She has only been dancing for three years, but her talent has not gone unnoticed. Fifteen-year-old Matilde Sanders, a student at Lagoa’s Classical Academy of Ballet (CAB), has been invited to become the first Portuguese female dancer to perform at the Moscow International Ballet Competition.
The event will take place between May 30 and June 11 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia, considered one of the most prestigious events of its kind. The only other Portuguese dancer to have been invited was Marcelino Sambé in 2008. He has gone on to become a principal dancer with The Royal Ballet in London.
“I’m going to Moscow, I can’t believe it,” a stunned but overjoyed Matilde told the Resident after receiving the news.
“I am very happy because this is a unique opportunity for me to be a part of one of the most prestigious ballet events in the world. I’m going to have the opportunity to have masterclasses with some of the best ballet schools in the world and dance at the Bolshoi,” the young ballerina told us.
“To be the first Portuguese (ballerina) to be invited to this event is an honour. I feel nervous but, at the same time, proud to see my work recognised.
“Perhaps because I started dancing later, I always feel that I must work more and more, and never have a lot of expectations for myself. So, it was a great surprise when I heard my name. It took me a few seconds to take it all in,” she said.
Reality has since set in, and Matilde knows that she as a “unique experience” ahead of her, which can open new opportunities for her, such as the possibility of enrolling in a bigger ballet school abroad.
“My big dream is to be a Prima Ballerina at the American Ballet Theatre … it is good to dream,” the youngster said.
But how did Matilde develop this passion for ballet?
“I was a bit of a tomboy during my childhood. I used to practice roller-skating, surfing, sailing, acrobatic gymnastics … so, no ballet in my life until my younger sister started having lessons and going to competitions. I was always a very curious girl and, somehow, watching ballet was triggering feelings and emotions in me in a very different way. So, I decided to give it a try and that is how it all started,” Matilde said.
“Dance means the world to me. It’s the only way I really know how to express myself and my feelings. The sensation of being on stage is beyond everything. I can’t imagine my life without it. I’m so happy when I dance,” she added.
Matilde, who is currently in 10th grade at Lagoa’s secondary school ESPAMOL where she is studying visual arts, trains around four-and-a-half hours a day for five days a week, except on Saturdays when she trains six hours. Juggling her time between school and ballet practice is “very difficult”, she admitted, although she has joined ESPAMOL’s Support Unit for High School Performance, which Matilde says has helped her manage her time between school and ballet practices.
“I started dancing later than usual, so I have to work harder and harder to achieve the level demanded in ballet,” Matilde told us.
“Without a doubt, I would never have been able to get where I am without my teachers Inana Wolfsdorf and Susana Pott from the Classical Academy of Ballet. They believed in me, which gave me strength to fight for my dreams. It is without a doubt a school of excellence.”
So, what advice does Matilde have for other young dancers who would like to follow in her footsteps?
“You have to believe and work, work and always work a bit more. And have passion, a lot of passion. Face one day at a time. Some days are better, others are worse but always believe that it is possible!”
By MICHAEL BRUXO