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Only When I Dance follows two teenagers, Irlan and Isabela, living in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro as they struggle to become professional dancers. Serious Irlan has a difficult time balancing work and school but seems to be on a fast track toward a new life. Isabela, on the other hand, is a young black ballerina coping with discrimination, knowing that no matter how good she is, it’s unlikely a major ballet company in her own country will accept her because of the color of her skin. Although the teens are lovely and talented, the adults of Only When I Dance are the most fascinating characters of Beadie Finzi’s film. Irlan’s father is initially skeptical of his son’s interest in dance but becomes completely supportive after seeing him perform, and Isabel’s father, who works multiple jobs to keep her in tights and toe shoes, weeps for his little girl when it looks like her dream might not come true. And the head of Centro de Dança, the studio where both Irlan and Isabela study, is the no-nonsense Mariza Estrella, a sort of Brazilian Lydia Grant who spends most of her screen time either dispensing tough love or reapplying lip gloss.
On Tuesday, June 16, at 9:45 p.m.; also on Sunday, June 21, at 3 p.m. at AFI Silver Theatre.