Dancer of the Issue: Lourdes Taylor

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Iz Gius Managing Editor Latin has its fair share of celebrity connections. We all know that Nancy Reagan went here, and we all remember that one time Gwyneth Paltrow was at the Starbucks across the street. But in our midst is an amazing athlete, performer, and famous celebrity in her own right: senior Lourdes Taylor. Lourdes has been dancing since she was a young girl. At around three or four “[she] asked to be put in a ballet class when [she] saw the Nutcracker on TV, and it’s stuck ever since.” She was introduced to CMDC (the Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center) through a family friend, signed up for beginner ballet, and the rest is history. “I fell in love, and CMDC is my home,” Lourdes explains. Her dance commitment ranges from 12 hours a week to a whopping 30 hours when there is something particularly important to prepare for. One of CMDC’s trademarks is something called Hiplet, created by Homer Hans Bryant. “Hiplet is literally a mash-up of hip-hop and ballet. It’s a more creative and free flowing style of dance than classical ballet, which can be very rigid, and it allows for personal expression, which ballet doesn’t always do. It blends a lot of different styles together—some of our pieces feel more like contemporary ballet, while others have traces of a Latin influence.” However, all of the Hiplet dancers are classically trained in ballet. Last summer, Hiplet went viral. An initial video to Jason Derulo’s “If It Ain’t Love” snowballed into full-on fame for CMDC and Lourdes. “That summer was truly crazy. After that first video, a new one went viral almost every week. It was honestly kind of a shock to see people’s reactions, because for us Hiplet was just a part of everyday class.” CMDC started getting calls and requests for performances all over the country and world. Lourdes acknowledges that “the pressure was kind of intense, but our teacher Mr. Homer constantly reminds how the world is watching, how everything he’s built for us and done with dance is on the line. His reputation is at stake, and because we all love him so much, we’re afraid to let him down. He’s been everything to us, not just a teacher—he’s a mentor, a supporter, and a friend.” Hiplet’s fame has led to amazing opportunities for Lourdes and the rest of the dancers. In fact, a performance at the Vogue CFDA fashion show in Los Angeles led to interactions with Emma Stone, Katy Perry, and Kristen Stewart, to name a few. They have been acknowledged by Nicki Minaj and Rihanna via social media. They have been covered by CBS, PBS, the Steve Harvey Show, The New York Times—the list goes on. Lourdes explains that all the girls take turns participating in these events depending on availability and specific performance requirements. She is also in the process of being profiled by W Magazine for a piece on Hiplet. So how does Lourdes stay so humble? She certainly keeps her newfound fame and travels under wraps during the school day, unless you notice she has been gone for a couple days and you ask where she has been. “Oh, just in San Francisco for a Ted Talk” or “on Good Morning America” are just a few possible answers you might receive. “It’s important to stay grounded. It’s easy to get caught up in all the craziness and get full of yourself, but it’s really important to me to remember that if not for all of the African American ballerinas and the grinding work of the people who came before me and made it possible for African American kids to even receive classical ballet training, none of this would have coalesced. No one accomplishes anything alone.” Lourdes’ level head and mature attitude should not be surprising to anyone that knows her. Her passion and commitment for dance is something that has not wavered over the years, and this recent attention on Hiplet is just the cherry on top. “There aren’t words to express how grateful I am to dance for existing as an art form. Dance allows me to be my best self, and the act of it is therapeutic. What truly inspires me to dance and perform is the desire to share emotions with others. It’s all about human connection and our shared experience of feeling. Dance heals me, and I want to use it to heal others too.” Freshman Jacksyn Sallay and Junior Trinity McKinney are also a part of CMDC! Learn more about Hiplet here: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/04/arts/dance/hiplet-an-implausible-hybrid-plants-itself-on-pointe.html?_r=1]]>