Principal Pride

Texas Ballet Theater principal dancer takes the lead on life and art

RICH LOPEZ | Staff writer

Texas Ballet Theater opens its new season this week in scary fashion. For 2023/24, TBT will bring Dracula to life presenting the ballet with four performances at the Winspear Opera House Friday-Sunday. As the company heads into its new season with Dracula, dancer Andre Silva continues his tenure as one of the company’s principals, but this time he gets to open the show that has been popular with TBT fans in past productions.

“This is definitely a crowd favorite, and it was created in Houston by our artistic director who was the original Dracula,” the out dancer said. “I love the way Ben [Stevenson] conveys the story. It’s so dramatic and sexy and powerful that it draws in the audience.”

This Dracula isn’t so much scary as it is steamy.

Although a longtime principal, Silva does not play the titular character here. He instead plays the heroic peasant Frederick, as he did back in 2007. Even though playing the same character as before, Silva still finds a challenge in the role.

“It’s an exciting role, and as I grow as an artist, the better it gets for me. I can find new ways to approach Frederick and bring that to the performance,” he said.

Andre Silva performs as Fredrick in ‘Dracula” with Chris Commer in the title role. (Photo courtesy TBT)

Stevenson, TBT’s artistic director laureate created this ballet based on the Bram Stoker story. For Silva, the legacy of Stevenson’s work and time as TBT’s artistic director is significant.

“He was the creator of it all so it’s a special time to work with him” he said. “He’s quite exceptional at creating storytelling ballets that are artistically driven. He really pulls your talents out of you in his genius way.”

Silva joined TBT in 2003 at the age of 17. His talents propelled him ahead of joining as an academy member and right into principal dancer. He was with TBT for six years before moving on to dance in Canada and then Germany.

The native Brazilian returned to TBT in 2015, just in time for TBT’s production that year of Dracula. But then…

“I was having visa problems, so I couldn’t get here for the premiere,” he said. “So it will be awesome to finally perform at the premiere eight years later.”

At 37, Silva’s last 20 years have been packed with changes, from professional dancing to worldwide travels and also working as a choreographer, artist and model. A veritable Renaissance guy for sure, but he credits those aspects to knowing who he fully was at a young age.

“I came out a year before joining TBT. I told everyone and just came out to the world. And now, being older and more mature, I feel wiser and more expressive, and the less I care about what the world thinks,” he said.

Silva’s story had the usual elements of young men figuring themselves out. He dated females. He got through a conservative society. When he left Brazil for Houston to dance, he came out to his mother first.

The way he enthusiastically relives his story, coming out for Silva was a freedom movement.

Anxieties were released. He was confident and both looked up to and looked after. His mother and family embraced him wholly.

“I was able to be so sure of myself and who I was and that the people I cared about loved me,” he said. “Not every gay man has such a support system. From then on, I felt free.”

That feeling certainly spilled over into his art. Although he was still a teenager, Silva said, his dancing changed.

“I felt freer in my movements. As a male dancer, you grow up with these generational stories where the male is this ‘masculine, straight man’ for every Swan Lake and Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty,” he said. “It’s always been intriguing for me to assimilate into that and be successful as a ballet dancer who is gay.”

Quite an irony also: To many people, the idea of a male ballet dancer ranks right up there with the out-dated notion of hairstylist, florist and interior designer as “gay jobs.” Yet those dancers have to portray heternormative roles like all the time.

“I think ballets will carry on the same for, gosh, another century before we see a full-length ballet with same-sex leads,” Silva said. “The new generations outside of ballet can be femme or neutral or whatever, but that’s usually in a piece — not a whole story.”

He’s curious to see where dance will go without dancers and choreographers creating queer stories for the stage.

At the same time, Silva is thrilled to continue in ballet. He’s done it ever since he was a child, and for more than three decades, it’s fair to say the guy’s pretty great at it. Otherwise, TBT leaders such as Stevenson and current Artistic Director Tim O’Keefe may not have cast Silva in the roles he’s performed.

“I think they both see that I can do well with what they need,” Silva said. “No matter my sexuality, as long as I could pull it together as the artist I am, it all works.”

Performances of Dracula will also run in Fort Worth Oct. 6-8 at Bass Hall. For more information and tickets, visit