[Casandra Tanenbaum invites us to dance.]
As a hooper, I find myself to be a hoopdancer. And what exactly does THAT mean in this community? One can find hundreds of variations of styles and personalities in the ever-growing worldwide community of hoop enthusiasts. Notice fitness specialists, extolling the virtues of hooping as a movement modality for weight loss and cardiovascular health. There are meditative hooping circles with a daily hoop practice spinning on a spiritual path. Object manipulators and flow artists utilize the hoop as one of many tools for exploring the range of rhythmic articulation in movement to craft mesmerizing visual delights. And what of the hoopdancer? What exactly does it mean to bring the hoop into your dance? While I delight in being able to Wow an audience, and meditative movement draws me into a state of flow with ease, I am most interested in the moment when my hoop becomes my dance partner.
With dance, it’s all about responding to the music with my body, always shifting between unfettered flow and the conceptual exploration of sound, asking myself, “What feeling will I create now?” I consider my body while dancing to be a silent musical instrument, ‘playing’ first the beat, then the melody and harmonies, and then back to the beat. The hoop offers an enticing challenge to this endeavor, asking me in every moment to expand my awareness beyond the boundaries of my skin, so that the forms and shapes I make with my partner enhance our dance. I am adding to the experience of music with movement. The hoop provides both the occasion for and the enhancement to this movement.
Of course, engaging the hoop as my dance partner means I have the responsibility to introduce the two of us to a dance space, as well as apologize for its wanderings when I miss a cue, or more likely a catch! Chasing my partner through a crowd is often the cost of our dance endeavor. Luckily, the payoff is a wonderous experience. I am instantly rewarded for every hour I put into getting to know my hoop intimately, its weight and density, its responses to varieties of pressure in particular rhythms and movement sequences, and its design as a kinetic visual art. As long as I maintain dedication to our interaction, I have confidence that the result is stunning to observe, as well as delightfully engaging and sensually enriching for myself as a hoopdancer.
I know I’m not alone. I’ve seen lots of other dedicated hoopdancers out there, beaming artists of all levels who just can’t hold back when the music hits. I know they feel, just as I do, that their syncopated shake-downs are reverent prayers to this pulsing, maddeningly beautiful universe that spins us round. What a joy to be eyewitness to the growth of a “movement-movement” that honors both feeling and image, the shapes without and within, what we see and what can never be seen. Together the dancefloor becomes our stage and the stage morphs into a canvas for the raw, ravishing spontaneity of our spin. And still, we dance.
Casandra Tanenbaum has been spinning hoops and words for years at Hoopsofly and Florida Poetry Events. She’s also the organizer of the Florida Flow Fest and has shared her teachings at Hoopcamp and other major hoop gatherings. She lives in Lake Worth, Florida, USA.