Joinville, the city of ballet

Eduardo do Valle

Leonardo Felippi

The Dance Festival, the Bolshoi Theater School and the dancers changed Joinville, a city located in southern Brazil


The curtains go up, the lights are turned on, and the crowd applauds the opening of Romeo & Juliet in Kazan, Russia. The protagonists are played by Brazilian dancers Thais Diógenes and Wagner Carvalho. Before dazzling crowds all over the world, they could be seen on stages in Joinville, in southern Brazil. Home to the only Bolshoi Academy outside Russia, the city is preparing for a new edition of the Joinville Dance Festival, the biggest of its kind in the world.


The title of Brazilian Dance Capital, received in 2016, brought new life to a city accustomed to stages, which, year after year, is taken over by dancers – it welcomed 7,800 dancers in 2016!



From the German-style portico, at the entrance to the city, to Rua das Palmeiras, the hotels and locals’ houses are crowded with visitors who come to check out the spectacles, competitions and workshops that are held at plazas, shopping malls and markets.


The heart of the event is by the banks of the Morro Alto River, in the Centreventos Cau Hansen. Home to the Teatro Juarez Machado and the Bolshoi Theater School in Brazil, the locale is an essential stop for any Brazilian big-name dancer, as well as a few international dancers, like American David Parsons and Russian Mikhail Baryshnikov.


One of these stars came to the city in 1996: Estonian dancer Alexander Bogatyrev had become director of the Russian Bolshoi Ballet a year earlier when the group was invited to participate in the Dance Festival. Bogatyrev planned to take the company to the five continents. After this visit, Joinville became home to the first (and only) Bolshoi affiliate outside Moscow.


About pliés and allongés


In the school corridors, the classic piano is interrupted by firm commands: “Head up! Correct the angle of that leg!” In the classroom, perfectly aligned students adjust their postures, from their fingers to their toes.


All this discipline is a trademark of the Bolshoi Theater School. The dream of conquering stages attracts hundreds of kids and teenagers in search of an opportunity – there are over 40 applicants per opening. For a hundred-year-old seal like the Bolshoi, the hard work begins early.



In addition to teaching perfection, the school has become a destination for ballet fans, welcoming an average of 6,000 visitors each year. On the tour, famous plays staged by the Bolshoi Brazil, like Don Quixote and Carmen, are remembered in photos, backstage stories and the colors of over a thousand costumes in the studio.


Traditionally, the festival’s Gala Night welcomes dancers that made it famous. Such names as Paula Alves, Cícero Gomes and Mayara Magri, important dancers in Brazil and around the world, who crossed paths in Joinville while trying their first leaps and turns.