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 that will delight audiences and sellout shows. Today we are spotlighting one of the newest artists on the ECE Touring exclusive roster – the Hiplet Ballerinas.

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 – all while showcasing Hiplet’s trademark sass, hip movements, and struts against popular music audiences will recognize from Black Violin to Beyoncé and Prince. It’s founder, Homer Hans Bryant, has trained celebrities from Lady Gaga to the daughters of Michael Jordan + The Obamas.

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, whom he recruited to train at DTH and would later became a principal dancer and company member. 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, but especially low-income students and dancers of color, and entrée into classical ballet. By 1997, the mayor of Chicago renamed his school the Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center in honor 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.

In 2016, Brazil’s Só Bailarinos re-shared posts of Bryant’s Hiplet classes; his unique technique causing so much controversy the video amassed over 8 million views. Shortly Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post and Good Morning America were knocking on the door, elevating the view count to 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 has over 1 billion views.

Currently the studio has 285 dancers of color, most of whom are female and under the age of 18.  Hiplet’s 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 and 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 + increase enrollment to 500 students with a goal to recruit & 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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