becoming was the latest autobiography I read, also highly inspiring.
The beauty of the language matters, but what really pulls me into a story is how it resonates with me. Stories of victory at the face of all adversity and discovering who you truly are… that started to really engage me. In my early twenties I became very interested in philosophical books, in discovering the meaning of true happiness and how to best live our lives. I tried to apply all the lessons learned, always asking myself how I could best live mine.
Books by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho had a profound impact on me. I went on to read almost every title, I loved the messages behind them. When Coelho was 38 years old, a spiritual awakening made him realise his true calling was to be a writer, a story he told in his first book, The Pilgrimage. But it was The Alchemist, his second book (and my favourite), that made him famous. His books propelled me to leave the ballet company where I worked and follow my dream. I thank him for giving me courage and making me believe in destiny.
‘When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’ – The Alchemist
Books have taught me a great deal, and have constantly reminded me of things I treasure most and the person I want to become. They perfectly reflect each phase of my childhood and adolescence, every obstacle I overcame.
Many writers have transported me to the world of their characters, and there is always something so compelling about their stories which can teach us such valuable lessons. The Kite Runner is at the top of my list, also Arundathy Roy's The God of Small Things and Murakami's Norwegian Wood. These are novels that are so beautifully written, they have moved me to tears.
Why are there certain books we read that make us change the way we think and feel? I realise now that the true meaning of a passage, the resonance it has with my personal life, is what makes me enjoy reading. If I was to become a writer, this is what I would like to be able to do. To offer readers some comfort, a new perspective, to give hope and shine a light in their path, just like others have done to mine.
At just the start of my writing course, I’ve already seen how much I can relate this art form to dancing. All artists have the same insecurities and fight very similar battles. What they want most is to be able to move people. One has to be extremely sensitive, observant, confident in your ideals, and tap into the unconscious and imagination to create something valuable and everlasting. When they do, it is pure magic.
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