Shall We Dance?

They’re young, they’re artists, and the way they dance is an extraordinary expression of artistic ability. In London or New York, they are an inspiration for young dancers all over the world.

Mónica Lima

Mónica Lima is one of the present day’s most promising ballerinas, who since 2017 has been a member of the New York Theatre Ballet.

“Music was what most inspired me to start dancing. When I was just four, I loved classical music and, unlike what usually happens, it was me who asked my parents to send me to ballet lessons.” When she was 10, her family moved from Aveiro to Lisbon, and on her teacher’s advice she auditioned for the National Conservatory Dance School “a year later than normal and when there was only one vacancy, so my expectations were low, but I got in.” She studied there for seven years, and in her final year went to various auditions and sent videos to other schools and companies in other countries while applying for a grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation, which she obtained. “I was very lucky.” She was accepted by the Joffrey Ballet School in New York.

Now, as she enters her twenties, life couldn’t be sweeter. She’s already danced on stage in Madrid, Toronto, Cannes and Berlin, and in New York she feels like she’s “living the dream”. For Mónica, life has always been about the dance. That’s why she still feels she has a long way to go, professionally. “I want to be a complete artist, happy and fulfilled.”

Marcelino Sambé

His life story would make a great movie: the inspiring tale of a young mixed-race boy from Guinea, who grew up in a poor suburb of Lisbon and made a name for himself on the stage, rising to the top of one of the world’s most prestigious ballet companies.

Marcelino is currently the principal dancer of London’s Royal Ballet. But his story began a lot sooner. Aged 5 he was already one of the Estrelitas Africanas, a group from the Alto da Loba Community Centre that danced to the sounds of kuduro, funaná and hip-hop. The next stop was the National Conservatory Dance School in Lisbon. Later on, in 2008, he won silver in Moscow’s International Ballet Competition. One year later in the USA, he received first prize in the Youth American Grand Prix and in 2010 he would come back from the States with a gold medal in the International Ballet Competition. Two years later, he went directly from the London Academy (The Royal Ballet School) to being a member of the company. Something very few pupils manage to do.

Ironically, Marcelino Sambé was born on World Dance Day, April 29, 1994. Today he is an inspiration for young dancers around the world. “I want to learn how to use my status to show the dance world what it means to be a male dancer and to bring about greater diversity. It is a huge responsibility, but I want to open the theatre doors to whoever wants to come in, to all those people who never believed dance was for them. To be director of a company and connect the world,” he told us here at Portuguese Soul.

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