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What Is Hiplet? The Dance Craze That’s Making Waves.

Urban-ballet

In the ever evolving world of dance, more and more exciting styles are coming out to play all the time- remember when krumping was the new thang? Well, now a new style has come to my attention and no I’m not talking about fortnight. I’m talking about Hiplet! Ever heard of it? Nope, me neither (until the other day, that is.) So what is Hiplet, you ask?

Hiplet is a new and exciting fusion between ballet and hip hop. Remember Save The Last Dance? (Julia Stiles, what a delight.) This movie is famous for fusing ballet and Hiphop in a relatable way. If you haven’t watched it, check out this YouTube clip below:

So really, Hiplet is just the natural progression, right? Well sort of. However, unlike Save The Last Dance, this new style of dancing actually takes place en pointe, and whereas STLD was more about linking hiphop and ballet moves in a congruent way, this new form actually fuses hip hop and ballet moves together taking them en pointe!

If you’re still feeling a little foggy on the concept and, going ‘yes, but what is Hiplet? What does it look like?’- check out this clip below:

As you can see it’s pretty much something you have to see for yourself. Now I am not particularly hiphop, I’ve always been a ballet nerd at heart, and hiphop has always sat- for want of a better word- a little funny on me. But behold- ballet and hiphop! Could this be my in?

So let’s break this down a little, and see how we can utilise this. First things first:

What Is Hiplet? -The Moves

Now there isn’t a whole lot on the internet or on YouTube for that matter about Hiplet vocab. But here’s a list of the moves I’ve found:

  1. The Vivian- it’s a side to side parallel walk with a bounce to it. I think the arms are free so you can do different things with them.
  2. The Charleston- The good news? It’s pretty much, as the name suggests, like a normal Charleston. The bad news? You have to do it on pointe.
  3. Soutenu Scouril- First of all, applause for the name of this one. I think I like it because it’s reminds me vaguely of the word quadrille (think Alice In Wonderland.) This is a soutenu with bent knees, whilst the upper body does a chest roll.

4.   The Tootsie Roll- This is where you echappe to 2nd, while the knees move in and out. There is arm motion with most of these, but it’s the kind of thing you need to see.

4.   The cam cam- you step from side to side, alternating between bringing the working leg in parallel to presenting it turned out to step on to it. This one actually takes place on the flat, not pointe, phew! This has a slightly reggae feel. I also quite like that the arms with this move are quite fluid and chill.

5.   The sexy walk- This one is pretty much the same as the hiphop move that bears the name, the only difference really being that’s it takes place on pointe. (And no, it’s not just a strut like I thought it was, don’t worry though, that one’s coming up next!)

6.   Hiplet strut- This one is, as far as I can tell, as the name suggests. It’s essentially a strut but on pointe. I tried this myself a couple of months ago, probably because I’d been watching too many Kylie Shea pointe chronicles videos (too many? Nah, scratch that, no such thing.) Newsflash, it is HARD to strut on pointe, and make it look good, like reeeeally hard. Practise makes perfect though, right!

7.   The moonwalk- This one is as the name suggests. Although I couldn’t find a video this move in isolation, it’s pretty much the same, except you go from being en pointe and use only half of the foot that slides back.

8.   In and out- I think this is essentially The Butterfly. The fact that this move basically takes place on the ball of your foot makes it great for adapting it to pointe.

These are just the ones I’ve discovered. I’m sure as Hiplet grows, information will become more readily available and we shall know more and this list will increase.

The Origins

Hiplet-birthed-by-embracing-inclusivityHiplet began as a way of making ballet more accessible and inclusive. A lot of dancers of colour were finding they felt pushed out in terms of the normal ballet industry, and whilst this is now getting a lot better, (thank you, Misty Copeland,) there are other aspects to classical ballet which can make it unforgiving. Not every dancer is going to fit the classical ballet template. Often dancers get told they’re too curvy, or their turn out isn’t good enough. But with Hiplet this isn’t an issue. It’s about embracing the kind of dancer you are. It has the poise of ballet with the rhythms and freedom of hiphop.

Who Invented It?

So who’s responsible for this wave of genius that’s gone viral? The man responsible for this gorgeous wave of inspiration is Homer Hans Bryant. He coins hard work, discipline and determination as the cornerstones of his success, particularly with regard to his ballet career (as a formal principal dancer for Dance Theatre Of Harlem.) He also advocates a different approach to pain, saying to his students to not say ‘this hurts,’ but rather ‘this is slightly uncomfortable.’ It’s interesting to note that science actually takes a similar approach to chronic pain!

A word of warning: Hiplet can not even be attempted by a dancer without the bread and butter of the ballet art form. In fact, Homer insists ‘it’s definitely ballet first.’ All the technique with regard to pointe must be in place, before you even think about playing around with it, so this one is definitely not for the novices. He also points out that whilst he incorporates many ballet moves not all hip hop moves are translatable to pointe.

Ballet-technique-first

But the art form is ultimately a fusion. He even has a key rhythmic phrase whichever he uses to summarise the marriage between the two:

‘Ballet puts your body in touch with your mind, and the hiphop beat keeps you steppin’ in time.’ Pretty cool, right?

Where Can I Train?

Well this is where things get a little tricky. Unfortunately the CMDC (Chicago Multi-cultural Dance Centre) is the only place you can train in Hiplet. Maybe one day this will change. Homer does have his own hiplet ballet company, however you might have to be willing to relocate. Check out all the info here: https://www.hipletballerinas.com

The Technical Challenges

Hiplet is particularly difficult if, like me your arch comes high over your pointe (forward.) In normal ballet, the majority of the time when you’re up on your pointe, your knees are straight, not bent. However, with bent knees you have to approach things slightly differently from a technical perspective. I remember in class when we had to do jumps en pointe, I found it particularly tricky because I actually add to brace my ankles and adjust the placement of how over my pointe I would be which is a lot harder than when you are just kept completely straight and as far over you’re pointe as you like.

The Bread And Butter

Hiplet-ballet-firstNow if (like me) you’ve got your heart set on gleaning YouTube for all its worth and trying to train in Hiplet at home, let’s start out right. As Homer says, ‘ballet first.’

Let’s break down ‘what is Hiplet?’ into the steps you should work on mastering:

Pointe

  • Soutenus
  • Retirés
  • Pas de bourrées
  • Jumps (this is a big one)
  • Pliés (doing this on pointe is essential to get used to the feeling on bending the knees en pointe safely.)
  • Bourrées/ Courus

I would also advise getting really confident with walking on pointe, in parallel as well as turned out. Try different things- can you pas de bouree? Step forward and back? Do side steps out and in? Strut? Get comfortable with changes of weight in parallel. I’d also say getting a really good ankle stretching regime is paramount.

Hiphop-for-hipletHiphop/ Commercial Influence (you can find some great tutorials for these on Howcast.)

  • Chest roll- you’re going to be doing a lot of these, so the sooner you can get smooth and fluid with this type of isolation, the easier Hiplet will become.
  • The sexy walk- this step is more than just the name suggests and you will need to know what the arms and feet are doing. It also has 2 separate parts to it.
  • Moonwalk- before you can do this on pointe, make sure you’ve mastered the technique on the flat first.
  • The Steve Martin
  • The Smurf
  • The Dougie (this one will really help for getting the knees move out and in which tend some to happen a lot in Hiplet!
  • The Butterfly

Audience Reception

audience-reception-to-hipletThe reception of this new dance form is split. Some people find it more freeing and accessible, whilst other people find it awkward looking and slightly ungainly. Some ballet afficionado’s argue that it dilutes the purer ballet art form and makes way for bad habits. This, I would argue can only happen if a dancer is not mindful; technically we should be able to compartmentalise- the same way that we know we train turned out for ballet, and yet in a contemporary class a lot of the time we need to work in parallel.

Whether you’re for or against, I hope this has helped you answer the question of what is Hiplet! Personally I adore it. I think the slightly awkward yet sassy vibe is part of its charm. How about you? Are you pro Hiplet, or is this just one viral craze you’d rather press delete on? Let me know your thoughts below.

18 Comments

  • Telly

    This is a wonderful dance I think my daughter would be very interested in this kind of dancing and i will definitely forward this article to her.Thank you for a very insightful post.

  • Kerry

    Wow, sounds like a crossroads of evolution and interpretation as classic dance collides with the 21st century. Thanks for this explanation of Hiplet and the detail behind it. I have never heard of this but can see Stiles performance combining the ballet aspects with hip-hop that we’re all so used to now.

    So, have you mastered it yet? Do you really think this is a trend or here to stay? Possibly a transitional style to be the base for a next trend? I’m always a fan to the next big thing, so I’d hope it’s here to stay.

    Good luck with the Hiplet journey,
    Kerry

    • Natalie

      Hi Kerry, I’ve just started working on the style now. I’ve been taking time to familiarise myself properly with some of the hip hop elements as hip hop is probably the thing I have the least experience with. I definitely want to continue practising at home and hopefully start to get it into my body.

      I hope it’s a style that’s here to stay. I think it will be partially dependent on whether Homer chooses to find ways for dancers all over the world to train and whether there will be more classes available to people. He’s an extraordinary man, so I definitely think it’s more than possible and I hope it will happen!

  • Lydia19

    Hiplet, I love the combination of these two lovely dances. It is such a beautiful form of expressing your feelings with the swaying and the movement of your body . I did not know that such way of dancing existed. I totally love it I watched the videos. They are entertaining and very creative. I loved the ballerinas , their costumes and the music. The arrangement and the order in which you explain all the detail of this new dance on your website are exceptional . I enjoyed my visit to your website.

    • Natalie

      I couldn’t agree more Lydia, glad you enjoy watching Hiplet as much as me! I think ballet can be a lot more versatile than we think, so I’m glad to be getting the word out there and happy that you connected with it in such a great way 🙂

  • Natalie

    Wow! I have never heard before of this Hiplet dance, but I must say that I totally like it!

    I have been an amateur student of some dance sports before and I can only imagine how difficult is to perform ballet?

    Thank you for this article, it’s really interesting and informative.

    Best Wishes,
    Natalie

    • Natalie

      Hi Natalie,

      Glad you like it- it is difficult as bending your knees on pointe in tricky and requires a lot of refining. Like anything though, the more you do it, the easier it gets 🙂 glad you enjoyed discovering Hiplet!

  • Sharon

    I would love to be able to do this! I think it’s phenomenal how people can twist about and perform such tricky moves. I’d never in my wildest dreams risk trying it but it is breath taking to look at people who are talented in dancing. Maybe I’ll start out with some of the basic steps.

    Great article by the way, very informative.

    Sharon

    • Natalie

      Hi Sharon,

      Yes, by all means have a go at some of the hip hop basics and see how you get on. Whilst I wouldn’t advise pointe for people who aren’t trained (as it could be dangerous,) there’s no reason one can’t work up to then doing some of the moves on a rise (known as demi pointe) as technique progresses 🙂 glad you enjoyed the article.

  • Janet

    Hi Natalie. This is an interesting article! My first time hear of Hiplet too. I always like to see the way the dancer dance. I find that it is alright to create something out from the classic ballet. To me, it is just another way of expressing ourselves through dance. .:-)

  • Kay Keene

    This a great post. My daughter is 11 and loves to dance. I will share this post with her so she can improve her dancing skills. I have to give credit to dancers it takes hard work and dedication to create so graceful moves. I always wanted to become a dancer when I was a child. I really enjoy watching them now.

    • Natalie

      Hi Kay, great to hear how you feel so connected to dance. You’re so right, it definitely is a labour of love, so worth it though. I hope you’re daughter enjoys this post too!

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