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At Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center, you might notice the dancers moving in a way you haven’t seen before. They’re dancing hiplet, a style created by Homer Hans Bryant that fuses traditional ballet with hip-hop. Once you see them dance, you’ll understand the hype.
Though hiplet may be influenced by the hip-hop genre, its roots are in ballet, mainly pointe. Dancers at the CMDC, the only place that trains dancers in hiplet, trained rigorously in pointe during years and years of practice. But there is a twist to hiplet, adding sharper angles and allowing for less restriction in the dancers’ movements. The result? A style of dance you’ve never seen before.
Bryant created the precursor for hiplet in a 1992 “Rap Ballet” he choreographed, but the actual term was coined in 2009. Since then, hiplet has been covered in the news and on the internet, but it has received mixed reviews by the public. While some find the style refreshing and unique, others say it’s pandering and tacky, taking away the weight and history of traditional ballet.
But Bryant and the dancers trained in hiplet disagree. They see it as dance that allows them to grow from the restrictiveness of traditional ballet and gives opportunity to dancers of color, particularly black ballerinas, who aren’t given as much opportunity in the traditional ballet sphere. Hiplet allows them to use their ballet training in a way they may have never been given the chance to before. Those who dance hiplet say it’s much more difficult than dancing traditional pointe.
Hiplet has allowed CMDC dancers to travel all over the world performing and perfecting their craft, and their dances have garnered over a billion views online. Bryant says he feels as though people are not taking the craft seriously enough—something he hopes will change in the future.
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