Photo Credit: Ingrid Silva
Ingrid Silva: The Black Ballerina From Brazil Changing The Ballet World
In Brazil, the chances of a little girl born and raised in impoverished neighborhoods becoming a Black ballerina are very low.
Racism, poor education systems and lack of opportunities bring problems that Afro-Brazilians have to face during their lifetime. However, there are some who challenge this and reach heights beyond those they have dreamed about. This is the case for Ingrid Silva, a Black ballerina and activist from Rio de Janeiro who is revolutionizing the professional ballet scene in New York.
The mother of a 1-year-old girl, works as a lead ballerina with the Dance Theater of Harlem.
Ingrid Silva gained global prominence by becoming the first Black ballerina to have her pointe shoes painted in her skin color. Seen during her performances in New York, the ‘afro’ pointe shoes have become so popular, that in 2018 they were sent for exhibition in The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
But, this Black ballerina has more to offer than dancing itself. She has also become an important voice for more diversity within the ballet world.
She is the co-founder of Blacks in Ballet, created with the purpose of highlighting black ballet dancers and sharing their stories.
“Every Black ballet dancer has a different background, a different path, a different story to tell, and that’s what Blacks in Ballet wants to share with the world,” Ingrid Silva told Travel Noire.
In 2017, she founded EmpowHer NY, a non-profit organization that aims to amplify women’s voices in matters regarding various areas, while fostering female sorority.
“We are a platform that generates opportunities for education and network for those aspiring to claim their own path.”
Last May, she returned to perform “The Movement of Motherhood,” now available on video on her YouTube channel.
Silva’s story is remarkable, indeed. It started when her mother, a house maid, decided to put her in a dance school in order to take her away from the streets at the age of 8. The dance school was part of a social project located in a slum in Rio de Janeiro.
“Although I have always been involved in sports, it was there that one of the neighbors introduced me to the social project called Dançando para Não Dançar (Dancing for not being in Trouble, in Portuguese), created by Thereza Aguilar. I didn’t think much of it, but I took the test and passed. I was only 8 years old. Little did I know that, later, that simple activity would take me to the United States,” Silva told Vogue Brazil Magazine during a past interview.
It was at this Dance School that Ingrid Silva’s life changed.
Seeing her remarkable talent as a ballet dancer, one of her instructors told her to send a video to the Dance Theater of Harlem School for a scholarship opportunity.
She got her place out of 200 girls who had auditioned when she was 19.
The next step was to find the means to survive in New York. Without knowing a word in English, she had to think not only about the classes, but also finding a job. She worked as a dog walker, nanny, at events, among other occupations.
Often times, she thought about quitting. Feeling upset and frustrated, she called her mother to share her feeling. Her mother’s answer was always the same, “Daughter, there is nothing for you in Brazil.”
But soon after, things started to change for the better, after she was noticed by the director of the Dance Theater of Harlem, Arthur Mitchell. Since then, Ingrid Silva has become one of the most prominent Black dancers, with several good reviews from dance experts who pointed her as one of the most talented dancers in the US.
Now, she is committed to promoting her book in order to inspire other Afro-Brazilians to pursue their dreams.
“Dancing was able to take me to other areas that made me grow not only as a professional, but as a human being. My book is not just about ballet. This is the story of my life, which led me to be this woman who, today, is very sure about her importance and her place in the world”, said the Black ballerina.
The book was written during the pandemic, and it is only available in Portuguese.