For the past ten years,
I've been traveling the world on a mission:
To share what I believe to be the greatest dance tool and practice vessel that anyone, and hopefully everyone, will ever engage with.
The Hula Hoop.
...bear with me
My Theory is
- that the Hoop illuminates and amplifies the inner spirals -and figure-8’s- fundamental to our body's mechanics. With the right imagery and physical understanding, it has the power to soften and enhance those functions and to grant not only a powerful meditation practice but also the euphoric reward of being swept into momentous gusts of folding waves and spirals that internalize into pathways and carry us through a beautiful world of dynamic expression and physical healing.
Over the years I've meandered through chapters guided by this framework : Waves, Barrels, Figure 8's, Floor Hooping, Shoulder articulation, and a class called Riding the Elements. Each is an addition in the web of understanding.
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aka: "Transitional Space and the Wave Current" ...
So before I turned into a psycho-nerd, a lot of my hooping was inspired by an imagined landscape
of colorful textures that surrounding me. An oil painter at the time, I responded to the imagery as I saw
it underlying the music I heard, often throwing myself into it and using my hoop as a craft-like vehicle to
surf through it.
I looked incredibly high. It's okay, though.
Transitioning between planes is sometimes a matter of willingness to let it happen, physically and mentally:
On a physical level, the hoop is inevitably going to fall if you stop applying force to it. That's science. Yay. So in small doses, a loose handling allows for it to develop it's own path in finding a resting point. And with that mentality we can just enjoy it.
Being comfortable hooping minus a "move" is where new movement emerges (even if in glimmers, when we lose it and find the recovery). There are pockets and pathways and ramps that become the tools for navigation, rather than the map to where you are. There's a softening into that experience and even into the space itself. And it can be paired with and carried into our dynamic movements as well, giving new wind to the moves we love.
For the sake of context and functionality, the class does contains a grid-like framework to be built from.
But in an ideal world (aka, my f*cking website, bitches), this is a class about "catching waves": Engaging the space with our hoops; listening to nuances in balance and subtle hints in momentum; forming ramps and seeing them through. It's a personal fav. I think you'll like it. :)
This class has had a few different incarnations, so there's more on it written below. But generally, this is a class on spinning. Spinning on the vertical plane and sometimes isolating the hoop while doing that. I like to rely on an exchange between myself and the hoop that carries me through the movement. I think that some of the most spectacular looking maneuvers can be made much easier by establishing a studentship to them. Following the hoop at times, actually waiting to be pulled and guided by it, can help to bring us there. There are more tools for this than I will ever come across. But in the meanwhile, as far as this class goes, I'm primarily interested in taking note of the tension that arises in the preparation of movements; the strain that occurs despite the physical elements that could rather be working in our favor. Often hoop movements are accomplished in spite of the elements at play, rather than in response to them. But the hoop can actually be used at a compass for this- our awareness to nuances occurring. Sometimes I like to say that the "move" is actually the experience. ...and
here are some specific areas of focus that you might see listed for a class:
Everyone has their thing. For me, it’s staying in flux.
Remaining just off balance, teetering asymmetrically around the center of gravity, I really enjoy developing a rhythm of alternation; not just between myself and the hoop, but between the upper and lower halves of my body. I love it when a spin is perpetuated by an exchange in leadership this way. The hips and legs pull the chest and arms that then pull the hips and legs, etc. etc. With a hoop at hand, it’s all the more: like having an upper-body tail-- an extension of the top half that adds both dynamism with its added momentum and softness with its signature curve.
In that way the momentum (or “flow,” as it feels to be) is never set stagnant or stabilized in a set position, but rather sent circulating between ourselves and the hoop; the hoop serving as both a facilitator in the movement and a measuring stick by which to observe our fluidity of motion.
In a “Barrels” class that includes the word “alternating” in the title, we will mostly likely be adding a secondary spin to the initial roll I like to teach. After following the hoop through the first barrel, the momentum should be returned to us, allowing for an additional “pop,” with any luck, at a nice rhythm. And there’s arms and feet and backs and heads: a TON of understanding to be gleaned from adherence to the pathway of this undulating circuit. It’s a lovely time. And it’s looks good ;)
For just a minute, let’s assume that effort to be smooth and flowy is just a catalyst for gentler movements that don’t hurt your body. My guess is- that by allowing the hoop to lead at times, we can be taught more effectively by it: not just because of the attention brought to the hoop, but also because of the awareness brought to ourselves in reference to the hoop.
To make it brief, I’ll just talk about me. I can say that the way I adjust myself structurally is inspired by the effort to catch the wave of momentum I feel with the hoop and to emulate it, often as subtly as possible. It’s a work in progress that I’m discovering what comparative effect the hoop actually has on our bodies. I recognize that it has a very specifically coiled and twisted nature, perhaps not entirely for the better. So who knows?
But on my part, I’ve taken interest in the understanding of joint ranges and useful body limitations that have definitely resulted in making the hoop moments really soar and recycle. It’s an exciting system: two objectives incidentally facilitating each other and creating a dynamic alignment. It’s the most entertaining form of self-care I’ve come across, at least.
And in this class it’s very conspicuous, the benefits of listening to the limits are point blank and may actually even ignite a new interest in more of the same in other movements.
Weaving and tipping, darting around, “navigating.” Like a fish. Actually, the imagery we
all picked out one year was of the “Stevie Wonder fish,” because of the head sometimes
swaying back and forth in a figure 8.
As it applies to the Barrels class, I like to use the basic “weave” in introducing a moment of limbo (or redirection), wherein you can take the momentum from a spin or “roll” and send it off in the direction of your choosing. The weave is good for this: shifting one way and the other: clockwise, counter-clockwise, clockwise, counter-clockwise (relative to you body, not the space). And the redirection of the “8” is portrayed very directly in the weave. You can find it in other movements as well, however, that share this undulation and can similarly ride the tail of a barrel roll and branch out into the transitional space.
Where it really interests me is that by understanding how to slightly adjust your body to accommodate these patterns, we can learn how to essentially get “out of the way” of the redirecting momentum and “navigate” the space very smoothly.
And once again, the smoothness can be alternately used as a catalyst or a measuring stick for toward better understanding of your body. Sometimes a simple drop of the shoulder or shifting of weight can change everything. Asymmetry plays a roll; observing gravity. It all fits together in a woven combination of elements that we can choose from an reconnect in riding these “waves of flow.”
Dynamic Floor Hooping:
- Contemporary dance movements that utilize the hoop’s momentum and promote a continued exchange. This class is not as hard as you might think. I like to go deep rather than big, so we’ll be starting real small, and at a pace that you decide…
For me the hoop has always been a teacher. It grants a uniquely internal sense of fluidity and rhythm that has defined it for me as a continued practice. So it’s fortunate for us, especially us addicts, that this signature element is just as apparent while hooping on the floor.
AND: the experience of being led by the hoop reaches a whole new depth here --as the discovery of “new feet,” in our thighs, backs, forearms, etc. invariably invites a new sense of listening-- and in a very safe way that’s more accessible than you’d think. …seriously.
SHORT STORY :
The first time I ever envisioned this stuff was attending a class called the
"Axis Syllabus" in San Francisco. The teacher was an astounding dancer -and
teacher- named Kira Kirsch, who'd learned with its founder, Frey Faust.
The phrases and sequences I saw demonstrated in class appeared to be the
virtual embodiment of organic movement. (imagine the whole room spiraling and
unfolding in waves like fallen leaves across the floor).
It was as though the roof had been pulled off of a house I'd been holed in unknowingly.
I couldn't exactly "hang-with" that day, too overwhelmed by the sequences of the "real" dancers, but I could feel it.
All of it.
I could see it all coming together at home and I could see it with a hoop. It was going to be the focus of my hooping for at least the next year.
But it actually turned out be about three years of intense focus. By now it's been five.
It's an important distinction to make --that took me a minute to understand-- that the "Axis Syllabus" isn't defined by the specific movements portrayed in a class, but rather the intention. More, it's an ongoing observation/ systematization/search for ideal movement efficiency. Ask them, not me.
Super eccentric. Gota love it.
So on my part, having taken the hoop as an ideal for so long, it seemed appropriate to get those kids together. And "floor hooping" was from then on an ongoing question of the hoop: how can this "ideal" shape be integrated into the momentum of our bodies at their most aligned? And of what influence is it, really? Could it add a sweeping wind of current, adding vortex and gusto, bringing roundness and expediting the process via its reference? Or is it just a tack-on, distorting the physics for the sake of maintaining the hoop niche?
...the answer so far: Both.
Nowadays I credit "Axis" only for opening the door. The movements and the attention to detail are what stuck the most.
I am NOT a certified Axis Syllabus practicioner, nor have I come even close or tried to. That must be said for certain.
Rather, I only wish to credit a form, albeit vastly more advanced, that inspired the same awareness to nuance that I aspire to with the hoop and that inspired me to explore it within my body on greater levels than before.
So the great "Floor Hooping Experiment!!!" has been established.
I've taught it.
Others now do with it as they will. ...and some of them are probably going to break something one of these days, and don't look at me.
That's something I'm accepting on large scale: We don't choose what sticks.
I never planned on my transitional waves class to turn into "the smear."
And I never planned on floor hooping to take off with such break-dancerly ambition.
It annoyed me at first- my explorations performed by others, often with quickness and disregard for the nuamnce that brought it out.
But in the end, thank God it's out of my hands.
It's a true honor that I can only take as the highest artistic acheivement within our tiny litte niche here, that the things I've worked on have all outgrown me -and they look damn good on people to boot.
Shoulder transfers and everything around them are totes my jam. They were the first set of tricks I was into and now there are tons of them. This class could really be called "lifts, stalls, sweeping, breathing, shoulders and circuitry. and pow!
It covers one of my favorite movement circuits: the one I use to ground and build power on the horizontal plane. By lifting in an alternating rhythm and adding some on-body stalls and dramatic sweeping, you’ll find a whole spectrum of engagement with the hoop- from responsive to assertive. Adding attention to the breath and slight bounce then encourages a more full-bodied experience, right on time for the shoulder transfer (around the back, from one shoulder to the other) to come into play and send this circuit outward.