“Through the years I have learned the history of this company, and how I represent something greater than myself!”
Activities: Professional Dancer with Dance Theater of Harlem, Classical Ballet
I am really excited about my interview with Ingrid Silva. I reached out to her a few months ago via Instagram, to see if she would be willing to do an MCBMI interview. When she actually responded, and agreed to do it, I was shocked. I knew she was preparing for opening season with Dance Theater of Harlem, and her schedule would be really tight. She was very gracious with her time and communication about when she would be able to complete the interview, and that meant a lot to me. In April, I had the opportunity to see her perform for the opening season of Dance Theater of Harlem. She performed in Act III Pad de Deux from Swan Lake, and is truly one to watch out for. I hope you all enjoy the MCBMI interview with Ingrid.
Thank you Ingrid for taking the time out of your schedule, to do this interview and share your story and thoughts with MCBMI. You are and inspiration, both on and off the stage because of your positive outlook on life!
Q: You started taking ballet at the age of eight, with your brother. What initially drew you to ballet, and what made you stick with it?
Well, to be honest, I was never the girl that was like, “OMG, I wanna be a ballerina,” I was into many different sports, swimming, soccer… One of my neighbors mentioned to my mom a ballet studio was having open auditions near our home. My mom took me to the audition, and I go in. At the beginning, ballet was like gymnastics, something I had already done. What made me stick with it, was the challenge! It made me really push myself.
Q: At what moment did you realize ballet was what you wanted to do professionally?
When I was twelve, one of my instructors was really impressed with the great work I was doing, at that point, I decided to take it seriously. I truly do believe ballet found me!
Q: Was it difficult for you to walk away from the other sports you were involved in, to focus on ballet?
I started swimming at age three because of bronchitis, it was amazing, it was my life. I competed in it and still have the medals I won at home in Brazil. It was hard for me to walk away, but ballet was taking up more and more of my time. I couldn’t do both and I had to choose.
Q: You currently live in NYC and are a dancer with Dance Theater of Harlem (DHT). Having been born and reared in Brazil, talk about the path you took in professional training, to get to DHT?
I started taking classical ballet lessons in Mangueira at Dancando Para Nao Dancar. The program was based in 12 of Rio’s favelas for children who would otherwise not be able to afford dance classes. The company was known for successfully training students to dance for companies abroad. There were approximately 20 students in my class with three teachers. We all received scholarships to go to different schools, and still dance with them. My teacher was very strict and all about discipline. I also trained at Teatro Municipal School, and with Deborah Colker’s company. In 2007, I was encouraged to send a video of my work to Dance Theater of Harlem, I did, and became part of their summer intensive program. A year later, at 19, I came back to New York to join the DTH ensemble and eventually the company. That is the condensed version. For me, at eight years old, I didn’t realize all the attributes that would come along with ballet. I just enjoyed the challenges it brought.
Q: Of all the companies you could dance for, why did you choose DTH?
One of my friend’s teachers came to my class and watched me dance, she suggested DTH. To be honest, back in Brazil, I didn’t know much about DTH. When I arrived in New York in 2008, everything changed, I took my first class at DTH, and the room was filled with girls who looked like me. That is when I understood her suggestion, it made sense. Through the years, I have learned the history of this amazing company, and how I represent something greater than myself!!!
Q: I read you came to the United States alone and didn’t speak English. Looking back on that period, would you have done anything differently?
I would do the same thing all over AGAIN! In Brasil, our main language is Portuguese. English is like a second option, so you don’t have to actually learn it fluently, unless you want to. We don’t learn it in school as extra curriculum, so I would have had to join a English school, which was very expensive back then.
Q: In your pursuit of becoming a ballet dancer, what obstacles did you have to overcome? Looking back on them, do you believe they helped or hindered you in any way? If so, how?
There were many obstacles. First and foremost, I left my home and family for a DREAM!!! I had to learn English, and be more independent in a different country. I had to learn to live without my family, in a foreign land, at 18, that was a big deal. I’m proud of being raised very well by my mom, she has been the best example in my life and the reason I was able to come here alone at 18 to pursuit my dream, so, I believed the obstacles helped. Had I not been willing to experience them, I would not be where I am today.
Q: The world of ballet, even in the 21st century, is still very white washed. Why do you, as someone in that world, believe this is the case?
I actually don’t!!! I think Ballet is for everyone, but that is my personal opinion. I can use my example, I came here from a poor family, in a third world country and became a ballet dancer. I still believe there’s no limit for what you truly believe.
Q: How many hours a week do you practice? How many performances do you do a year?
We dance seven hours per day, approximately 30-35 hours a week. I lost count of the performances but I would think it’s more than a thousand performances a year.
Q: During DTH’s off season, do you perform with any other companies?
During the off season, I work on my side projects, and sometimes with choreographers. If there’s an opportunity, I’m taking it!
Q: How often you you practice during the off season?
It really depends. There is no actual plan, I try to just feel what my body needs.
Q: Other than ballet, what else do you do to stay in shape?
When I’m not dancing, I do hot yoga and I like to swim.
Q: Have you had any injuries? If so, how long did it take you to recover?
No, I haven’t had an actual injury in which I couldn’t dance. Thank God!!!
Q: So, how do you stay injury free?
I stay injury free, by just preparing my body the best way possible. I warm up before every class, I ice my feet if they need it. I get plenty of rest and eat well.
Q: How many hours of sleep do you get each night?
It depends, but I try to get at least eight hours of sleep each night.
Q: Is your diet very strict? How many times a day do you eat?
I don’t have a “diet.” I eat three times a day, and snack all day long.
Q: What is your favorite food?
My favorite food is Brazilian Fejoada
Q: What advice would you give young girls who look up to you and want to pursue ballet?
I would tell them to always believe in their dream, and never give up because someone told you otherwise. Ballet is a really hard career, but if you love it, you will be successful in it.
Q: Growing up, who were the dancers you admired, if any?
Growing up, I admired Ana Botafogo, she is a well known ballerina in Brazil.
Q: Is your family still in Brazil? If so, how often do you go home?
Yes, everyone is still in Brazil, the entire family. I try to visit them at least once a year.
Q: What are your short term (3-5 years) and long term (10-15 years) goals?
I don’t have terms, or a time frame. It’s really interesting when you make plans and go with it and see what happens. I definitely want to go back to school and get a degree. I would like to use it with dance. I believe that would be “long term.” I also want to teach, coach, and dance all over the world, that’s my passion.
Q: Why did you agree to do the MCBMI interview?
I think it’s very important to inspire people in general. I believe your platform is an opportunity you have to change someone’s life by sharing other people’s stories.