Dancer Marika Gidali was born in Budapest on April 29, 1937. Her father, Bela (Benjamin) Gidali (1909–1990), a tailor by profession who originally came from Tild (Telince) Slovenia, spoke various languages and dialects fluently. Her mother, Erzsébet (Elizabeth), née Goldstein (1911–1990), from a humble family in Budapest, was a seamstress. After they married, the couple made clothes for both men and women in their apartment in Budapest. In order to cope with the outbreak of antisemitism during the war and gain the chance of obtaining a safe-conduct from the Hungarian authorities, Marika and her sister Agnes (b. 1935) went through a preventive baptism and took the catechism. When she was very young Marika had to face anti-Jewish prejudice, witnessing Jews who were forced to wear a yellow star on their arms and experiencing the invasion of the family’s apartment by the military, the lack of safety, and life in the Pest ghetto. With the end of the war and the birth of a son, Peter Pal (1946–2003), the family moved to Brazil, where a sister of Elizabeth was already living. As it was difficult to obtain a visa because of the antisemitic immigration laws of the Brazilian government, the family entered via the Uruguayan border and then settled in São Paulo. At thirteen, Marika, who had already shown a gift for gymnastics, began to present short dance routines at the Hungarian Club, where she also took part in plays. In 1953 she joined the cast of the Ballet of the Fourth Centenary, a company founded in 1953, directed by the Hungarian choreographer Aurell M. Milloss, an important figure in international dance who had worked with well-known groups in Europe. Milloss choreographed sixteen ballets for the company and invited artists such as Candido Portinari (1903–1962), Roberto Burle Marx (1909–1994), Lasar Segall (1891–1957), Emiliano di Cavalcanti (1897–1976) and Clovis Graciano (1907–1988) to design the sets. In 1956, when the company was disbanded, Marika accepted the invitation of the director of the Ballet Company of Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro, Tatiana Leskova, and worked under the direction of Vaslav Veltchek, Igor Schettzof and Leonide Massine (1895–1979), taking part in ballets created by Yvette Chauviré, Tamara Toumanova (1919–1997), Lupe Serrano (b. 1930), the sisters Marie and Marjorie Tallchief, Istvan Rabovsky, Nora Kovács and . At this time she discovered the work of Maurice Béjart and was excited at the new possibilities of movement presented in the ballet Symphony for a Lonely Man, performed by Béjart’s company in Rio de Janeiro. In 1957 Marika returned to São Paulo, where she joined the recently formed Ballet of the Cultural Artistic Theater, organized by Lívio Rangan. When this group folded, she joined the Friends of the Dance group directed by the Argentine dancer, Ismael Guiser. When the group was dissolved in 1959, Gidali set up her first school and began to choreograph shows for television. Her first son, Edgerd, by her marriage to the actor Raymundo Victor Duprat (b. 1928), was born in 1964. In 1965 Marika took part in the Cologne International Festival and was invited to dance in the Cologne Opera. About this invitation she said: “When I went to test my dance in Germany, my mother went with me. In case I wanted to stay, she knew how to bring me back. The fact that her daughter was dancing in Germany was not the dream of a Jewish matriarch who had saved her children, like a lioness, from the hands of the Nazis. ...” In the mid-1960s, the most difficult period of the military dictatorship in Brazil, her school was the meeting point for artists from both the theater and dance. The dance group which she subsequently set up, Afirmação (Affirmation), raised the problems of dance in Brazil, ranging from lack of money to questions related to dance technique, choreography and music. Gidali always wanted to be a classical ballerina but, as she said: “I suffered because I didn’t have the ideal physique, that is: long legs, a straight back, a long neck, curved feet. I didn’t have any of these. I fought so much, that the technical mysteries were no problem for me. I took years to realize that my kind of dance was different, more human and theatrical.” In 1958 she met Renée Gumiel, a French dancer and choreographer who was living in Brazil, who showed her a new kind of dance language, which she used in the ballets Huis clos and The Curra, in which she developed the theatrical side of dance. However, it was in her partnership with the theatrical director Ademar Guerra that Gidali was fully successful in blending a dialogue between theater and dance, choreographing important works such as Marat-Sade, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, America Hurrah!, Lulu, Mahogany, Lay Mass, Hair, Missing Brazil, The Henfil Show and Tom Paine. In 1970 she divorced Raymundo Duprat and in 1971 married the dancer Décio Otero (Jannuzzi, b. 1933), with whom she produced the television series Invitation to Dance for Culture Television, São Paulo. This was a series of programs in which the various styles of dance were presented, from classic dance to theatrical dance, with narration by important artists from Brazilian theater.
In 1971 the couple also set up the Ballet Stagium which, beginning with Diadorim, introduced a repertory based on Brazilian themes and created an aesthetics and an identity that had considerable repercussions both in Brazil and Latin America. The company’s repertoire now reflected developments in Brazilian life and society; choreographies such as those of Pantanal, The Amazon Forest, Diadorim (inspired by the classic Brazilian novel Grande sertão: veredas [The Devil To Pay In The Backland] by João Guimarães Rosa) and Kuarup were based on the studies and experiences of members of the group, who took their dances around Brazil, even to the Xingu Indian villages. Social problems such as violence, racism, AIDS, oppression and genocide were incorporated into their works. In 1985 Gidali danced the ballet Crimes, choreographed by her husband, which was located in a concentration camp. In it, she played the part of a Jewish woman behind a barbed wire fence, witnessing in horror the genocide of the Jews.
Her childhood memories and the rejection complexes suffered by Jewish children, as well as the transforming power of dance both for the dancer and the audience, can be seen in the various educational projects which Gidali developed with problem teenagers in institutions like FEBEM, the home for young offenders, and SOS Criança (SOS Children). She has also given shows in state schools in the city of São Paulo and its outlying areas.
Of the five children from her second marriage—Antonio Marcos and Eugenio (b. 1980), Marcelo (b. 1981), Alessandra and Yolanda Rosa (b. 1983)—four are dancers and all are involved in The Ballet Stagium.