From Rio’s Slums to Global Spotlight: Ingrid Silva’s Historic Journey Through Dance

Ingrid Silva is challenging the boundaries of the ballet profession. Silva, who grew up in Rio de Janeiro, shared that her mother encouraged her family to participate in athletics despite their limited financial resources. As a result, she began swimming at the age of three months.

She told People, “I enjoyed swimming.” I truly joined an Olympic team in Brazil. But then ballet came along when I was eight years old. Which is sometimes considered old. But I simply fell in love with the discipline and hard effort. I learned something new every day. I felt as if I were fighting gravity.

After performing for two touring companies in Brazil, the trailblazer moved to New York and joined the Dance Theater of Harlem at age 18.

According to the dancer, it is her responsibility to motivate the future generation. She remarked, “I honestly believe it is a great responsibility to be an example to kids, especially because when I was growing up, I didn’t see myself in the dancing industry, particularly in Brazil. As I arrived in New York, things began to change, and I noticed an increase in variety in all aspects. But I believe that being the one who inspires others every day is extremely powerful. I have an incredible audience that has been following my narrative from the beginning. So when I travel to different locations and get to meet the fans backstage, it’s incredibly special.”

Silva has encountered racial disparities in her job, which she seeks to address. She added that she had to use cosmetics to match her pointe shoes until 2019 when they started making her skin tone. She also struggled with tight leotards and shoes intended for a specific body form.

According to The Hub, the 36-year-old became the first Black dancer to perform with pointe shoes painted the same color as her skin, earning her international notoriety. The “afro” pointe shoes, which she wore during her New York performances, became so popular that the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., asked them to exhibit in 2018.

Today, she dreams of creating her own collection, adding, “My personal goal and dream is to create my own line—I love what Rihanna did with Fenty makeup, and I feel like it would be amazing to do that with point shoes.”

Silva continued, “Ballet has evolved. There is still a specific way to look, but you see different body forms on stage now. Ballet originated not only with Europeans. You will now see non-binary dancers on stage. It’s a great step forward, and it’s wonderful for the next generation to understand that ballet is achievable regardless of appearance.”

Despite all of her postpartum physical changes, her passion of dance maintained her dancing throughout her pregnancy and enabled her return to work after giving birth to her daughter in 2020. However, the dance profession frequently discreetly encourages women to have a specific appearance.

She has used her bodily modifications to her advantage, as she stated, “I feel like I am dancing better than ever.” When I get onto the stage, I feel like my work takes on a new significance. This body is an artistic expression, but it is also a nurturing environment. She also enjoys having her children watch her perform from backstage. It’s critical for her to know her mother worked. “That is very empowering for girls.”

Silva is a co-founder of Blacks in Ballet, a global database of Black ballet dancer biographies that casting agents and dance organizations commonly use.

In 2017, she launched the non-profit group PodHer, which aims to empower women’s voices and foster friendship. Since its founding, it has grown to provide women global information, employment opportunities, and networking events.

Silva’s reputation has expanded dramatically, with appearances in a short Nike film narrated by Serena Williams and advertisements for firms like Cadillac.

She said that discovering that certain well-known celebrities, such as Alicia Keys and Jennifer Garner, were fans of hers made her realize “how my story had really gained traction, and I had no idea.” It has been great.”

Silva has served as a cultural ambassador for the US State Department, led community service initiatives in Israel, Jamaica, and Honduras, and delivered a lecture at the 2018 UN Social Good Summit.

She has also penned the Brazilian bestseller “A Sapatilha Que Mudou Meu Mundo,” which chronicles her amazing life and motivates other Afro-Brazilians to pursue their dreams.

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