Despondence: A New Hoop Dance Short Film Blows Us Away
by Philo Hagen
Once in a great while something rolls into the hooping community that makes everything suddenly stop, something that seems to transcend everything we’ve all been spinning up hooping wise while reaching miles beyond our plastic circles. A new short film entitled “Despondence” is one of those things. Despondence exposes the dark shadows of depression that can cast over our minds and relationships. It combines hooping, hoop dance and various other forms of dance to spin a very heartful and emotional story too. The work of Morgan Jenkins (on Facebook & @missmojangles on Instagram) of Hooptown Hotties and MissMoJangles.com, Lee Jeffries (on Facebook & @photographlee on Instagram), and Director Gabriel Mann, their work combines here and spins up something sublime, touching and truly inspired.
As soon as I finished watching this I immediately contacted Lee and Morgan. Tonight I’m excited to be able to sit down with them to find out more about the film and what inspired them to make it too.
Philo: I am so in love with this. Despondence really blew me away! What prompted the two of you to make it?
Lee: Thank you! We’ve known since the 1st installment, Flowmance, that we would find a way to work with each other again. So when this opportunity presented itself and we actually had time on our side, we pushed ourselves to make it happen.
Morgan: Yes, we knew we were going to work together again and we both felt the need to explore depression and the impact it can have on individuals and relationships. We’ve noticed that depression and anxiety are a common topic in the hoop community too.
Philo: They are, and there are those who are claiming hooping has helped them overcome both too. Morgan, this isn’t the first time you’ve explored darker feelings through your hooping videos either. Have you had personal struggles with depression, and if so, has hooping helped with that?
Morgan: When I discovered hooping, I was definitely in a dark place. Anxiety and depression were part of my everyday life, and I was riding an emotional roller coaster of highs and lows. Then I discovered hooping. The hoop gave me something to love about myself again, and was a motivator for so many things! My passion for hooping has brought a beautiful community into my life, sent me to worldwide destinations, and as you can see through my videos, inspired me to create again.
Philo: I love it. Spinning into the center of our own rotation can be such a powerful thing. Speaking of powerful, your relationship with one another in this is so intimate and powerful to watch. Does Despondence reflect anything that’s been going on between the two of you – and how are the two of you impacting one another’s hooping and non-hooping lives?
Lee: Despondence is really a reflection of what we ourselves as individuals have been experiencing in one way or the other. Once we finalized the concept, we spent the little time we had in between practice to really tap into each other. Both Morgan and I are in relationships, so it was interesting to find ways to project those moments, while also tying it into the choreography.
Morgan: We became close after Hoopcamp 2015, but during the prep for Despondence we really deepened our connection. We talked a lot about our past, relationships, goals, and how depression has played a role in our lives. While Lee was in Los Angeles for rehearsals and filming he lived with me, my boyfriend and our dog in our tiny 400sq ft studio. We made meals together, poured over our favorite inspirational hoop videos, and just spent quality time getting to know each other.
Lee: It has been one of the most refreshing friendships I’ve ever made. It’s a beautiful thing when you find someone who follows their passion(s) with so much tenacity too. She has refueled me as both a dancer and a human being.
Morgan: He’s my hoopspiration. While the romantic intimacy you see is on screen only, the love we have for each other transcends our videos. Lee is an amazing person who inspires me to not only level up my hooping, but to just let go and have fun while doing it too! I’m honored to create with him, and you can bet this won’t be the last video you see from us too.
Philo: Awesome! The song “Unsteady” by X Ambassadors is so perfect for this too. Did the dance inspire the song or did the song inspire the dance or both?
Lee: When I played the song for Morgan I think we both knew that was it.
Morgan: Once I heard it I started visualizing camera moves and beats in the choreography. We approached making the routine with different parts of the song that inspired each of us. The song inspired the dance, but also the concept of depression inspired the dance and the song. We knew that in the dance we wanted some moments of unsteadiness, almost trust falling. And we knew that we wanted not only hooping, but many styles of dance.
Philo: The different styles really spin the story too. Care to talk more about that?
Morgan: Well, for example, we used tutting to create a house shape with our arms and hands on the line “this house don’t feel like home”. The waltz added to the romantic backstory of our characters. In the choreo you can see a lot of moves influenced by Lee’s style and a lot influenced by mine. Our collaboration was really about trusting each other and our vision, making sure both our voices are heard.
Philo: I see and hear you both in this clearly so applause on accomplishing that. And Gabriel Mann really knocked it out of the park filming wise. Morgan, you’ve had a video history with him for awhile now. How did you two meet?
Morgan: Gabe and I met at EDC 2014. He was operating a steadicam and I was hooping. I work as a camera assistant in the TV/film industry, so I know a good camera op when I see one. After a few run ins and spontaneous hoop shoots, we decided to collaborate and our first project was Bang Bang Hoopdance.
Philo: Which won Video of the Year last year. I’m sure your mutual love for film really makes the creative process interesting too.
Morgan: It really does. I have a BFA in cinematography, so I can communicate what I want to him using the language of film, and he has such intuition for camera moves that emphasize hoop flow. Our collaboration usually looks like this: I conceptualize/ storyboard/ make a shot list. Gabe establishes a look with colors, camera, format, and camera movement. I edit the films. He color corrects them and adds additional music and finalizes sound editing and special effects. On Despondence, you can hear his original music for the opening monologue, and admire the breathtaking and dreamy shots he captured.
Philo: Well the work of all three of you here is stunning so congratulations and thanks for taking time out to tell us all more about it. Anything else in the works readers should know about it?
Morgan: If you want more of Despondence, keep an eye out for an upcoming “making of” video, as well as a tutorial on a partner move from the film! We’re just so grateful to have hooping as a platform for self expression.
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, Philo has performed internationally and has won Hoopie Awards for Male Hooper of the Year and Video of the Year. He lives in Los Angeles, California, USA.