Feb. 28, 2004 – Homer Hans Bryant a native of St. Thomas, is the founder and artistic director of the Bryant's Multi-Cultural Dance Center, formerly known as the Bryant Ballet School in Chicago, Ill. Bryant began his dance career at the St. Thomas School of Dance, and was the former principal dancer with the Dance Theater of Harlem and director of DTH's professional training program and Workshop Ensemble.
Bryant founded the Chicago Dance Center in 1990 "to provide dance opportunities for young people of all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds." Bryant opened the school after being the first and only American teacher to be invited to teach at the world-famous Bolshoi School of Ballet, Russia's premier opera company. Rather than take his experience abroad, he chose to dedicate his talents as an instructor and motivator to helping the youth of Chicago. In a 2001 interview in Chicago Magazine, Bryant attributes his all-inclusive philosophies to the communal way he was raised. "I want to extend the idea of a village to my studio," said Bryant.
Bryant's dance school is the only classical ballet training school and company in the Midwest founded and run by African Americans, and it is known as one of the top schools in the country for professional ballet training.
John Jowers, longtime executive director of the V.I. Council on the Arts, remembers Bryant as a talented young dancer. "He is a fine young man who works hard doing things for young people," Jowers said.
Bryant has received several awards and commendations for his work in dance and with children including the AKA Sorority, Inc., Monarch Award in 1988; The Cycle Wizard Award in 1996 and the Reichhold Center for the Performing Arts' Welcome Home Award in 1994.
Bryant's professional performing credits span command performances for prima ballerina Maria Tallchief and the former Chicago City Ballet, "Timbuktu" with Eartha Kitt and "The Wiz" with Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. He is a frequent guest teacher and trainer for Canada's mesmerizing Cirque Du Soleil and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. In Chicago Bryant has served as ballet master for the Joel Hall Dancers, Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago Company and the Chicago Dance Connection. He has been lead artist for the downtown dance site of the City of Chicago's Gallery 37 program since its inception in 1998. He is also lead artist for the Gallery 37 Center for the Arts.
Known as a strict disciplinarian, Bryant chose as his slogan "The Fun is in the Discipline, The Discipline is in the Fun." It has become a mantra for his former and current students and their parents that has established him as one of the most respected teachers in the country.
Bryant combines dance instruction with "tough love;" it's his way of teaching the children responsibility. A quote from a Chicago news articles sums up his philosophy: "We're diversity at its best," says Bryant. "These are all Chicago's children and, when our students perform, our diverse audiences see themselves up there." His goals extend well beyond plies and arabesques. "There are a lot of schools out there that concentrate only on making good dancers," he points out. "I'm trying to make better human beings."
The Bryant Ballet Company produces four sets of full-length concerts in December, February, April & June, featuring a range of Bryant ballet repertoire. In February 2004 the company presented three new works — "Dreams," the first professional ballet in Chicago to feature wheelchair dance; "When Souls Roam," a modern ballet; and "Rhythm, The Soul Of Life" featuring ballerinas in kente-cloth tutus.
In addition to a scholarship program, which offers free or reduced-price classes to exceptionally talented students and students who can demonstrate financial need, Bryant's studio offers three other main programs:
— "The Rap Ballet". The Rap Ballet introduces school-age children to classical ballet and demonstrates the positive benefits that can be achieved from discipline, hard work and study. The message is delivered in a rap/hip-hop format that is easy for today's youth to relate to.
— Athletic Conditioning & Toning for Boys. This class combines classical ballet exercises with a sports workout to help boys develop the posture, coordination and upper-body strength needed for sports such as basketball and football.
— Wheelchair Dance Program. This program uses dance to teach physically disabled students upper body coordination and grace. Students in wheelchairs use Hula Hoops, Thera-Bands and balls to explore movement possibilities. Students are also taught to create jazz dance movements and turns using their wheelchairs. The long-term goal is to create a combined company with both able-bodied and physically challenged dancers, which will not only broaden the scope and demonstrate the diversity of dance, but also provide new performance opportunities for artists with and without disabilities.
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