Hiplet adds a diverse world of influences to traditional ballet

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CHICAGO — If you’re one of those people that finds ballet a little on the dull side, check out “Hiplet”: a genre on point with today’s generation that has roots in Chicago. 

“The thing about classical ballet is it’s Euro-centric. Hiplet is Afro-centric,” hiplet founder Homer Hans Bryant said. 

For decades, he’s been breaking down moves and stereotypes about what it means to be  a dancer. 

“Until Missy Copeland, you didn’t hear about brown-skinned dancers,” dancer Alexandria Franklin said. “We never looked like the prima ballerinas you see on the magazines.” 

Bryant’s Hiplet Ballerinas are not only diverse, but also offer a fresh take on traditional ballet. 

“It’s a beautiful blend of African, Latin, contemporary, hip hop and ballet. There’s nothing like it out there,” he said.

Initially, hiplet drew sneers from ballet traditionalists. But Bryant forged forward, encouraged by the numbers of new dancers lining up at the bar. 

“It made dance fun again,” Yetunde Washington said. “With ballet I feel delicate and pretty, but with hiplet I feel fierce in toeshoes.”  

By 2010 Bryant’s  homegrown hiplet had gone viral, with requests  for his Chicago dancers pouring in from all over the world. 

“We opened Paris fashion week, performed in Spain, South Korea and even the Superbowl,” Bryant said. 

Chicago native filmmaker, Addison Wright just completed a short film on the hiplet dancers, called “Because We Can.” It was scheduled to be screened this weekend at South by Southwest, until the iconic festival was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. 

“It was just a huge honor to be chosen,” Wright said. “I want this film to inspire boys and girls of color in Chicago to do something that can change the world.” 

Homer Bryant’s hiplet is not just bringing joy back into the steps, but also raising the bar for dancers all over the world. 

“That’s the thing about hiplet. It makes you feel like you can do anything,” dancer Alexandria Washington said. 


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