Hiplet: The Dance Craze You Should Know About

Photo Source: Courtesy Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center

Homer Hans Bryant created the viral dance style Hiplet, a fusion of classical ballet training, hip-hop, and urban dance. Now, through Hiplet and CMDC, he is encouraging dancers to express themselves in a contemporary fashion, all while engaging them in positivity and discipline through dance.

How long have you been teaching Hiplet?
The April 1994 cover of Dance Teacher Now magazine says: “Spotlight on Homer Bryant Rap Ballet.” Hiplet is an extension of what I’ve been doing since 1990, but in 2009, I got a trademark on the word “Hiplet.” I started putting it on Instagram and Facebook and it’s gone crazy viral. The girls have to be in a class called Strengthening for Pointe for two and a half years. Then they go to prepointe and then pointe class for two years before even trying this craziness. I put them on trampolines, they do relevés, they do pliés, they pick up pencils with their toes; they do all the things that will strengthen their ankles. So when people tell me from across the world, “They’re gonna hurt themselves,” we don’t pay no mind.

How do you approach teaching Hiplet?
There is a curriculum, but it’s only here at my school. Hiplet is only Friday nights and it will probably be three times a week in the summer. Every Friday night they have to take floor barre, which is an hourlong class on the floor on their sides, backs, and stomachs doing different ballet exercises. Then they have to take an hour-and-a-half technique class before we do Hiplet for an hour. So everything you’ve seen on Instagram is just an hour of having fun after two and a half hours of strict classical technique.

When I did a TEDx talk in San Francisco, we did different choreography there, so when we are going across the floor we are just having fun and making up steps. But if I have a five-minute production number to do, we will make up the choreography. The steps have different names.

How old are the girls when they start pointe work generally?
[They’re] 10 or 11. I decide when they go up on pointe. Some of them maybe have to wait until they are 11 or 12 years old, it depends on the strength. We go individually with each child. If you don’t move along with your friends it’s OK, it’s not like Mr. Homer is mad at you, it’s just the way he sees your anatomy.

Is there a training program for people to be able to teach Hiplet eventually?
I do have three certified teachers right now that I trained myself. Everything is really in house, you know.

If there is a teacher in New York or L.A. who really wants to teach this at their school, can they be trained by you as well?
They would have to come and talk to us. I have my board now trying to figure all of that out because we have so many places calling for us—Japan, Australia, the U.K., and Canada—everybody wants to see the Hiplet ballerinas, but these are kids and I can’t pull them out of school.

Are there different levels of Hiplet?
There are 35 girls in Hiplet right now, and there are three different levels. The beginning level holds onto the barre to do everything. The strongest girls are the older girls, ages 16, 17, and 18. Those are the ones you see in the Desigual commercial. Unfortunately, I lose my girls at 18 because they go off to college or to dance careers.

Who are some of the inspirations for you and your dancers?
Some of our dance inspirations come from Arthur Mitchell, Geoffrey Holder, Gregory Hines, Fred Astaire, Michael Jackson, Virginia Johnson, Heather Watts, Alicia Graf, and Misty Copeland. Our inspiration also comes from various forms of music from different genres, be it African, Latin, classical, hip-hop, pop, or jazz!

Will there be a Hiplet company?
If I had investors right now, the company would be up and running. There would be a company with men, too, because there’s so much partnering that we are missing. It would be a company of about 10 to 12 dancers with four men. That’s the dream.

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