Artist Spotlight: Hiplet Ballerinas

HIplet Ballerinas

A division of ECE, ECE Touring partners with the country’s premiere performing arts venues and universities to bring them fresh, interesting, and engaging artists. Today we are spotlighting one of the newest artists on the ECE Touring roster – the Hiplet Ballerinas. 

Hiplet Ballerinas posing in promotional photo on Chicago's El train.

WHEN EVOLUTION MEETS REVOLUTION

Hiplet™ (hip*lay) is an innovative dance form that infuses classical pointe technique with African, Latin, hip-hop and urban movements. Performances may incorporate the rhythms of African drums with Tchaikovsky, arabesques and beat-boxing or even Tango en pointe. Meanwhile Hiplet’s trademark sass, hip movements, and struts are showcased against popular music.  It’s founder, Homer Hans Bryant, has trained celebrities from Lady Gaga to the daughters of Michael Jordan and The Obamas.

Hiplet Ballerinas posing in promo photos

HOMER HANS BRYANT

Bryant’s story is an incredible one. In 1968, compelled by the tragedy of Dr. King’s death, Arthur Mitchell decided to start the Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH). During their travels, Mitchell met Homer Bryant.  Subsequently, he recruited Bryant to train at DTH. As a result, Bryant ultimately became a  principal dancer and company member. Additionally, Bryant’s other accolades include:

  • Performing in The Wiz movie alongside Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, Broadway’s Timbuktu! starring Eartha Kitt, and Drury Lane Water Tower’s Evolution of the Blues
  • Training and touring under prima ballerina Maria Tallchief (one of Balanchine’s wives) at the Chicago City Ballet
  • Working with Cirque Du Soleil on the creation of Mystere, Alegria, Quidam and Saltimbanco

In 1990, he opened his own studio, Bryant Ballet, with a focus to offer all dancers (especially low-income students and dancers of color) an introduction into classical ballet. By 1997, the mayor of Chicago renamed his school the Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center as a result of the studio’s work in the community. Over the years, Bryant has continued to incorporate hip-hop and ballet, eventually coining the term Hiplet in 2009.

His story will be part of an exhibit curated by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Opening in 2020, The American Scene takes a deeply moving, provocative, and exciting look at entertainment through the eyes of our culture makers. Read more about the exhibit. To preview an excerpt from Homer Bryant’s interview, click here.

INNOVATION & VIRAL SENSATION

In 2016, Brazil’s Só Bailarinos re-shared posts of Bryant’s Hiplet classes. His unique technique caused so much controversy the video amassed over 8 million views. Shortly after, Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, and Good Morning America were knocking on the door. Soon the view count was over 100 million. After GMA aired their performance, offers for commercial work and collaborations from the world’s most notable tastemakers, including Mercedes Benz and Vogue, started pouring in. Today, Hiplet Ballerinas has over 1 billion views.

Hiplet Ballerinas promotional work for Mercedes Benz
Hiplet Ballerinas performing for Meredes Benz fashion event

THE STAGE IS SET

Currently the studio has 285 dancers of color, most of whom are female and under the age of 18. The Hiplet Ballerinas’ viral celebrity created such an overwhelming demand that CMDC began turning down many requests. The world was calling but everyone was on hold because most of Bryant’s performers were still in school. Steady revenue was needed to hire dancers to form a professional company. Through touring, he and the staff at CMDC hope to raise enough money to offer more scholarship opportunities and increase enrollment to 500 students with a goal to recruit and train 50 male dancers off the streets of Chicago.

Their inaugural tour begins in fall for the ’19-’20 season.  The group will be showcasing in front of hundreds of performing arts center representatives on September 6 at the Arts Midwest conference in Indianapolis. Keep an eye on the schedule of your favorite PAC to see when Hiplet will be in your city!

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