[Arseny "Seny" Knyazev knows hoop dance is for men.]
Before most men can see themselves inside the hoop, we often need to be able to see ourselves as someone who is allowed to dance. There is a myriad of material on the history of dance. Some archaeologists posit that dance has been around for 1.5 million years. In the MIT encyclopedia of cognitive sciences, dance is described as one of the human universals. All cultures have some form of dance as a part of their heritage. Yet, interestingly enough, not all individuals dance.
As far back as highschool I remember feeling conflicted about it. Modern notions of masculinity left me feeling awkward, while my friend Curtis always told me that it was the only way to get girls interested. According to him, they looked at the way your hips moved before approving you for…other activities. While this isn’t the only purpose for dancing, we’ve all heard about mating dances in the animal kingdom. Birds, spiders, seahorses – they all use a series of posturing and movement to display virility and prime mating qualifications. Dancing is actually a primal and animalistic urge, a reaction to the changing of the seasons, pheromones, and a fear of ending the continuation of your genetic legacy. While many heterosexual men steeped in our modern culture are apprehensive about dancing, there is great evidence to tell us to feel otherwise.
As men we often end up feeling self-conscious when we dance and instead of jamming out and grooving to the beat, releasing ourselves to the urges and inclinations of our bodies and Inner Rhythms – we stand on the sidelines, aloof, and oh so manly in our indifference to this collective urge to move and interact. Some cite shyness, others cite self-consciousness, and others just think it’s not “manly” enough. Perhaps we should take a look at the bigger picture?
There are so many varieties of dance. Some are for aesthetic purposes, others for religious ones. The Kalahari Bushmen, for instance, regularly have “trance-dances” with a goal of healing. They may focus on a particular individual’s ailment, or send energy to heal the world at large. Tango, for instance, arose strictly out of boredom. When rural Argentinians started moving to urban areas for work, there weren’t enough women in the brothels to *ahem* entertain them all so lines started to form. Men would bring their instruments to pass the time, others started to dance to the music – often with other men as partners. It was only later in the development of Tango that women joined in, but did this make them any less viral? I think not – they were all waiting in line at a brothel.
Capoeira developed as a secret form of martial arts. Slaves would practice fighting skills using dance as a facade. In Russia, an acrobatic form of dance was developed to physically condition soldiers for battle – the military still has units dedicated to performing this dance form to this day. Nowadays, while there are myriads of dance programs for fitness, one only has to watch a B-boy perform to understand that the physical benefits are profound and apparent. As a form of play, it can reduce stress, improve coordination, flexibility, and mobility. As a social activity it helps us participate in communal events as well as spend time with family and friends.
What about Hoopdance? For me it was the first aerobic activity that I actually enjoyed. It was only a few months into the practice that I actually acknowledged the meditative function it served for me as well. I learned to allow the hoop to dissipate my turbulent thoughts and structure my outlook on life. The simple joy of bouncing or swaying to the beat in my headphones as I stood in an elevator, waited to cross the street, or couldn’t find a seat on the subway became one of the little things that made life grand!
Some people may judge, but when it comes down to it – dance is a way to release. Ultimately we expose ourselves to our own thoughts on how a person should move, how we express our thoughts and emotions through physical movement. So whatever your reason for dancing – fitness, expression, joy, seduction – indulge and inspire my friends!!