[Hooping.org's Editor Philo Hagen shares some hoop dance advice for body rocking.]
by Philo Hagen
At the LA Hoopers Freedom Hoop Jam this weekend in West Hollywood Park, where we all wore red, white and blue in belated honor of the 4th of July, someone asked me if I could teach them a little something. I told them I’d be happy to, asking, “What is it that you want to learn?” Her response was, “I want to know how you can dance like that inside the hoop. It’s like you’re just dancing and you’re not even thinking about the hoop while it circles you. It’s like the hoop is dancing with you or something. How do you do that?” I looked at her with a somewhat puzzled expression on my face, saying, “You mean hoop dance? You’ve never seen anyone hoop dance before?” She nodded silently.
Trying to figure out how to answer her question in a way that wouldn’t wind up turning into a two-hour class, I suddenly noticed the hoop in her hand. I asked, “Is that the only hoop you have?” She nodded silently that it was. Her hoop was small, even by toy hoop standards. Decorated with different colors of tape, it appeared to have been hand made. Sizing her up physically in relationship to her hoop, I imagined that if she stood the hoop in front of her toes it might stand tall enough to reach the top of her thigh. When I asked how big it was, it turned out the diameter was even smaller than my waist. While there may be many roads one can take in their quest to become a body rockin’ hoop dancer, one thing is rather universally clear. Your hoop is going to need to be big enough for you to step inside of it.
As she looked at me in anticipation of some simple and magical answer, I thought about telling her that the best place to start was by hooping to the beat of the music, to find the rhythm and to work on bringing her spin rotation into synchronicity with it. I considered noting that in order to truly hoop with the musicality of any song that is playing, that sometimes we have to slow our hooping down or even double-time the actual beat inside of our head and then speed ourselves up to find a groove we can meet and comfortably match.
It occurred to me to mention that while tricks are fun and super to learn, but that many hoopers today seem to be getting so caught up on executing a list of moves they hope to present with perfection, that they’ve spent less time submerging themselves in the warm and circular rushing hooping waters of life along the way, focusing on finding their own personal and uniquely magical fingerprint expression of the music that they hear. A lack of time devoted to finding our inner dancer can make it seriously challenging to executive that killer move at the high point of that song, punctuating the track with your hoop dance in such a way that the song and your hooping transcend to a whole new level.
While I thought about telling her these things, it was clear that before we could even begin to explore them, she was going to need a larger hoop. Small and lightweight hoops may be good for off body hooping, but when it comes to body rocking you’re going to need a hoop that is large enough to dance in. When you’re hooping with a larger sized hoop there’s room within that circle to move around, to twist, to turn and to dance with it. A larger hoop will rotate around your body slower as well, allowing you more time for freedom of expression. And the more comfortable you become with the basics of hoop dancing, like waist hooping with your body at every angle, you can reach a place where you will become so comfortable with the hoop that you actually won’t even think about it much anymore. Inside your hoop dance, your muscle memory will kick in and take care of keeping the hoop spinning for you, while you can focus on just being in the here and now, moving your body to the sounds that are playing and just getting lost in the music. When your body has fully learned how to keep the hoop going without having to really think about it, you’ll also be likely to enter a state we often refer to as “flow”. It’s simply about being in the zone and when you’re in it, when it’s all about your hoop and your dancing with this incredible partner, the rest of the world ceases to matter, even if only for a little while.
If you’re having trouble finding the body rocker inside of you can also try putting on a blindfold. The experience has been heralded by many as a great tool for turning off the mind and turning on the hooping body. Hoop dance can be a movement and music meditation, bringing you inside yourself, inside your circle, in such a way that the hoop and your soundtrack will become all that is important. Allow yourself to feel the music and express that feeling in movement. After all, body rocking is less about delivering a constant series of tricks, but rather to use those tricks at just the right time in the song that they become part of your dance, rather than something separate from it. Learn the techniques you want to learn and then forget about them, allowing them to emerge whenever it feels right. When you let your hoop dance come from within as a true expression of yourself, it is a truly beautiful thing indeed.
Philo Hagen is the Founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He lives in Los Angeles, California.