[Hooping.org columnist Casandra Tanenbaum examines her public and private hooping.]
Hoopdance is an experience of movement for the partner of the hoop. Certainly the hoop is important, but focusing on the hoop leaves out a pretty large territory to play with – our bodies, our selves. My body, as both a visual and sensory being while hoopdancing, answers to the call of the music, the tones requiring it’s full attention, not just the part of me that is holding on to my hoop – or at least that is the case when “on display”. Hooping in public, whether in front of a crowd or just one person, puts a different SPIN on it. Super self-conscious of how I look to my audience, it is hard to let ANY body part get lazy, yet when I’m alone in the dubious privacy of the fitness studio, I am often aware of the fact that at any given moment most of my flesh is not in direct contact with the hoop. It is intriguing that so much of my personal hoopdance practice involves working on specific tricks and techniques related specifically to the hoop, rather than to me.
Sometimes when I’m practicing it’s as though I’m saying “Hey! Left shoulder, right lower leg: you are not particularly important right now, it is really all about the hoop, so… take a break!” The result looks like a banal accumulation of forced drills with a lot of trial and error, and a constant clattering of drops. In public I feel an obligation to be the consummate representative of the beauty, grace and strength of hoopdancing. I almost can’t help but undulate my hips purposefully as I spin the hoop above my head, twirling in dizzying patterns to impress the casual observer, so why do I not give myself a complete and total experience when I’m alone? Since noticing the vast chasm between these two approaches, in practice and in public, I have been purposefully reversing my roles to interesting results.
Now when I walk into practice, I view the experience of music as a choreographer, a sculptor in rhythm. I amplify the fall of a toss, I rock back and forth across the full surface of my feet. I pose, I leap. My posture is meaningful, and each turn or spin radiates purpose beyond the practice alone. Attentive to shifts in my weight, this affects the crispness or wavyness of certain moves, particularly while core hooping. I play, mirroring the rhythm of the music while maintaining the rhythm of my spinning hoop.
Sometimes the steps that I take are uncertain and off balance, sometimes they are downright ugly, yet over time I am finding I have once again developed a very personal vocabulary of movement phrases and patterns that both look and feel delicious. I accentuate moments in the music while I push the boundaries of just what is physically possible in the median between me and my hoop. And when I hoop in public, I feel less of a need to be something for someone else now that I am giving that experience to myself in my practice.
Playing with the borders between the public and the private has been both rich, and a little dangerous. The richness is really found in an expression of this opportunity to deepen my own personal style of movement. For every minute engaged in the practice of truly hoopdancing I am learning and reflecting a broader range of potential motion – while amplifying the fitness benefits – BONUS! The danger comes when I really push my physical limits, so wrapped up in how beautiful a move can feel or look that I throw caution to the wind. I’ve created more than a few injuries with this operating policy, but do I have regrets? Absolutely not.
What if, generally speaking, we played more with our whole, exquisite bodies than with the hoop itself? What would we create if we moved as though the hoop was an accidental, incidental entity alongside our dance? What if we moved with such adept grace that the hoop disappeared as a focal point? What then, hoopdancers?
Casandra Tanenbaum has been spinning hoops and words for years at Hoopsofly and Florida Poetry Events. She lives in Lake Worth, Florida, and is the organizer of the annual Florida Flow Fest. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.