- Title: BRAZIL: Arabic dancer performs for children of Rio's slums
- Date: 8th December 2006
- Summary: DANCER MAIRA MATTAR PREPARING TO PERFORM FOR CHILDREN FROM THE SLUMS OF RIO DE JANEIRO/ LOOKS IN MIRROR WEARING A VEIL NIAGARA, ASSISTANT TO DANCER MAIRA MATTAR, PREPARING NOTES AHEAD OF PERFORMANCE DANCER MAIRA MATTAR PREPARING HAIR WHILE WEARING VEIL
- Embargoed: 23rd December 2006 12:00
- Location: Brazil
- Country: Brazil
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment / Showbiz
- Reuters ID: LVA73H5NUKMQD8NO614UTSBL846W
- Story Text: Arabic dancer Maira Mattar has spent the last two years performing traditional and experimental Middle Eastern dances for the children of Rio de Janeiro's slums as she tries to offer them an escape from the daily violence in which they live.
Rio, although a popular tourist destination known for its natural beauty and extravagant Carnival, has one of the highest murder rates in the world.
Poverty has turned the urban slums of Rio into lawless zones that are controlled by criminal gangs and the city's poorly paid and trained police are unable to resolve the situation.
Mattar, the daughter of Lebanese Druze immigrants, says that because the children for whom she performs live in the slums, they are deprived of any contact with other cultures.
"They all come from the favelas, (slums) they are only used to other styles of music, but when the children meet something different, they become thrilled," she told Reuters after performing for a group of nearly twenty children.
One of the children's favourite activities is storytelling time, when Mattar acts out traditional stories of the Arabic culture. "They come from a closed, violent world and enter this world they have never seen. In reality they will feel moments of peace, providing them a great voyage, a voyage they never did and will never be able to make. They come from this violent world and come to this ludic, magical world, which is the world of Arabic culture," she added.
Despite the violent circumstances under which they live, the children have other reasons for coming to see Mattar's performances.
"I like to come here because of the music, the clothes, the game and the veil," said Janayna after trying on a traditional Arabic veil.
"I liked the Arabic dance and the games," added Ondrey.
Many of the favelas, home to about 20 percent of its 6 million people, are dominated by heavily armed drug gangs who sell cocaine and marijuana to the rich and middle-class and frequently fight over control of distribution points.
Police rarely enter the favelas except in shows of force. In March, around 1,500 troops backed by tanks and helicopters occupied several favelas in an anti-crime operation.
The total of violent deaths in Brazil reached 40,000 in 2005, with police killings of alleged criminals especially high in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo states.
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