By TONIA HILL
The Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance (CMDC) Center, 47 W. Polk St., hosted a benefit performance at the Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, on Sunday, April 9. The program titled: “Because We Can” featured choreography performed by The Bryant Youth Professionals and the Hiplet (pronounced hip-lay) Ballerinas.
Homer Hans Bryant, dancer, instructor and founder and artistic director of the CMDC said yesterday’s show was first performed last November abroad in Saint Thomas. Bryant said people in the city requested that the group perform the show in Chicago.
The benefit performance at MSI was the first large-scale benefit performance produced by the CMDC. Typically CMDC performs in recitals four times per year, Bryant said.
CMDC was founded in 1990 with the mission to provide the highest quality dance instruction in an environment that celebrates the diversity of its students and community.
Many of the students under the direction of Bryant have traveled the world to perform and study dance worldwide. Currently, the school has 225 students enrolled and is growing.
It was not until a video with CMDC ballerinas showcasing Bryant’s technique Hiplet that CMDC was pushed into the spotlight across the globe.
In the early ‘90s, Bryant created “The Rap Ballet” the technique is set to rap music. Students at the time did the “running man” and other popular dances of the time on pointe, a technique in which a ballet dancer supports their weight on the tips of their feet within pointe shoes.
Hiplet is a combination of hip-hop and ballet. Bryant formerly introduced the Hiplet technique in 2005. During Friday night Hiplet classes, Bryant said he posted videos of students on social media and usually got responses and shares. He posted a video of students dancing to “If It Ain’t Love” by Jason Derulo, and the video went viral. To date, the video has 400 million views online.
Hiplet has also been featured on national television shows including Steve Harvey and Good Morning America. The company has partnered with major brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Vogue Magazine.
Bryant is pleased that the work and accomplishments of students at CMDC are getting recognition.
“This is a feel good Chicago story,” Bryant said. “All you hear about is the violence there are wonderful Chicago stories going on with children, and it’s nice to put a spotlight on it now with Hiplet.”
CMDC dancer Zipporah Wilson said, “Now they are starting to see that we are classically trained and that we are ballerinas.”
She said, “We can be Hip Hop dancers, jazz dancers, and modern dancers we don’t just train for one thing. We are so versatile.”
Wilson, 17, is a student at the Chicago Academy for the Arts, 1010 W. Chicago Ave. She said she is excelling at CMDC and believes that is due to Bryant’s instruction and encouragement from him as well as her peers.
Wilson studied dance at another school before joining CMDC at her previous school she felt that she did not fit in because she did not see ballerinas who looked like her so she did not feel inspired.
“I often felt like I needed to quit dance that I needed to stop because there wasn’t a point in [continuing],” Wilson said. “When I came to CMDC, it changed my life. I saw a whole new era of ballet, black girls doing ballet it clicked in my mind that [being a ballerina] is possible.”
In the future Bryant hopes to expand CMDC to gain more students, launch Hiplet into a dance company, and host more benefit performances to support CMDC initiatives including providing opportunities for underserved and diverse communities, scholarships, after-school partnerships and studio enhancements.
“I would like to start a Hiplet Ballerina Company,” Bryant said. “We need to be able to pay professional dancers. I keep pulling these children out of school to do these wonderful things, and it’s a treat for them but eventually we need to raise money and have a professional company.”
Bryant said another goal for the CMDC is to get its own space. The school is currently housed at Dearborn Station in the basement.
For more information about the CMDC visit cmdcschool.org.