Ballerina Ingrid Silva on Unraveling Stereotypes: ‘I Can Still Look Classical and Elegant With My Natural Hair'  

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This interview is a part of Health’s #RealLifeStrong sequence, the place we’re celebrating girls who characterize power, resilience, and grace.

Ingrid Silva is popping the stereotype of a ballerina physique on its head. Here, the 29-year-old—who's presently in her sixth season on the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York City—opens up about being the one black woman in her ballet class, forging her personal profession path, and why illustration issues.

Did you at all times know you'd grow to be a ballerina?

Growing up in Brazil, I wished to be a swimmer so badly. I began ballet comparatively late, once I was eight years outdated, and I by no means noticed myself dancing [long-term]. When I used to be 11, I went to one of many greatest dance colleges in Brazil, and I met a instructor who sparked extra of a love of dance in me. The challenges—and how each day I achieved one thing completely different—have been magnetizing for me. Ballet was taking over a lot of my life, I made a decision to simply put money into it.

At 17, you left Rio de Janeiro to research on the Dance Theatre of Harlem. What impressed you to go to New York?

I knew it was an important alternative, however my mother was with me each step of the best way, guiding me by way of it. I didn’t need to go. When you’re younger and you get these alternatives, it’s exhausting to suppose as far forward because the individuals round you. I did see a future for myself in dance. But I didn’t think about it will get to the place it’s now. I’d by no means dream of that.

What was it like to maneuver so removed from residence?

When I first acquired right here, I discovered English, I discovered the tradition. I needed to battle much more for the issues that I wished, particularly being a global dancer. Just discovering my house in myself and within the firm, and rising as a lady and as an individual, it was such a problem. I might barely talk, so I used to be lonely. I used to be unhappy. I wished to return for the primary few days. But I at all times had my household’s assist.

You’ve carved your personal path in an business recognized for its extraordinarily strict requirements—how did you do it?

People see ballerinas as a typical white, skinny, tall woman. It’s a lot greater than that. When I arrived at Dance Theatre of Harlem I felt very welcome. I felt like I discovered individuals who regarded like me. I felt like I used to be the place I belonged. In Brazil, there wasn’t a lot variety. I used to be the one black ballerina in my class! And once I got here to America, on this firm, I used to be only one extra.

Did that make you are feeling empowered to be your self?

There are sure requirements to bop that you need to comply with—ballet could be very particular, and you need to look formal, and you need to look a sure approach. I feel for me, it was extra discovering a solution to look classical and elegant as a ballet dancer, but in addition appear like me. I can nonetheless look classical and elegant with my pure hair. I might be classical and elegant with my very own physique. That was empowering.

Do you are feeling a accountability to assist different younger dancers attain the identical conclusion?

I mentor by way of a corporation known as Brown Girls Do Ballet. In my technology, I didn’t have anybody I might relate to and look as much as. These ladies can see me dance, or on-line, or in a magazine, and they see that it’s potential. And that’s the place I feel that illustration issues. It’s not even about your physique sort, or your pores and skin colour. It’s about discovering somebody who evokes you. That’s my aim—to attach with individuals and assist change their lives, even when it’s simply by way of a dialog.

How do you cope with profession hurdles as of late?

I really feel just like the ballet profession goes to be exhausting ceaselessly. You at all times need to be a greater "you" each day. And you need to be good, which doesn’t exist. But one factor is vital: to be constant. And proper now, I’m making an attempt to be constant extra and extra. That’s completely different than being good, as a result of we’ll by no means be good.

What is your recommendation to for dealing with setbacks, and moments of self-doubt?

I do not forget that simply because one thing doesn’t work in the future, doesn’t imply it received’t work the following. And sure, you’re going to get annoyed, however personally, I began studying the best way to cope with my feelings. When I used to be younger, when issues wouldn’t go proper in ballet, I’d go residence and cry. My dad as soon as requested, “Why do you at all times get so upset? If it makes you so unhappy, why don’t you stop?” And the reply was that I might by no means see myself doing the rest. Growing up now, even once I get annoyed, I perceive: Hey, it didn’t work as we speak. You can do higher tomorrow.

We need to hear about extra #RealLifeStrong girls. Nominate your self—or a buddy or member of the family—right here. We’ll be sharing essentially the most inspiring tales we obtain within the months forward.

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