BY Dollita Okine, 2:00pm March 06, 2024,

From slums of Rio to world stage, how ballerina Ingrid Silva made history with her dancing shoes

Ingrid Silva is pushing the boundaries of the ballet profession. Photo Credit: Instagram

Ingrid Silva is pushing the boundaries of the ballet profession. Silva, who was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, recounted that her mother encouraged her family to play sports despite their lack of wealth. As a result, she started swimming at the age of three months.

She told People, “I loved swimming. I actually joined an Olympic team in Brazil. But then ballet came around when I was 8 years old. Which is sometimes considered old. But I just fell in love with the discipline and hard work. I learned something new every day. I felt like I was defying gravity.”

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

According to the dancer, it is her duty to inspire the next generation. She stated, “I honestly think it’s a huge responsibility to be an inspiration for them, especially because when I was growing up, I didn’t feel like I see myself in the dance world, especially in Brazil. Things started to developing as I came to New York, and I saw more diversity in all senses. But I think it’s really powerful to be the person that people get inspired by every day. I have a very amazing audience who has been following my story since the beginning. So when I’m in different cities and get to meet the fans backstage, it’s really beautiful.”

Silva has faced racial inequities in the profession, which she hopes to tackle. She told the network that she had to use makeup to color in her pointe shoes until 2019 when they began making her skin tone. She also struggled with tight leotards and shoes designed to fit a specific body shape.

The Hub reports that the 36-year-old rose to international recognition by being the first Black ballerina to perform in pointe shoes that were painted the same color as her skin. The “afro” pointe shoes, which were seen during her New York performances, gained so much popularity that The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., invited them to display in 2018.

Today, she dreams of making her own line explaining, “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 been evolving. There is still a certain way you have to look but you see different body shapes on stage now. It’s not just the European bodies from where Ballet was invented. You’ll see non-binary dancers on stage now. It’s a huge change, and it’s really beautiful for the next generation to see that it’s possible to do ballet, no matter what you look like.”

Despite all of her postpartum bodily changes, her love of dancing kept her dancing during her pregnancy and helped her return to her career after giving birth to her baby in 2020. However, the dancing industry typically subtly pushes women to have a certain appearance.

She has nevertheless leveraged her body changes for her benefit, as she noted, “I feel like I am dancing better than ever. I feel that my artistry when I step on stage has a different meaning. This body, it’s part of an art form, but it’s also a motherly place. She also loves her daughter being able to watch her perform from backstage. It’s important for her to know her mom worked. That’s very empowering for girls.”

Silva is one of the co-founders of Blacks in Ballet, a global database of Black ballet dancers’ biographies that casting agents and dance companies frequently consult.

She also founded the PodHer project in 2017, a non-profit organization dedicated to amplifying women’s voices while creating alliances and camaraderie. Since its inception, it has expanded to provide women with global resources, career possibilities, and networking panels.

Silva’s reputation has grown significantly, with appearances in a short Nike film narrated by Serena Williams and ads for brands such as Cadillac.

She revealed that seeing that certain well-known celebrities, such as Alicia Keys and Jennifer Garner, were fans of hers made her understand “how my story has really gained to places, and I had no idea. It’s been amazing.”

Silva has represented the United States State Department as a cultural ambassador, taken part in community service projects in Israel, Jamaica, and Honduras, and given a speech at the 2018 UN Social Good Summit.

She has also written the book “A Sapatilha Que Mudou Meu Mundo,” a Brazilian bestseller that recounts her extraordinary life and inspires other Afro-Brazilians to follow their ambitions.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: March 6, 2024


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