London's Royal Opera House is involved in lots of charitable work, and during a charitable event Royal Ballet principal dancer Thiago Soares was introduced to Richard Street, head of Street Kids in the UK.
Street Kids is an organisation which believes that young people on the street have the potential to change their own lives. Over more than twenty years they have developed a way to unlock this potential, and are striving to provide more and more street youth around the world with the support, knowledge and tools to start up their own sustainable businesses and earn a decent living. They work with local partners around the globe, engaging kids on their own turf and on their own terms.
Dance is one of the activities that the organisation uses to get young people involved. It requires little to get started: just as football needs only a ball, dance can happen when someone claps their hands or switches on the radio.
Richard Street wanted to do something involving dance in South America, and being that Thiago is from Brazil, and his wife Marianela Núñez is from Argentina, both principal dancers with the Royal Ballet, they seemed the perfect people to assist the project. They didn't need much convincing,
I was helped a lot during my journey to get where I am and I know that sometimes if you have the right help you can really change your life. I guess when you achieve something it is amazing to try to help others to achieve something too.
says Thiago. Marianela adds,
I felt that I was in a moment in my life and career when I should give something back and help, and now I can do that.
They both have high-profile names, so one of the most useful things they do in helping the organisation is to put their names alongside its initiatives. But they get involved in practical ways,
We do everything we can. Dance in events, talk to people about donations, and raise the topic as much as possible.
Soares came from a family which had economic problems as he was growing up, but there was always food on the table. When he got old enough to leave the house by himself, getting him enrolled in a free circus school was a clever ploy by his mother to keep him from getting into trouble and keep him off the streets. When he became too tall to continue as an acrobat the school suggested that he should try ballet. Though he was already sixteen, the ballet school was full of girls and desperately needed boys, and he was accepted.
I had a lot of difficulties growing up, but I consider myself very lucky to have had amazing people that supported me and advised me to get on the right track.
Street Kids doesn't raise money to house or feed kids, but to give them social and creative skills.
I believe that learning a skill can sometimes be more valuable then receiving money; to be trained in something and have help in getting a job is really what most of these kids and young adults need.
This is what Street Kids says, that they aim to enable these young people “to explore opportunities to earn a decent living, meet their basic needs and realise their potential.”
Thiago admits that it can be seen as “cool” to get involved with some charity projects,
…but if you really get involved it gets difficult. But because I was helped out myself, I feel it's extremely important to make sacrifices with my time and energy to help others.
So Marianela Núñez and Thiago Soares have decided to start giving back.
Find out more about Street Kids here… “catalyst for better lives”
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.