Ballet + Hip-Hop = 'Hiplet': A Documentary Tells the Story of Cultures Colliding

by Emma Nicole

American youth culture photographer Danielle Levitt (who also shot Michele Lamy for Flaunt in 2016) traveled to Chicago for her latest documentary Hiplet – out now. It explores the relatively “new” dance form hiplet (pronounced “hip-lay” obviously), a powerful fusion of classical ballet techniques and a modern hip-hop style. Originally created by Chicago’s Multi-Cultural Dance Center Homer Hans Bryant in the 1990’s, hiplet was finally trademarked in 2009 and has for the past few years turned into a worldwide all-out cultural phenomenon.

Perhaps what sparks the most interest in viewing the fresh contrasts of an old art being given new life, is also the social impact and the sensitive subject of conversation regarding the art form of ballet historically excluding women of color in the past.

“Ballet was not meant for African American girls. Balenchine wanted these long, skinny girls in pink tights and pink ballet shoes. That’s not always the case for us.” says Zipporah Wilson, who appears throughout the documentary along with the rest of the young women of Bryant’s dance center. As always, along with the unknown come critics who claim that hiplet is ruining the privilege of ballet. But this film is nothing short of an empowering feel-good Chicago story, “We just need people to start looking at us now with a serious eye,” says founder Bryant. Watch an elegant plié break out into a sassy nae-nae in Levitt’s new documentary.

Written by Emma Nicole Aderheim