A Word About Tricks

Dictionary [This week Hooping.org columnist Lara Eastburn gets us thinking about what we say.]

by Lara Eastburn

One of the first Hooposophy articles I wrote took issue with the use of the word “trick” in our communal hooping vocabulary. I made the point that, while what we do with hoops can certainly be “tricky,” calling those things “tricks” generally rubbed me the wrong way. For one, there is just no English-language context in which “trick” is a positive term. The word “trick“ tends to denote acts that are deceptive, mischievous, or underhanded. Perhaps more telling for our purposes is its common connotation of artifice or optical illusion. Anybody that has spent months nailing a certain move knows it’s no sleight-of-hand!

Yeah, okay. So does it really matter what we call those things we do in and with our circles? I think so. Because the words we use affect how we feel about what we’re doing. There’s nothing inherently wrong about the word “trick,” of course, but it does imply that it’s something that must be tackled, conquered, subdued, or controlled. We don’t hit the back yard with our hoops and say to ourselves, ‘I’m going to explore and play with this trick today,’ for example. No, we say, “Dammit, I’m gonna nail that trick today. That sucka’s mine!”

We’ve all been there. I ain’t hatin’, just suggesting that the word doesn’t leave a lot of room for patience or experimentation in our minds. I think we can all agree that none of us intentionally uses the term to be negative, right? But imagine how odd it would seem to say to a ballerina who’d just performed her most lovely arabesque, “Hey, cool trick! Can you show me that?” There’s just something about it that evacuates all the play, magic, and hard work from it. In my mind it also becomes challenging to think about a hooping session or performance as a dance and symphony of creative expression if I’ve begun to think of what I do as a “series of tricks.”

In my experience, the difference a word can make is especially felt when teaching and learning hooping. Would you rather be told, “Be patient with yourself as you explore this new movement,” or “Here’s how you do this trick”? There’s something finite about the word “trick” – like it has an accepted form, a perfect execution, like there’s only one right way to do it. And not only is that simply not true, it’s enough to frustrate a new hooper, or turn them off to hooping entirely. And if it doesn’t go that far, it at least cuts us off to what excites so many of us most about hooping – its endless possibility.

Since I first wrote about this over a year and a half ago, we’ve adopted more and more of the kinder and more expansive terms from the world of dance, speaking in terms of shape, technique, skill, and flow. I’ve always been fond of the word “movement” myself, but these days I’m finding even that term is more constrictive than I’d like. Lately, when I hit the back yard with my hoop, I say, “I’m gonna go wander in my hoop for a bit.” Changing the words I use changes my mindset. Changing my mindset changes my hooping.


Lara Eastburn Lara Eastburn has been dancing in meadows and singing with the moon while spinning in circles for eons at Superhooper.org. Beyond commenting here, you can also discuss this and other topics related to the Hooposophy for living in Hooping.org’s Hooposophy Group and Gorum. Lara is also the planting and gardening force behind discovering our hooping community roots at The Hooping Family Tree Project.

8 thoughts on “A Word About Tricks

  1. Yes! Words matter. You expressed this idea very well. The word “trick” feels too sleight-of-hand, deceptive, sneaky. We’re not playing cards. It also hints at a level of expertise that makes me uncomfortable. “That hooper knows so many tricks!” The fatter your bag of tricks, the more expert you are as a hooper? Saying to yourself or others “now we’re going to explore a new move” is more open, and a good suggestion, or even “let’s explore something new with our hoop.” To get word-nerdy here – the very sound of the word “trick” is hard – the “ck” consonant combo at the end. When you say it, the sound comes from the back of the throat (plosive, I think?). It ends abruptly. Swallowed. When you say “move,” the sound is placed forward (fricative). It *feels* like it’s moving forward – vibrating. The sounds and meanings of the words we say hold a lot of power. The word “trick” is now erased from my hoop vocabulary. Thank you for making me really think about this.

  2. There is nothing wrong with the “trick” word, but applied to a hooping move it does not represent what it supposed to describe. And it does sounds more trivial than some of us feel about given “move”. Since much of the hooping lingo comes for geometrical terminology I would like to propose a word “figure”.


  3. Thanks so much for writing about this- I was just talking about this the other day – I agree with Jan, there isn’t anything wrong with the word “trick” per se, but for me it feels like it isn’t connected to the overall flow of hooping – a trick feels isolated to me, not integrated. When I discuss new edges I’m finding in my hooping practice, I literally can’t get myself to write the word “trick” – I usually say “skill”, which to me implies I am working on mastery of something I can then integrate in a more flowing way into my dance. I rather like the word “figure”….”pattern” might work for me too. In any case, how synchronous that this appeared today, when I was just thinking of it earlier in the week!

  4. i don’t personally think it matters what you call it. trick, movement, wandering, we all know what we mean. i think getting really caught up in things like “hooping vocabulary” is just as negative as you describe the usage of that certain word. hoopers are starting to take things too seriously. i mean, i love hooping. it’s changed my life. it’s taught me to move, dance, express myself. i am a different person because of the hoop. but still, it’s hooping. at festivals, shows, at home, in the park, wherever. it’s fun and free-spirited, which is what attracted me in the first place. i dunno, with discussions like this, it scares me that that freeness will soon be replaced with snobbery. i certainly hope not though!

  5. You sound like a magician. A lot of magicians say they are not ‘tricks’ they are ‘effects’. For much of the same reasons of perception that you’re complaining about. I personally agree with the group that says the ‘trick’ is how you do it and the ‘effect’ is what your audience perceives. Whats that got to do with all this well the way I see it, what ever move you do, be it an isolation or rolling it across your shoulders, however you accomplish it is the trick but how people see it is the movement.

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