This is Ingrid Silva. She is a ballerina, activist, business woman and soon-to-be mother. At 31 years old, Silva made history this November by becoming the first Black Brazilian ballerina on the cover of Vogue Brasil.
Born in 1988 in Rio de Janeiro, Ingrid Silva began her dance training at the age of 8. In her early dance years, she attended the Dançando Para Não Dançar school in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Silva grew up near one of Rio’s many favelas. Her parents worked hard to ensure she could pursue her ballet dream. Her mother even quit her job so she could take both Ingrid and her brother to their classes.
As a young dancer, Silva was heavily inspired by Brazilian ballerinas, such as Mercedes Baptista and Ana Botafogo. However, the visibility of Black Brazilian dancers was essentially nonexistent. Silva found herself lacking role models in the ballet world with whom she could identify. In many ways, Silva had to be her own role model.
In fact, the presence of colored ballerinas on stages worldwide remains relatively low. Today, one of Silva’s greatest passions is working to increase Afro-Brazilian visibility in ballet.
Celebrating diversity in ballet is necessary in order to create a space that embraces all talent in all its forms.
Thanks to ballerinas like Ingrid Silva, Misty Copeland and Michaela DePrince, among many others, little Black girls can identify with their role models. These young girls are able to realize that the ballet world is not exclusive to white dancers.
In a mini-doc produced for Blackamericatv, Silva explains how ballet classes in Brazil only include maybe one or two Black students.
Despite being the country with the second largest Black population, ballet culture in Brazil remains largely inaccessible to its Afro-Brazilian community.
At age 18, Silva got the opportunity of a lifetime. She received a full scholarship to attend Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Summer Intensive Program. Silva was thousands of miles away. Yet, she says that upon arriving at the studio, she felt at home.
“As soon as I stepped into the building, I was like, ‘Wow, there are so many people that look like me.’”– Silva tells Pointe Magazine
Silva became a full-time dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem in 2013 and continues to dance with them to this day. The celebration of African American culture that exists within the framework of Dance Theatre of Harlem is an element that strongly appealed to Silva.
“I always think to myself that if I had anyone that looked like me then, or anybody that cared this much or supported me as an artist, then, how it would shape me now […] Representation matters and you can’t become something that you don’t see. We have skin color ballet slippers now, we have skin colored pointe shoes, we have skin colored tights. Directors have to take the first step in hiring dancers of color, so the stage looks like what the rest of the world looks like so people can feel represented on stage.”– Silva states in Nike’s Common Thread series.
In addition to being a role model for young Black girls in ballet, Silva also provides advice to these dancers through social media. For example, classical ballet pointe shoes are manufactured in a silky, pinkish white color that stands out awkwardly on a dancer with darker skin. In order to achieve a color that matches Silva’s darker skin tone, she applies various cosmetic products. Silva then shares these videos and tips through her social media accounts.
Silva has also been a brand ambassador for Activia as well as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department. Her commitment to amplifying the voices of women and Black artists around the globe is inspiring. She has even partnered with Nike to participate in the Common Thread series which celebrates an emerging generation of young Black athletes. She is the founder of EmpowHer and the co-founder of Blacks in Ballet.
Silva was also Pointe Magazine’s first Black Brazilian cover model and now she’s making history with Vogue Brasil.
Oh, and let’s not forget that she is pregnant.
I chose to write about Ingrid Silva for a handful of reasons. Firstly, I, myself, have been professionally trained in classical ballet. I can affirm that there is severe underrepresentation of dancers of color in the ballet world. Furthermore, I wanted to use this opportunity to celebrate Black athletes and recognize a truly modern, talented and inspiring ballerina: Ingrid Silva.
With a child on the way and a long career ahead of her, Silva demonstrates that women – Black women, Brazilian women – are strong and capable of achieving many amazing things.
Ballerinas can have children and continue to shine and twirl effortlessly on stage. Young black girls can become beautiful ballerinas and grace the cover of Vogue. As an individual, you can bring about fundamental changes in your community. Ingrid Silva has taught the world that all of these feats are possible.
If you are interested in learning more about Ingrid Silva, please check out the following sites:
In Female-Dominated Ballet, Men Hold The Power
Electing Women 101: How Arizona Is Changing The Game
The Lack Of Diversity Within Ballet: Why Did It Take So Long To Get Ballet Shoes For Different Skin Tones?