REVIEW: Chicago-based Hiplet Ballerinas show that ballet and hip-hop are an exciting match

click to enlarge REVIEW: Chicago-based Hiplet Ballerinas show that ballet and hip-hop are an exciting match
The Hiplet Ballerinas took over the stage of the Myrtle at Gonzaga on Tuesday.

Tuesday night Spokane's Mrytle Wooldson Performing Arts Center had the privilege of hosting the Hiplet Ballerinas, and I was lucky enough to take in this one of a kind performance.

Hiplet Ballerinas and Company of Chicago, Illinois, have somehow managed to marry the traditional pointe technique of classical ballet with a combination of hip-hop, Latin, African and urban dance styles. This combination of techniques that are so often assumed to be polar opposites brings ballet and dance to life in a way I've never experienced before.

Not only is the style one of a kind, but the Hiplet Ballerinas make a point to broaden the horizons of ballet in more ways than one, straying from the stereotype of stick-skinny dancers and highlighting talent of all shapes, sizes and colors. Homer Bryant, the founder of Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center and creator of Hiplet, had this goal in mind when he opened his first studio, intending to create a space for all dancers, but particularly low-income students and dancers of color.

Bryant's goal has come to fruition and it is beautiful. The men and women on stage were strong, talented and vibrant, so far beyond the stiff aesthetic of classical ballet. This isn't to say the dancers aren't classically trained — they are. The level of skill each individual displayed, especially on pointe, was astounding. It's this complete marriage of the traditional pointe technique with the movement and beats of urban style that makes Hiplet so impressive. 

Hiplet brings you to your feet, it makes you whistle in the audience when a dancer drops into the splits or flips into an aerial. Hiplet makes you clap along with the beat, wanting to engage with the dancers, to be a part of the magic on stage.

The show at the Myrtle showcased a number of styles and dancers, structuring the show like a story. Starting first with an introduction to what Hiplet means and then diving into the roots of the style, performing a tribute to the African-American dancers who came before Hiplet and made it possible, as well as honoring the African and Afro-Caribbean dance techniques incorporated into the beautiful blend of Hiplet. There was an homage to Chicago, Hiplet's birthplace, excerpts from the documentary about the dance style and even the inclusion of a contemporary piece before the finale. 

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