[Guest blogger Tiffani Michele finds her dance thanks to a hoop.]
Like any die hard music lover, I don’t just hear music. I feel it on a cellular level. I taste it. I breathe it. Sometimes I get so wrapped up and cocooned in it I swear I enter stasis and stop breathing until the song is over. Worse than leaving a whiskey and coke half drank is exiting a car or room before an unexpectedly played favorite song is over. The frustrating thing about loving music this much is that I had no outlet for it, no physical expression to amplify it. I’d tried taking all kinds of dance classes: tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop, etc. They went over as well as all of my sports endeavors. Meaning, I got no skillz, no moves, no coordination, no flow.
Music would jump and trip its way into my soul and circle there, getting more and more bouncy, and all I could do was a little hop up and down. Maybe a slight shift from side-to-side, accompanied by random jerky out-of-tempo movements with my hands. I knew it was a lame offering to the gods of music, but the more I tried to sway to the beat, the more self aware I became. Dancing wasn’t taking me outside of myself. It shined a spotlight on all the parts of me that I’d rather keep hidden.I did have a few people try to help me out. My sister’s boyfriend at the time, when I was a shy 14 year old, took pity on my wallflower self and asked me to dance one night. So we did and I remember him saying, “Wow. I mean, it’s dancing, not standing. Move a little!” So I tried to move a little. “Are you moving? I can’t tell! Move it! Move your hips!” I blushed and retreated back to the shadows. Then, as a shy 22-year-old, I found myself in the middle of a fiesta high in the Venezuelan Andes. Local Andean farmers all wanted a turn to dance with the American girl. I didn’t speak spanish, and they didn’t speak english, but it became clear that they were all trying to give me tips on how to dance. When words failed they would physically try to make me dance better, putting their hands on my hips and then rocking them vigorously in the universal sign for “Move your hips, woman!” In the photo you can clearly see my dance partner is thinking that his yak would make a better dance partner.
And then, one day, I drove Route 66 in a Jeep with my little shih tzu Frito Bandito (RIP!). My friend met me in Flagstaff with a present, a red and black striped hula hoop. She said it would be perfect for stretching and moving on pit stops. I did with it what you would expect. I hooped like a 6 year old. And after talking more about it with her and googling people like Lisa Lottie, Anah Reichenbach and Baxter, I fell hard under the spell of hooping. By the time I watched Beth Lavinder dancing with her hoop, I was hooked. Obsessed!
I started dancing with my hoop. Which basically is just dancing with myself. The hoop turned out to be the best dance teacher I’ve ever had, simply because if you don’t move then it falls down. The only trick to hooping is to move with it. As long as you dance, the hoop stays up. And for the first time in my life, I had an outward expression for the inward feeling that music gives me. Not only that, but it replaced running and swimming as my favorite kind of exercise, and replaced yoga as my favorite way to meditate.
It hasn’t been a year yet, but my hoop and I have been on some excellent adventures already. I take it everywhere I go – Costa Rica, SXSW (where I ended up hooping on stage with Mumford and Sons!) and to concerts of all kinds – most recently to one of my favorite bands, The Henry Clay People.
I love to hoop for lots of reasons, least of all for the entertainment of others (because I’m still shy, and it creates a lot of attention!), but one time, while I was hooping, I overheard someone say to someone else – “Look at her! She’s quite a dancer!” Who would have thought?! Awkward, uncoordinated me, confused for a dancer!
I’m not a dancer, though.
I’m a hooper.