Friday, March 24, 2017

Reinventing Dance

Hiplet is a dance method that combines classical pointe technique with hip-hop and urban dance styles, performed in pointe shoes. Hiplet was designed to make ballet accessible to all, by combining it with current popular songs that would be familiar to audiences that don’t normally attend ballet performances.

The Hiplet journey started at the Chicago Multicultural Dance Center (CMDC) with a ballet in the early 90’s called “The Rap Ballet,” where dancers performed popular dance moves on point. Fast forward to 2005, Artistic Director Homer Hans Bryant developed and trademarked Hiplet as a new style of dance, still taught exclusively at the CDMC.

Homer Hans Bryant is a former principle dancer with the Dance Theater of Harlem and a former member of Prima Ballerina Maria Tallchief's Chicago City Ballet. His core mission is to bring dance training to all of Chicago. In 1992 he founded the Bryant Ballet School, which later came to be known as the CDMC, as he wanted the center to reflect the diversity of dance. Bryant’s slogan is that “the fun is in the discipline, the discipline is in the fun.” This has become a mantra for his students and has established him as one of the most respected dance teachers in the country.

In the 1990s, Bryant trained dancers in rap/hip-hop ballet and sent them away to circus groups, but the social media movement has propelled them into another dimension.  After about a year of posting clips of Hiplet classes on Instagram, the style blew up. The CDMC was contacted by Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post, and even Good Morning America to perform and share the Hiplet story with the world. This is similar to the phenomenon mentioned by Hagendoorn in “Dance, Choreography, and the Brain,” in which millions of people will view a video simply because they are interested in the dance. We take pleasure in the movements because they are new and different, and they hold our attention. Especially because Hiplet is nothing like what you would normally expect from dancers in pointe shoes, the style is even more intriguing.

 The CDMC is currently working on training dancers to build a professional Hiplet company, and is looking into certifying dance instructors to teach Hiplet. As Bryant’s mother, wife, and daughter all recently passed away, he declares that he is “married” to the school and his students.
Classical ballet fundamentalists consider Hiplet to be incorrect form, which has created a lot of buzz around the art form. However, the steps are carefully thought out to ensure they are done in a way that is not harmful to the student. For example, hip hop dance is very earthy, requiring a lot of bent knees and movements that are low to the group. Therefore, Hiplet dancers have to have incredibly strong knees and ankles to perform these movements safely on point.

The CDMC’s mission is to empower lives through dance, and Bryant prides himself on opening up a place where people of color can come and study this art form, regardless of their economic ability.

Hagendoorn, Ivar. "Dance, Choreography, and the Brain." Dance, Aesthetics and the Brain. N.p.: n.p., 2011. 513-27. Print.

1 comment:

  1. Whenever my friends and I think of ballet, we associate the dance with tall beautiful white women doing extremely graceful moves in fancy costumes. I think Hiplet changes this narrative as others have tried to. I like Bryant's focus on people of color and his integration of HipHop. It allows more people to enjoy the dance with a music that is more of their taste, not only to watch but also to perform. Do you think because Bryant (sadly) lost his immediate family he is how he is able to stay so dedicated to his work? We've learned how many creatives have sacrificed their personal lives in order to pursue their creative ambitions. I wonder if he would have had a strong relationship with his family alongside building Hiplet to what it is today (and what it grows to be). From the video, I feel like Hiplet has a huge emphasis on using quick movements like hip hop mixed with elongation of the body to give it the "Hip" and "let" part. The movements are very empowering and strong, they make the dancers stand out individually.


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