Recently this summer, the internet went insane with a viral video of girls from the Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center practicing a new style of dance known as "Hiplet" (pronounced hip-lei).
In a recent showing on Good Morning America, the creator of this new style, Homer Hans Bryant has his students perform the viral dance and shares a little bit about his inspiration for the Hip Hop-Ballet fusion. The girls and Bryant have been getting a lot of support from the internet on this innovative dance that no longer excludes certain body types but rather encourages all peoples to learn and engage in this upbeat movement.
However, as a former ballet dancer, I have a hard time supporting this new style. The general public seems to love and applaud the movement for it's positive and creative message. Perhaps they do so because they are not fully educated about pointe shoes and it's purpose in classical ballet.
The pointe shoe was a technology created in the Romantic Era for ballerinas to extend the line of the leg while gracefully balancing on their toes during turns and other movements. Just the idea of putting your entire bodyweight on the tips of your toes is painful. Actually doing it is even more painful. I do not discredit how hard the girls are practicing but pointe shoes are dangerous if used incorrectly!
Some may argue, "all dance can be dangerous and dancers are aware of the risks when training." Yes, but there is also a purpose that needs to be understood while training. In ballet, the purpose of training is to build the strength necessary to dance in pointe shoes. Once you start dancing en pointe, the purpose is to elongate the line of your legs during movement and continue building that strength - hence, "ballet is all about the lines."
When I see dancers like the ones in this video, what's the purpose behind the movement? Why is it necessary to dance in pointe shoes when the line of the leg is broken by a bent knee anyway? Is the purpose to challenge the traditional use of pointe shoes? If so, why not try this out with more experienced dancers to ensure the aesthetics and technique is there?
Hiplet is hyping up the public but I hope Bryant and his students also educate their followers about the sacrifices of dancing en pointe. It takes years of daily training to master simple movements in pointe shoes. Let alone hip hop en pointe! Check out this short video to get some inside perspective on the dangers and sacrifices of dancing in these shoes. And if Hiplet is on your to-do list, approach it with caution please.