In the heart of the Aglomerado da Serra, one of Belo Horizonte's most vulnerable neighborhoods, 19-year-old Dyhan Cardoso has been dancing to the beat of his own dreams. Soon, this young dancer will leave the austere backdrop of his favela and head to the United States for an opportunity that seemed like a distant fantasy.
Dyhan's life was forever transformed when he was selected to join the American Atlanta Ballet company in Georgia. It was an audition held in September in Belo Horizonte that ultimately paved the way for his remarkable journey.
Recalling the moment, Dyhan admitted he wondered if it was all a dream when the ballet director's compliments were translated for him: "He has an extraordinary physique and executes highly complex moves with exceptional quality and aesthetic beauty," described his longtime coach, Cuban dancer Dadyer Aguilera.
Dyhan's upbringing in Aglomerado da Serra was not one of privilege, yet he remained undeterred in his pursuit of his passion for dance. His journey began at a young age in a dance school where he earned a scholarship. He was drawn closer to the dream of dancing among the best, disregarding societal prejudices.
He shared, "In class, I was always the only boy, the only Black student, and the only one from a low-income background. It wasn't comfortable, but it didn't bother me."
Nothing could deter his determination, whether it was the traditional association of dance with the elite or the neighborhood's mockery when he swapped soccer for ballet. Dyhan firmly believes that if you have a dream, you must pursue it and conquer it.
Dyhan has been "lucky" not to have experienced hunger, and he stood out from the very beginning. At the age of six, he joined his sister Deyse's dance classes through a community social program. It was like a game for him, a way to blow off steam and stay off the streets.
His journey became more serious when he earned a scholarship to an academy located in the "wealthy part of town." He was invited to audition by a restaurant customer where his mother worked as a cook.
He pedaled his bicycle to the studio every day before school to learn, often surrounded by "white girls," as he diligently pursued his passion.
After completing his education and fully dedicating himself to classical ballet, Dyhan never doubted his professional destiny. Even when he didn't always win competitions, he never considered giving up. Instead, he eagerly looked forward to more training and improving based on the evaluators' feedback.
The only thing that temporarily interrupted his rigorous training routine was helping out at his parents' bar situated on a hill in the community. There, he did everything from serving and cooking to delivering and handling money.
Today, as he prepares to leave the favela for his first trip abroad, Dyhan hardly believes the journey that lies ahead. Clad in tight black shorts, bare-chested, he practices one last time before embarking on his American adventure, with no return date in sight.
As he refines his movements, his body's muscles, taut and marked by countless rehearsals, he does so under the proud gaze of his mother. In this new environment, Dyhan aspires to continue improving, striving to fulfill another one of his goals: "To be a role model for the community's children, so they believe in their dreams and pursue them."