Turning The Music Off

Hula Hoop and the Silent Hedges [Hooping.org columnist Bonnie MacDougall enjoys the silence.]

by Bonnie MacDougall

There is a line in the Dar Williams song “As Cool As I Am”, where Dar is speaking to the man she is with, who is in turn ogling a drunk woman dancing in the bar: Dar sings, “And as long as she’s got noise, she’s fine. But I could teach her how to dance when the musics ended.”  I’ve always loved that line and felt a deep connection with it. In reality though, I didn’t try the practice of hooping without music for a very long time.  Sure I would drill and mess around with my hoop without tunes, but a real practice session, with full body in movement, arms in flight, legs dancing, full expression, without my ipod? No Way!

This past spring, as I began to settle into my new home in Michigan, my hoop practice began to transition, as I was also transitioning from Carrboro, North Carolina, to the Detroit Metro area. Picture this: out in front of our house a relatively, loud, busy road, but in the back a serene stream running into a small, quiet lake, with just a handful of other houses on it, and large trees surrounding it all. Gorgeous right?  I couldn’t help but just hoop and soak in my surroundings the first time I picked up my hoop here, music seemed almost an offense.

Thus began my practice of hooping to the natural rhythms of my environment and I have to tell you, it is an enriching experience both within the hoop and looking within myself.  So how do you start this type of practice?  Well, truly everyone is different and what worked for me, may not resonate with you, but I do want to share my experience to help get you started and stir up your own creative process for this exercise.

First as I start my practice, I follow my breath while doing a light exercise, like rolling the hoop on my arms/hands or gentle core hooping.  Then I begin gently swaying with the hoop until I can start to let go of what I brought into the session, becoming more mindful of the here and now. Give yourself plenty of time to relax into the exercise and fully release what does not serve you.  If you have done mindfulness exercises before, utilize what you have learned and incorporate them into your hooping.

Next focus on one sense, for me at this point it is sound.  I will listen to the sounds around me and find the natural rhythms and music that are occurring in my environment.  These organic noises provide a basis to begin your hoop practice.  Often you discover things you would have never heard had you not intently listened, perhaps crickets, frogs or birds, wind chimes from several houses away, a dog barking, traffic, sirens, the sounds the trees make as they blow in the wind, the possibilities are limitless. The rhythms and music created by nature and our environment allow new movements within your hoop that are unique to your own life and experience.

Then I will move into another sense, usually touch.  How does the hoop feel as I moved it around my body? What is the sensation of the tubing/tape on my skin? How do the earth/floor and my feet work together? Am I grounded or feeling like I am tripping myself up? Can I be more balanced? What does the breeze, sun, rain, (if indoors) lights, air conditioning, feel like on my skin?  How is the temperature of my skin changing how the hoop is moving across my body?  Be aware of all of these things and how they influence your body and the hoop.  Notice what works in your hoopdance as you move throughout the practice.  These are helpful clues to take with you into a practice filled with music of a different kind.

In this way you can move from sense to sense.  Examining your body’s reaction to the sense and how it may (or may not) cause the hoop to react as well.  Does what you see, taste, or smell have any influence over you as you move with the hoop?  Does an unpleasant smell cause your body to tighten and therefore the hoop to respond in kind?  What about getting lost in the sight of something beautiful?  Again note how your response with the hoop varies as you play with your senses.  Find things that will enhance your overall experience with your hoop.

The information we receive from our senses is undeniably valuable. We rely on this knowledge to navigate our daily lives.  What valuable tool our 5 senses can be also when we tune into them for our hoop practice!  Ann Humphreys, of the Hoop Path, had this recent experience with hooping music-free, “For the 3rd time in my life, circumstance (iPod had failed to load somehow) I was forced to hoop without music…and something wonderful happened: I started listening to my hoop in an altogether new way– the rough sound as the tattered tape slid across my palms, the light slap of the hoop as it moved on my core– and I found this music quite beautiful.”

So, my friends, shall we all hoop as if the music has ended and see what happens? Will it open a new doorway for your hooping journey or just be deafeningly quiet?  I can’t wait to hear what happens!


Bonnie MacDougall Bonnie MacDougall of HavenHoopDance has been in the spin since 2002. She lives in Detroit, Michigan, USA.

9 thoughts on “Turning The Music Off

  1. Thank you for posting. I saw Shatki perform Symphany of Silence at Hoop Convergence and it had a dramatic effect on the energy of the room. It felt like we all were meditating with her. There was nothing else.

    I have good memories of discussing this piece on the porch of our cabin. Many surprised hoopers inspired to hoop in silence for the first time. Beautiful!

  2. “….hoop until I can start to let go of what I brought into the session, becoming more mindful of the here and now. Give yourself plenty of time to relax into the exercise and fully release what does not serve you….” Music to my ears! Great article, thank you so much!

  3. WOW Bonnie- EPIC and BRILLIANT ARTICLE!!! A great personal challenge to add to my practice, both my hoop practice and my inner methods of meditation and self-evolution- THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES!!!

    Thank you, and thanks for the Dar Williams reminder- I RECENTLY revisited that song as I was working late night on many writing/organizing projects…

  4. Living in a small apartment, with working hubby & two little ones sleeping (& me being quite the insomniac) I find myself hooping in silence often. All the sound of day is gone. Just me & my hoop…I find a beat on my body…I noticed I even find myself making a ticking noise with my tongue, a natural beat I guess. Reading this I realize Ive always done it :)…kinda makes me proud, lol

  5. I love Dar Williams and love the line you mention. I also love how the music in the song stops when she delivers the line. Thanks for the article detailing your grounding silent practice. I will definitely give it a try.

  6. I love that you are encouraging the meditative aspect of hooping. it is the embodiment of feminine energy in motion as opposed to a seat silent practice. i will be practicing in the Canadian wildness this weekend sans sound. blessings.

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