HIPLET hits Soundings

Chance the Rapper and Mozart are not two artists one expects to hear in a single performance, but the HIPLET Ballerinas of the Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center melded the two effortlessly on the Casella Theater stage on March 30. 

The performance, which was also a Soundings event, invited community members to watch an artistic blend of culture and tradition from the previous “America’s Got Talent”-featured dance troupe. 

“If you’re a student who doesn’t consider themselves an arts person — maybe you’ve never been to a dance performance before, maybe you’ve never seen ballet — this combination makes it a better experience for you. Also, it makes it more accessible,” Soundings Coordinator Marisa Valent-Altland said. 

Valent-Altland, who first saw the work of HIPLET at the American Performing Arts Professionals Conference in Jan. 2020, said she was thrilled to have the group on stage after the pandemic rescheduled the event twice — once in Fall of 2020 and again in Spring of 2021. 

From a soulful ballad with a single dancer in the traditional leotard and tutu, to the upbeat group number with colorful African garb, the stage was alight with the passion of the performers. 

“We are trained in tradition, but dipped in versatility,” HIPLET Artistic Director Homer Hans Bryant said in a video presented at the performance. “We’re gonna make great dancers, but we’re gonna make better human beings.”

In addition to the Wednesday Soundings event, the dancers also performed twice on March 31 for the “Arts Reach” program, which offers live performance opportunities to local school children. 

“It was not exactly what I expected, but definitely in a positive way, student Richmond Rathbun said. “Hip-hop and ballet — we think that those are such opposites, but in fact they work very well together. So I think students can take a lot from that.”

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