Tag Archive for Performance

Performance Hooping and Catering to Your Audience

Hoop Performance by Megan Smith (Sati Flow)

As hoop performers and those who may want to be someday, many assume that our opportunities for performing lie mostly in the realms of nightclubs and bars. While these venues definitely may very well make it into our schedules, it’s important to realize that prospective clients are everywhere. It is not only our privilege, but I see it is our responsibility to create products (in our case, acts) that can be enjoyed by a multitude of different audiences in a wide variety of venues.

This summer has already been personally explosive and challenging as far as performing is concerned. I’ve been presented with numerous opportunities, and they have all had their unique requirements and requests. From the typical nightclub setting, to rainy street shows, to music festivals, and even to the zoo, spinning things up in so many different settings has found my performing skills being questioned and judged at every turn. Throughout it all, I have realized something vital and important, that the theme of a show can’t really be the only deciding factor for how my act will be constructed.

When I first began performing, I bashfully admit that I relied pretty heavily on a solid smile sprinkled with a few jaw-dropping tricks along the way. The more I have gotten comfortable hooping on stage, the more I’ve discovered that a enthusiasm and a cartwheel does not in fact wow every audience. Some audiences are much more difficult to please.

When I first realized this fact, it seemed very discouraging. I performed at a show street-side where the music was very hard to hear, and people whizzed past me all immersed in their cell phones and dull conversation. I felt very disconnected from my audience, and I spent that night considering all of the ways in which I could have done better. What a little more experience has shown me, however, is it’s not always about what you bring to the table. It’s wise to prepare yourself for a stellar show no matter what the cost by heavily considering your audience beforehand. In fact, here are three questions to always ask yourself prior to a performance, as well as some suggestions for dealing with those less than ideal audiences along the way

1. Is your audience aware that they are an audience? This might seem like a silly question, right? Of course they will know! Unfortunately, much like the aforementioned street show, the audience is not always aware that there is a performance happening. These sorts of events are the ones I find the most challenging, because it is not only your job to grab their attention, but to keep their attention. I’ve found that the best way to deal with a surprise audience is to use strong, visual choreography and eye contact. For example, I like to include a solid set of speed breaks in almost every act, but if my audience doesn’t know they should be watching, speed breaks probably will not gain their attention as well as a cartwheel or even leg hooping. After you rope them in with whatever higher level skill you have at your disposal, keep your focus and flow a little more minimally.

On the other hand, if your audience knows they are an audience (they bought tickets or came with the intent of a seeing a show), then the work is a little less up to you. You already have their attention, so it is only your job to maintain it.

2. Will you be on stage? A frustrating reality is that not all of your performances will be obvious with a raised and beautiful stage and a M.C. to introduce you. There will be many times that you will be ground level, face-to-face with your audience. How do you use your space optimally? Moving around, if you have room, can help tremendously! While it’s a little more difficult with a flailing circle, if you can maximize the use of your full performance area and make eye contact with every person possible in the crowd, you wind up inviting all of them to feel a little more important, and to be a little more a part of what you are sharing. Think about it-if a performer seems to be staring at you on stage, it’s not nearly as intense and chilling as when they are obviously doing it right in front of your face. Allow them to feel like they are a part of your act, rather than a bystander.

3. How old is your audience? I think we can all agree that children are the most fun to perform for. They are easily inspired, and open to feedback. Work with that. If they cheer, cup your hand over your ear and ask them to cheer louder! Engage them in a way they will understand. When I perform for children, I more often than not make my character more childlike. I attend to the silly, dream-like performer inside of me, as opposed to the sexy one. I over-exaggerate my emotions, and often will often times hand off hoops to the crowd so they all feel engaged.

Adults, conversely, can be a bit more difficult to dazzle, especially older ones. A recent performance of mine for upper-scale grownups proved to be one of the most intimidating and frustrating shows I’ve experienced. Some people were engaged in a mental tug-of-war. They would begin to watch, then shy away, then turn to look over their shoulder. These people are the most important to capture. As soon as you find them straying, make them feel like they are the only person watching. Make eye contact, move their direction; let them know that it is perfectly acceptable to watch and enjoy. For whatever reason, there will always be those who feel the need for permission before they can enjoy things, so give it to them quickly. You can’t always captivate everyone though. Even though I clearly had flaming hoops spinning on my feet while doing a headstand some people walked right past me, and at one point right into me. There are those who refuse to be catered to in an artistic environment, and those who may be drunk or have other problems, and the show must go on.

There will always be certain audience members that simply cannot be satisfied. In these moments, it is important to remember that their attitude is simply out of your hands. Don’t let it distract you from the audience members that are engaged, the ones that notice and love what you do. Go where the love is. Cater to them as if no one else is watching. And on a personal note, do not allow a less than ideal audience to be a reflection of your skill as a performer. Attempting to make people interested in something you love is a huge step of faith and confidence. Even if it is not as successful as you had imagined it would be on any particular night, the fact that you found it within yourself to share your love and joy of hooping is magnificent and inspiring. So try again. Learn as much as you can, engage as much as you can, and there will always be those out there excited to witness your story, so make sure that you give them as much of an opportunity as possible!

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Megan Smith Megan Smith, aka Sati Flow, is a poet, artist, yogini and hooper based in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. She has been hooping since 2011 and writing for as long as she can remember. Follow her hoop teachings, performances, writing and more on her website, satiflow.com!

Exploring Hooping Choreography

Exploring Hooping Choreography by Megan Smith (Sati Flow)

Let’s face it – when it comes to performing, there are countless questions that can cause any performer anxiety: How big is the stage? What is the theme of the show? Who am I performing with? Who am I performing for? Why don’t I have a single thing to wear??? Amidst all of this, there is the plethora of possibility in the realm of performance choreography to worry about. While some performers are sticklers for step-by-step routines, mapping out songs and writing movements and transitions for nearly every eighth note, others are much more fond of a freestyle framework. They prefer allowing the music to speak to them in the moment, right when they hit the stage. While both options can produce beautiful hoop dance performances, there are a few pros and cons to each, as well as exercises you can utilize when constructing routines that allow you to engage with your hoop, the music, and the audience at the fullest level possible.

When it comes to structure versus flow, the answer is very much a personal one – and often reflects the way you approach your personal practice. Those that spend practice time drilling repetitively, aspiring toward acrobatics and multiple hoop routines generally tend towards structured choreography. When you’re going to flip on your head with shiny hoops twisting on your toe-pads, musical cues are insistently helpful and comforting. Others, however, are more healing-intensive when they enter a practice space with their hoop. For them the dance, the movement, and the dissolving of the self make the act of structure and drills troublesome. Attempting to ground something that sets them free can spoil their art entirely.

When I first began performing with the hoop I was against the idea of set-in-stone routines. This had to do with two things: I had spent four years in a top-notch color guard that choreographed everything down to the precise twinkle of our eyelashes, as well as the fact that my selection of hoop moves to choose from was very limited. I felt burnt out on drilling and was afraid that my skill was not up to par with most; but I had just been extending my fingertips into the realm of flow, and I was so intensely excited to share that with the world. While my first few performances were doused with free dancing and smiling, they were, however, also lacking in a few key components to great performances: dynamics, voice and audience engagement.

Whether it is coming from the song, the performer, or ideally both, dynamic-build up and variety are age-old tools used in performance arts throughout the world. What this means is starting small and getting bigger, in the most general of terms. Think about it– have you ever gone to see a band play and they spent the entire two hours of their set playing at the loudest level possible? It gets old, doesn’t it? While oftentimes our ego tells us that simple waist hooping is unimpressive, we must remember to honor it as a building block of our art form. If we regard it as such, so will our audience. Starting with slow, simple movements builds anticipation and creates space for the magnificent, allowing for “Wow” moments to happen later on. A few ways I like to play with these dynamics are by gaining/losing speed dramatically throughout a performance, slowly introducing new planes (wall, earth and sky angle), and saving really unique and show stopping moves for the biggest, most dynamic parts of the song.

Another tool I absolutely love to teach and utilize in performance is interacting with one specific voice in a piece, and then switching to a different one. I do this by breaking down a song into every separate instrument – singer, bass, drums, melody, harmony, and so forth. To the less musically inclined, this is especially important. Once you have committed to musical selection you take the appropriate amount of time to REALLY get to know the song. Challenge yourself to write down every single voice that you hear, and gain enough familiarity that you can sing the part of that one voice throughout the whole thing. By doing this, you become that much more related to your music and performance as a whole, and when you dance you can literally personify each voice individually.

Audience engagement is also key to any sort of performance. I like to think of performing as an equal relationship between you, your song, your hoop, and your audience – and you are responsible for the entire experience. As much energy as we devote to our music and hoop, that much must be devoted to recognizing and engaging with those watching us. Before we hit the stage pick out 4 or 5 people in the crowd (it helps with anxiety to choose people you know) to make eye contact with. When you step under the lights, be sure to devote your attention to them. Smile, wink if you’re a winker, and direct your spinning their way. You can invite them to experience this moment with you as fully as you are. No matter what you are doing with your hoop, as long as you are engaging in the show, it will be a success.

For me, I’ve learned that choreography definitely aids in those oh-so-dreaded blanks we sometimes encounter on stage. With countless hours of flight time, even our deepest, most honest flow can be attacked by the nerve monster lurking inside of us. But what if a fully structured piece falls through and we blank anyway? Here are a few remaining things to keep in mind when preparing for hoop performances:

• Again, know your song and know it well! Listen to it over and over so that no flow or choreography can be completely defeated. This will allow yourself the chance to jump in from any mistakes not a down-beat too late, and be right in sync.

• Do what feels best to you. Trying to perform moves you don’t really like or are not that comfortable with will expand the distance between you and your audience. Watching someone get lost in their own self-criticism is not fun or engaging. Trust what feels best in your bones.

• Try to avoid last-minute rewrites. Just like attempting things you are uncomfortable with, changing routines at the last minute can cause too much anxiety and nerves and result in you missing every cue completely. Plan in advance and plan well. Now go out into this big world and show them what your beautiful, unique, and inspiring hoop dance is really made of.

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Megan Smith Megan Smith, aka Sati Flow, is a poet, artist, yogini and hooper based in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. She has been hooping since 2011 and writing for as long as she can remember. Follow her hoop teachings, performances, writing and more on her website, satiflow.com!

David Piedra

David Piedra Prepare to be amazed, because you won’t believe your eyes! David Piedra, a hand balancing and hula hoop artist who has been performing as a circus entertainer all over the world, totally dazzles us with his mad hoop skills and acrobatics. Spinning up single, double and multiple hoops, often while standing on his hands, and doing so with such precision and speed, you’re in for a treat! Originally from Puebla, Mexico, David us currently residing in Macao, China. The soundtrack for this is “Navras” by Juno Reactor and you can score a copy of it for yourself on iTunes.

Performance Anxiety

Performance Anx by Matthias Elliott

I started hooping because it didn’t matter. It was an activity that seemed to have no value or point. As a result, I didn’t have to think about how well I did or who was watching, because, “C’mon! It’s a kids toy!!!” Shortly after my first Hoop Path Retreat, however, my grandmother passed. In the conflict of grieving and relief that followed, I discovered hooping was also a phenomenal avenue for self-expression. For once, I let conflicting feelings coexist and flow through me, they blended together and flowed out as beautiful movement. Nothing was right. Nothing was wrong. At the end of each session, I felt calm and at peace. This is when I really mark my becoming a “hooper”. Up until that time it was something I did with my then-partner. After that, hooping was mine.

When I started performing, Hooping brought me into some amazing situations. From clubs and all-access pass music festivals to private parties, street shows, and even a nudist resort, I cruised along having a good time, while not really thinking all that much about what I was doing. I even ended up getting booed off the stage with my hometown troupe, the Hoola Monsters, at America’s Got Talent and didn’t get phased about it.

But then, in 2011, you guys nominated me for not one, but two Hoopie Awards. I was incredibly complimented, awestruck and amazed. I was ranked with a group of guys and gals that I had tons of respect for! And people were saying by their nomination that I was their peer!!!That I could be compared to them and moreover, people were comparing me to them, and that’s… that’s… that was Terrifying! What if I lost?!? Good God!!! What if I won?!?! And I didn’t pick up my hoop in earnest for nearly 6 months.

Suddenly it mattered. Suddenly, I wondered if I would still have the friends I had and enjoy my place in the hoop community if I wasn’t putting out new cool stuff every day and nailing my old moves with mechanical precision. You probably realize this actually had nothing to do with the Hoopies. I got all up in my head and it totally ruined my joy in hooping. Suddenly, I couldn’t let go, flow and be comfortable with where I was and what I was doing. Instead, I found myself setting up dedicated drills and schedules and trying to isolate my weakness. I also started cataloging what had been done in the hopes that I could find something totally new to explore. If that sounds tedious and awful, you’re right. I had lost my love and my communion with the mindless joy of flow.

Performance anxiety comes to us all, the beginner as much as the
blooded professional. It sneaks up on us and will weave its way into whatever we do. I am not just talking about hooping or getting up on stage, but in all areas of life. Why do we struggle to go hit the dance floor without a hoop? Why do we not speak up at work when we have an idea? Why do we think, “Oh I can’t try that!!! It’s for old or young, or tall, or flexible, or strong, or small, or white, or black, or latin or asian women or men?” Underlying all of this mental garbage is a fundamental lack of self-worth and self-valuation.

“Someone might think I suck.”

“Someone may judge me.”

And, what if they do?

Maybe they will, Maybe they won’t. But ultimately, who do you live your life for, them? Or you?

What you do when this nagging demon pops up determines whether you get to live freely, pursuing your dreams, or die slowly hemmed in by mental fences. Ultimately, you need to be true to why you are doing something. Hopefully this isn’t for an award or acclaim or any external validation. Do what you do for the love of it, for the passion, because it’s fun, silly, or simply feels good. Do it for the Joy.

And as for hooping? I got some music that made me itch and turned off the camera for awhile. My friends are still my friends, and I got to let go of worrying about being judged. And I rediscovered just how much fun it is when I’m not trying to do anything at all.

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Matthias Elliott Matthias Elliott Matthias Elliott is an Entrepreneur, Scientist and Artist playing and working in Tampa Bay, Florida, USA. This fall, he’s headed to Rhode Island to pursue a career blending science and art and is currently building out his Silk and Steel workshop series with co-conspirator and Hoop Master, Beth Lavinder.

Ask Hoopalicious: Handling Handsy Hoop Fans

Ask Hoopalicious [Hoopalicious helps hoop performers smartly handle unwanted advances.]

Dear Hoopalicious,

How do you handle handsy attendees at whatever concert/rave/festival you’re performing at without ‘making a scene’ or disrupting the show? Just to clarify, I think the fact I have to ask this question is bullshit, I should be allowed to scream PISS OFF to guys that grab me at shows, but I know that working in the entertainment industry has it nasty side, and not upsetting the venue owners or the people who hired you during a party is one of them.

Glenda Jordan

Dearest Glenda,

This is such an important question! Performing in the club scene has its challenges and there are definitely ways to ensure your safety. I totally get your frustration and you shouldn’t have to endure having your space being violated at all, no matter WHAT! Here are a few tips for you.

Ask Hoopalicious: How Do I Become a Performer?

Ask Hoopalicious Dear Hoopalicious,

How did you get your first paid performance? Did you seek it out, someone approached you, etc?

~Braelyn Z

Hi Braelyn!

This is a great question! I don’t actually remember my VERY first paid performance gig. When I first started hooping I was mostly selling hoops and teaching others how to hoop, but over time, being at various festivals to vend, people began asking me if I did performance as well. I also pretty much hooped EVERYWHERE I went… night clubs, the beach, parties, etc. It was one of those things that just built organically on it’s own.

I met my contact for Cirque du Soleil because I took my hoop into a little night club in Santa Monica and was just hooping on the dance floor. Eventually I did get an agent, but honestly I built a bigger network and got more work by just being visible and talking to new people. Word of mouth is a powerful force! This can take a while though, so if you are looking to begin performing, you can help fast track this by doing a few things:

Workin Cheap: How Shortsighted Ninnies are Killing our Profession

will hoop for free [Guest blogger Laura Witwer has some things on her mind.]

by Laura Witwer

Buckle up dear hoopers – this is gonna be a bumpy ride! Today, we will be talking about the money side of the business, specifically about working cheap. What does it mean to you and your industry? How does it affect your future ability to earn a living? Are YOU one of the performers on my I-Would-Like-To-Slap-You List? Giddyap, cowgirl – I aim to shoot straight from the hip.

How Cheap is Too Cheap?

When deciding how much I will charge for my services (that sounds vaguely naughty somehow), I take a number of things into account.

• Is someone making money off me? (ex: open to the public shows, night clubs, agents, evil dictators, etc.)
• How much hoo-hah and shenanigans are involved? (travel, rigging, equipment, the occasional high-maintenance producer – we charge a “shenanigans” tax when we have to work with unpleasant people, costuming, custom-created work, cost of meals, scheduling, etc.) The more anticipated drama, the more we charge.
• Are there any pretty perks? (professional photos or video which will contractually be made available to us, awesome location, swanky catering, free equipment or costumes, male models named Dante, etc.)
• Where is the event being held? Germany is a very different market than Ecuador.
Is this a non-profit, fundraising event, or other event where a budget is so tight it squeaks?