Ballerina Ingrid Silva of the Dance Theater of Harlem announces her first pregnancy in a short video
By Marques Travae
I have been following ballerina Ingrid Silva of the Dance Theater of Harlem since I learned of her story and her travel to the US in pursuit of her dream. So, needless to say, I felt a happiness for her when she shared the news of her first pregnancy. Coming from a country in which blackness is simply not appreciated, I admire how girl “just did it”. Considering her story, I’m always amazed at how Brazil is seen by people as a place of great diversity when the topic is race. It is absolutely true that there is a wide diversity of looks in Brazil, due to five centuries of amalgamation. But, on the other hand, the very reason such mixing exists is because millions of African descendants have been trained to “escape” blackness at all costs.
In terms of diversity in the culture as well as in the job market and who is seen as being “suitable” for any particular position, Brazil has a LONG way to go so that people in prominent and influential positions are equally represented by that diversity of phenotypes that the country is known for. There are very few areas of the country in which pretos e pardos, meaning blacks and browns, are accepted on equal footing with those who physically are closer to the European standard.
For the past six decades, pretos and pardos have developed a worldwide reputation for being some of the best futebolistas (soccer/football players) in the world. However, it is less known that when the sport arrived in Brazil, it was an elite hobby. Brazil’s segregation in the world of futebol is right up there next America’s national pastime in terms of allowing black players into the major leagues.
This exclusion of those who are too African-looking to “pass” extends to too many other genres to even list. Champion gymnast Daiane dos Santos has spoken about reactions to her entrance into the world of gymnastics and being told that she should choose a sport “more ideal for her biotype”.
Singer Corona (wonder if she regrets that name) (birthname Olga Maria de Souza) had to go overseas to establish herself. As a child, she dreamed of being a classical dancer, but was told she’d never make it to the most important stages because she was black.
By most accounts, Brazil doesn’t think ballet is the ‘place’ for black women, which is one of the reasons that I took an interest in the story of Ingrid Silva. Straight out of Rio, Silva’s story deserves a documentary. Following her dream and finding better opportunities in the US, she became a principal dancer at the famous Dance Theatre of Harlem. After seven years in the US, Silva was of the opinion that “there the prejudice is less”, backing up her assessment with the point that, in Brazil, she didn’t know any black ballerinas in classical ballet.
Let’s be clear, it’s not just Brazil that sees ballet as a style of dance suited for little white girls. If it were, perhaps something as simple as owning a pair ballet point shoes in your own skin tone wouldn’t be something worth celebrating. Back in November, Ingrid shared the joy of attaining such a simple thing with her followers.
Ballet emerged in Renaissance Italy in the 15th century and would go on to a become a worldwide influential style of dance that thrilled audiences for centuries. The dance would also begin to gain popularity in developing countries, such as Brazil. But similar to what happens in futebol (soccer), ballerinas with the greatest potential often ended being exported to the most prestigious ballet academies in the world.
Although the growth of the dance has attracted young girls who didn’t have blond hair, blue eyes and white skin, presenting a small glimmer of racial diversity, this wasn’t reflected in the sapatilhas, or pointe shoes, which didn’t see the importance of requests of black dancers for pointe shoes in shades of brown and bronze. This is slowly changing.
Because of pointe shoe companies basically ignoring the request, for years, Ingrid painted hers herself. But upon arrival of her new pointe shoes, she couldn’t hold contain her joy when those brown sapatilhas finally came.
She shared this news via one of her social networks.
“They’re here! For the past 11 years, I have always painted my pointe shoes. And finally, I won’t have to do that anymore! Finally,” commented Ingrid.
“It’s a sense of accomplishment, of a revolution, long live the diversity in the world of dance. And what an advance, you see, it took time but they arrived!” – – Ingrid Silva (@ingridsilva) November 2, 2019
More than 100 thousand internet users liked her news.
One of her followers asked how Ingrid painted her pointe shoes. Responding to the question, Ingrid made a little video to show her process of dying her pointe shoes.
“These are the old painted ones. Each bottle of ink was $12 dollars for 11 years.. imagine!” pic.twitter.com/pDgNmHuBvT – Ingrid Silva (@ingridsilva) November 2, 2019
Each pot of paint would cost her 12 dollars (right now worth about 63.50 in reais). It may seem like nothing, but it’s a considerable expense considering she did this for 11 years. On top of that, there’s the time she needed to invest in painting them herself.
Black or brown dancers need to paint their pointe shoes so that there is no ‘chromatic change’. This change breaks the leg line – in this case, a working instrument.
For those who have the expected ‘standard skin color, this may be no big deal, but it’s only been since 2018 that companies that make such accessories for classical dance, started to produce pointe shoe shades in other colors. A few of these companies include England’s Freed of London and the American Gaynor Minden.
From a Rio favela to Harlem
Originally from a favela in Rio, Ingrid got involved in the world of ballet through a social project. Ingrid got involved in the project, called Dançando para Não Dançar (dancing to not dance) at the age of 8. Since 1995, the organization has been helping girls from underprivileged communities so that they receive professional training and a social support network to achieve their dreams. Her specialty is Afro-Brazilian classical dance which led her to taking her talents to the Dance Theater company in Harlem.
She has also joined forces with the United Nations to promote equal opportunities in education.
“When I was 12 and lived in Brazil, I was the only Afro-Brazilian in dance schools. Inclusion is something we all have to work for. People need to know that they belong to something, so they don’t feel distant or give up just because they are seen as different,” she explained at a 2018 UN ceremony in New York.
Ingrid’s story has been told in various magazines and, as Brazil loves seeing its citizens making it around the world, she’s been featured on the country’s top talk shows as well. Again, I wonder, how many hundreds of thousands of Brazilians have missed out on great opportunities in life because Brazil judged them as having the “wrong skin color”?
Recently, Ingrid also shared with her fans another event that has brought her much joy.
The ballerina recently announced her pregnancy via Instagram and in a special way: with a letter, ballet steps and a video directed by her friend, actress Taís Araújo.
The video features Ingrid’s spoken Portuguese with English subtitles. The ballerina’s steps are set to music in a short piece entitled “Uma Carta para Você” (a letter to you). In it, Ingrid speaks to her future son..
“Elements like sapatilhas, in our skin color make us reflect on the representation and diversity in the world of dance. Behold, the world is upside down, and the news of your coming has brought a special light to my life,” she wrote.
In another section of the video, she reveals that she and her father are “very anxious” for the new life they are bringing into the world. “Know that you are already a loved one. Frida, your older sister, is looking forward to meeting you. I always keep seeing how you both connect. It’s so special,” she continued.
In one section of the video, she asks: “What does it mean to be a mother? I don’t know yet, but I feel that it will be a beautiful journey.”
Video project with actress Taís Araújo
The direction and concept of the video was supervised by Taís Araújo, who most would agree is Brazil’s most well-known black actress. Although the actress’s accomplishments are many, she says this short video with Ingrid was actually her first experience directing.
“An honor to share this joy with you! Telling about the arrival of a new life in this challenging world has renewed my hope, this video is my first experience in directing, I hope you like it,” she wrote on her Instagram. (See video here)
Speaking to the Mundo Negro website, Ingrid revealed said that she’s been talking to the actress for some time and shares a friendship with her.
“We have been friends for years and I have Taís as a person who inspires me a lot in life. I shared the news with her and she gave me the idea to make a very sensitive and special video. And I accepted,” she said.
Congrats to Ingrid Silva! Best wishes to you and your coming bundle of joy!
Below is the dancer’s full post
“Life is art, it has a transformative power. Being a dancer is a journey that requires focus, discipline and determination. Elements like sapatilhas, in our skin color make us reflect on the representation and diversity in the world of dance. Behold, the world is upside down, and the news of your coming has brought a special light to my life. Knowing about you, this year, caused me a certain fear, nervousness and questioning.
I knew that one day this moment would come, I just didn’t know it would be now. Your father and I can’t wait to see you, know that you are already loved. Know that you have an incredible family that will give you all the support you need to be who you want to be in this world. Frida, your older sister, is looking forward to meeting you. I always keep seeing how you both connect. It’s so special. What does it mean to be a mother?
I don’t know yet, but I feel that it will be a beautiful journey. My connection with your grandmother is very strong. She taught me to be who I am and gave me courage to live in this world. That’s how I want it to be with you. I’ll raise you for the world, so that you have wings and fly very high. What do I wish for you? Lots of love, happiness and that your journey is great. I’m very proud of you! I love you!” – Concept and Direction @taisdeverdade Editing @itaiaraandrade Coreografia @bethadjani Video capture @princederek14 Soundtrack @jarbas.bittencourt
A publication shared by Ballerina Ingrid Silva (@ingridsilva) on Sept. 11, 2020 at 10:23 PDT