Peru ballet competition draws young devotees

Ballet is all they think about.

Nearly 100 girls and boys from Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, France and Peru are submitting themselves to a week-long competition hoping to win medals from Peru's national ballet school — and perhaps a grant to study in Miami.

The competitors range in age from 9 to 18, and take dance extremely seriously.

"The only thing easy about ballet is to say the word 'ballet,'" said Francis Jimenez, a petite 10-year-old with sparkling eyes who has been studying dance for two years.

Shelsy Maturek, 11, said she has loved ballet since she was very young and is willing to put in the work necessary to succeed.

"A dancer must sacrifice a lot," she said before her performance, made up and sporting inch-long fake eyelashes. "I imagine that as the years go by I will get callouses and sores, but it's just as well. I like it. I need to accept it."

A jury presided over by Russian choreographer Vladimir Issaev will hand out prizes. Issaev has said he will also award grants to some winners to study at a school he runs in Miami.