by Philo Hagen
A few years ago Anah “Hoopalicious” Reinchebach of Hoop Revolution and I were teaching at the Northwest Hoop Gathering in Bend, Oregon. The event which was billed as “The Evolution of Flow” had awesome teachers spinning workshops on everything from minis to isolations to floor work, even something pretty silly called zooms that never went anywhere for a reason. Only two classes at the event involved more traditional hooping, my LEGS LEGS LEGS class and a waist hooping class she taught at the very end. After an incredible weekend of submersing ourselves in hoop theory and diagrams and working on tech and lines and pushing the limits into unchartered waters, as it were, we all got into our hoops for some waist hooping with Hoopalicious and she proceeded to totally kick our collective ass.
It was following lunch earlier in the event that I told her I had a confession to make. “Honestly,” I said, “even though I think it can be really beautiful and fun to watch when others do it, I personally have next to no interest in off body hooping at all.” She got bright eyed and responded, “Me too! I’m so glad you said that.” We went on to talk about how the thing we both loved most about hooping was cranking the music loud and feeling the hoop spinning on our bodies and rocking out with it. That’s when she said, “We’re body rockers!” A term had been coined, one that defined what we loved about hooping the most.
In her waist hooping class that day, she instructed us to lean in all different directions while hooping and to get low and stretch high and as we did, hoops began hitting the floor all over the place. Anah’s hoop, however, kept right on spinning. Over the course of the class one couldn’t help but recognize that in the evolution of flow had come a glossing over of truly mastering the basics, moves that ultimately become the fundamental building blocks for hoop dance itself. Anah clearly had full control over the hoop and what her body wanted to do with it at all times. For many it was truly inspiring.
At a recent hoopjam here in Los Angeles someone asked how they could have more flow in and dance with their hoop. Noticing the hoop in her hand I asked, “Is that the only hoop you have?” She nodded affirmatively. 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 I imagined that if the hoop stood in front of her it might reach the middle of her thigh. When I asked how big it was, it turned out the diameter was smaller than my waist.
All of that is, of course, fine and good. There are those who spin hoop dance into their lives with smaller hoops as well, but dancing while hooping on the body is often sacrificed for breaks and more sustained spinning, necessary maneuvers if you want to keep that smaller hoop from falling. When it comes to body rocking hoop dance, however, one thing is rather universally clear. Your hoop is going to need to be big enough for you to move inside of it. My new friend looked at me in anticipation of delivering some simple and magical answer, but I was lost in thought of the many things that I could tell her.
I thought that telling her the best place to start would be by hooping to the beat of the music, to find the rhythm and to work on bringing the rotation of the hoop into synchronicity with it. I considered noting that in order to truly hoop with the musicality of any song that is playing, no matter where we are, that we sometimes have to slow our hooping down or even double-time the actual beat inside of our head to find the inner groove that speaks to our spin, one that we can meet and comfortably match. And when the music slows, we slow. And when it speeds up, we speed up. It occurred to me to mention that while tricks are super fun to learn, that many hoopers today seem to get caught up in executing a list of moves they wish to deliver with perfection, rather than submerging themselves in the warm and circular waters of hoop dance. It’s there they will often find their own personal and uniquely magical fingerprint expression of how they spin 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 too, when we really want to punctuate that point in the track with a “Pow!”
While I thought about telling her all these things and more, I handed her a larger hoop instead, one that was big enough to dance in. Inside of it there was room within the circle to actually move, to twist, to turn, and to dance. With the slower rotation of a larger hoop around the body we also have more time for freedom of expression. The more comfortable we become with the basics of hoop dancing like waist hooping with our body at every angle, the more we can reach a place where we will become so comfortable with the hoop while spinning to the music that we’ll no longer even need to think about it much at all, and when we’re not thinking about hooping we often find our flow.
Once we become fully skilled in the art of body rocking hoop dance, our muscle memory will kick in and take care of keeping the hoop spinning for us, allowing us to focus on just being in the here and now, feeling the music, moving our body to the sounds that are playing and getting lost in them. Flow is simply about being in the zone and when you’re in it, when it’s all about you and your hoop and the beat, we can begin to really dance with an incredible partner that responds to our every move. We spin the hoop up to our shoulders, down to our knees, and back up to our waist as we dance. The rest of the world ceases to matter, even if only for a little while. Body rocking hoop dance really gets us out of our head and back into our body.
If you’re having trouble finding the body rocking hoop dancer inside of you, grab yourself a bigger hoop, put on some favorite beats, close your eyes and allow yourself to really feel the music. Bring your hoop in synchronicity with it. As you start to feel the song express that feeling in physical movement. If the hoop falls, laugh, pick it back up and try again. Feel the hoop on your body as it encircles you and as you hoop with the music and match the speed of the song, feel the momentum that larger hoop has and the effect it has on your body and begin responding to it. Dance with it. And welcome to the world of body rocking hoop dance.
You won’t need to worry about fancy moves. Body rocking is less about a constant series of tricks, and more about using those moves at just the right time in the song that they become a seamless part of your dance, rather than something unique and separate from it. Learn whatever moves or techniques you might wish to learn, and then forget about them. They’ll emerge in your hoop dance whenever it feels right. Just let your hoop spin on your body as you groove and let that physical expression be a true reflection of the amazing spirit you truly are. When your hoop dance comes from within and you are fully present in the moment and in your body, you will find it is a truly beautiful and powerful thing indeed.
Philo Hagen is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He’s been spinning things up online and off since April 2003. Co-Founder of the Bay Area Hoopers and LA Hoopers hoop groups, he’s performed internationally and won Hoopie Awards for Male Hooper of the Year and Video of the Year. He lives in Los Angeles, California, USA.