This interview is a part of Well being’s #RealLifeStrong collection, the place we’re celebrating ladies who signify energy, resilience, and style.

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

Did you at all times know you'd change into a ballerina?

Rising up in Brazil, I needed to be a swimmer so badly. I began ballet comparatively late, after I was eight years previous, and I by no means noticed myself dancing [long-term]. Once I was 11, I went to one of many largest dance colleges in Brazil, and I met a instructor who sparked extra of a love of dance in me. The challenges—and the way every single day I achieved one thing totally different—had been magnetizing for me. Ballet was taking over a lot of my life, I made a decision to only spend money on it.

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

I knew it was an excellent alternative, however my mother was with me each step of the way in which, guiding me via it. I didn’t need to go. While you’re younger and also you get these alternatives, it’s arduous to suppose as far forward because the folks round you. I did see a future for myself in dance. However I didn’t think about it might get to the place it’s now. I’d by no means dream of that.

What was it like to maneuver so removed from dwelling?

Once I first received right here, I discovered English, I discovered the tradition. I needed to battle much more for the issues that I needed, particularly being a global dancer. Simply discovering my area 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 needed to return for the primary few days. However I at all times had my household’s assist.

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

Individuals see ballerinas as a typical white, skinny, tall lady. It’s a lot greater than that. Once I arrived at Dance Theatre of Harlem I felt very welcome. I felt like I discovered individuals who appeared like me. I felt like I used to be the place I belonged. In Brazil, there wasn’t a lot range. I used to be the one black ballerina in my class! And after 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 specific requirements to bounce that you need to comply with—ballet may be very particular, and you need to look formal, and you need to look a sure approach. I believe for me, it was extra discovering a option to look classical and chic as a ballet dancer, but in addition appear to be me. I can nonetheless look classical and chic with my pure hair. I may be classical and chic with my very own physique. That was empowering.

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

I mentor via a corporation known as Brown Ladies Do Ballet. In my technology, I didn’t have anybody I might relate to and look as much as. These women can see me dance, or on-line, or in , and so they see that it’s potential. And that’s the place I believe that illustration issues. It’s not even about your physique sort, or your pores and skin coloration. It’s about discovering somebody who evokes you. That’s my objective—to attach with folks and assist change their lives, even when it’s simply via a dialog.

How do you take care of profession hurdles lately?

I really feel just like the ballet profession goes to be arduous endlessly. You at all times need to be a greater "you" every single day. And also you need to be excellent, which doesn’t exist. However one factor is vital: to be constant. And proper now, I’m making an attempt to be constant an increasing number of. That’s totally different than being excellent, as a result of we’ll by no means be excellent.

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

I keep in mind that simply because one thing doesn’t work sooner or later, doesn’t imply it gained’t work the following. And sure, you’re going to get annoyed, however personally, I began studying learn how to take care of my feelings. Once I was younger, when issues wouldn’t go proper in ballet, I’d go dwelling 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 anything. Rising up now, even after I get annoyed, I perceive: Hey, it didn’t work at present. You are able to do higher tomorrow.

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

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