Island University Hosts Night of Inclusivity with Hiplet Ballet Performance

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Over 500 people of all ages and backgrounds packed the Performing Arts Center on Feb. 11 to enjoy a performance by Hiplet, the only company in the world to perform their signature trademark style, Hiplet Ballerinas blend classical pointe technique with African, Latin, Hip-Hop and urban dance styles rooted in communities of color. Promoting inclusivity in both their cast and audience, Hiplet features true-toned tights, modern music, and dancers of all shapes, sizes and colors. 

The event was sponsored by Project GRAD, a U.S. Department of Education federally funded program. 

“Growing up in Los Angeles, I took for granted the exposure to cultural experiences from people who looked like me. Now, as an adult, a mother, and an educator, I see the value of representation for people of color in spaces that have historically not been permitted,” said Deshawna Colvin, Communications Coordinator for the Office of the Provost and VP for Academic Affairs and Project Coordinator for Project GRAD, who spearheaded bringing the group to campus. “What started as a goal for Project GRAD to engage students, became a personal passion to be able to provide this opportunity for our Islanders and the Coastal Bend community”.

Many of those in the audience were young people, who recounted the few times they have felt properly represented in the arts.

“I’ve never seen black ballerinas unless they were on tv in the background,” said Jeannia Washington, Islander pre-nursing student. “The performance was great, and it felt good to see black performers not limited to societal norms and actually be able to embrace the arts.”

Established in the 90s and dubbed “Hiplet” in 2009, the group was the brainchild of Homer Bryant, the founder of Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center. According to statement made in a 2016 edition of the New York Times, Bryant envisioned a place where dance training was accessible to everyone. 

“The performers danced with so much passion and with such energy,” said Daunte Gaiter, Islander biology major. “I was so happy and so proud to see people that looked like me challenge the norms of society and inspire others through their dancing. I am so thankful to be able to witness an amazing performance called Hiplet.”

Tim Bo Mack, a community member who owns Aspire Studios, brought his wife and daughter to the performance.

“The costumes, music and energy left my family and I hungry for more,” said Mack. “But the highlight of the night was experiencing my daughter watching a beautiful black ballerina that looked just like her. This exposure that she received from this amazing experience is one that will, no doubt, leave a lasting impact on her life now as well as her future.”