By Jessie Mai Mitnick, age 11
Ingrid Silva is the First Ballerina with the Dance Theatre of Harlem and a women’s empowerment leader.
Growing up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Ingrid was an avid swimmer, with aspirations to swim professionally. However, this changed, at 8 years old, when she began ballet at Dançando Para Não Dançar, a program which provided ballet training to children who couldn’t otherwise afford dance classes. “Dance is part of my life, and I don’t think I can live without it!!!” Ingrid told IndyKids. “It’s been my passion since I was 12, when I really found myself in love.”
When Ingrid was starting out as a dancer, there weren’t many dancers who looked like her, whom she could look up to as mentors or role models. Now, as a successful dancer, she wants to inspire other young women to reach their goals, and dismantle stereotypes in the process.
A few years ago, Ingrid Silva founded the organization EmpowHerNY, which focuses on providing a platform for women to share their stories and empowering them to overcome challenges to achieve their goals. Ingrid said, “Creating EmpowHerNY was a way of creating a safe space with no judgments.” Ingrid wants to give other young women the role models that she didn’t have when she started dancing. She believes giving women space to communicate is powerful motivation. “The more we share, the more we can connect with each other.”
As a child, Ingrid was the only Black ballerina in her class, so she wants things to be different for the next generation. That’s why she also mentors at Brown Girls Do Ballet, an organization focused on increasing the participation of underrepresented minority populations in ballet development and training. Ingrid is proud of the impact the organization has made already. “It’s incredible how many opportunities they give to so many young ladies!” she said.
Ingrid takes both activism and dance to another level when she combines the two. Just being a Black ballerina is “breaking the vision of society,” she said. A Black ballerina is not an image that many people might think of as “typical.” This is because most ballet companies are made up of mostly White women. Therefore, just being a Black ballerina is challenging that status quo.
Whether through dancing, mentoring or empowering women, Ingrid Silva is an exemplary person in our society. She came from a low-income neighborhood in Brazil, and when she gained success in elite world of ballet, she didn’t take that for granted. Now she uses her privilege to help others reach their potential and achieve their dreams, just as she has.
Stereotypes – A preconvienced or fixed idea that someone has about something or a group of people that relies on assumptions, that are especially wrong.