Five Years with the Hoop - in this room the hours of love still make shadows
Nov. 5th, 2013
07:00 pm - Five Years with the Hoop
My hoopiversary is November 5th, 2008. My first hoop class, which was, amazing to think of it now, free, as the instructor had just started teaching - the very first to offer classes - in my small town in northern California. And as I celebrate my five-year hoopiversary, I want to reflect on where I started, where I've been and how far I have come.
My first class was not my first introduction to the hoop. That goes back to somewhere around 2005. I was at a Cabaret held in an aerial-silk performance warehouse called Synapsis in Eureka, CA. They happened once a month for around 2 years until the organizer moved on to different events. Always a mix of talent, and at this special Cabaret, someone had come up from the Bay Area - her name was Shredder - to do a performance with multiple hula hoops. Can I tell you, I literally had a "drop my jaw" reaction to what I saw. I had never seen anything like it.
By 2006, I had attended enough outdoor music gatherings to see a hoop or two here and there, and I knew someone locally who made them. I wanted one to circle around my waist at music events so I ordered a huge (must have been 40") pink/green/silver hoop from Alegria. However, I still don't feel like we've gotten to my Hoopiversary yet. Because the next two years would go by with that hoop sitting around my apartment, only to be used about 2 or 3 times...until....
Part 1 of my Hoop Journey....2008-2010
My first hoop class. Wednesday, November 5th, 2008 - and this teacher was running a special in this brand-new-to-hoops town wherein all November classes were free. My first class I learned how to get it up from around my waist to up above my head. That was it. I was hooked. I went every week for several months and attended classes regularly until my move from CA to NY in April 2010. I even lost 20 pounds in my first year hooping - taking breaks at work and practicing for 15 minutes 3 times a week, going to classes. Let's take a look at that first year hoop - which my visual evidence of starts in February, 2009....
Amazingly, the very first photographic evidence of my hooping was also featured on Hooping.org. I wouldn't have even known it was there (I was never contacted) if it weren't for a work colleague who'd heard me talk about hooping and ended up there on a Google search, only to see me on the home page! Here's the photo that was featured.
Once things warmed up, I started going on Hoop Walks. Basically, living in Humboldt County, you go on nature walks a lot. There's not much else to do. So, I started bringing my hoop with me. I'd waist hoop and practice tricks every now and then along the way. This is from along the Mad River, just a 10-minute drive from me and where I hoop walked often.
May in Humboldt County is Kinetic Season. One of the most cherished experiences of my life, I was a multiple-time Kinetic Spectator & Peon, and naturally brought my hoop with me that year.
Hooping and hanging out on one of the many rivers in Humboldt was a favorite past-time.
In April of 2010, I moved from Arcata, CA to Brooklyn, NY. This change was amazing and incredibly absorbing. I completely dropped my hoop and didn't pick it back up until 9 months later.
Returning to the Hoop - 2011
In my absence from hooping and the gluttony of my first 6 months as someone who moved from a rural area to the vegetarian paradise of NYC...well, I had gained back the 20 pounds I originally lost by eating out all the time. I was ready to lose that weight, and what better thing to do than pick up the toy helped me lose in the first place? And so, I started Ann Humphreys' Introduction to Hooping series in January 2011. Only a 12 minute walk from my house, I was hooked on classes again, and moved on to her Intermediate level..and then one more round of the same before she left NYC. I started hooping again on my own and purchased collapsibles from Troohoops to cart around NYC and eventually, on my travels out of the country.
From the many hours I spent in Ann's classes, she helped me build the foundation to some very important elements in hoopdance:
- The very first time I started hooping in my opposite current, and maintaining that drive to do everything in both.
- Practicing "sway" which I have to say, I was very uncomfortable with for a long time. I felt it was hippie dance stuff and didn't get it. But that's not to stay I didn't try to participate in it, and the act of forcing myself to at least try during each class, led to me over time becoming more comfortable with it. This was the very important beginning roots to me unlocking "Uninhibited Movement" which I feel is so important to dance. Because of the work I did here, the weekend intensive I spent with Baxter was even more fruitful to unlocking my "flow."
Baxter's class truly unlocked my "flow." I was in session with him for 9 hours over the course of a weekend. With the help of having experience of sway from Ann's classes, this weekend of blindfolded movement and Baxter's guided encouragement to let go and become one with "your body your body your body your body," enabled me to let go and unlock a true flow state for the first time. And once I had it, there was no going back.
Brecken's class taught me the smear, the smeave and the isolation barrel roll. All things integral to my flow to this very day.
In 2011, I went to several group hoop jams and larger workshops but noticeably left these without really speaking to anyone. At the time, as an introvert and new to the community, it was difficult for me to connect as everyone seemed to form little group conversations post-jam or class and I was too intimidated to jump in. But that would change for me later.
My first LED hoop was acquired in 2011- I have had many since, but I kept this one to lend out.
My first hoop video, filmed in Prospect Park in November 2011.
Hooping in a park in Sevilla, Spain.
2012 started out with a lot of hooping. I brought my hoop on a trip to Mexico in January, and danced around the archeological sites.
In February I bought foam coverings for my bedroom hoop space, which provided a perfect surface to dance on without marking up my hardwood floor. I also hung large mirrors on one wall for practicing tricks & isolations.
At this point I was Hooked on Hooping. Despite being winter, I now had my perfect hoop space indoors and was at it several hours a week. As we had an unseasonably warm early spring, I started hooping outdoors in March and was having the time of my life.
Until the first week of April. I was at home having a practice session, when after doing an isolation barrel roll I was suddenly in a lot of pain. I made it to the couch and was unable to move around much. After a week, I felt better and went to a hoop jam where I promptly re-injured myself and was in so much pain I could barely walk home.
I later found out that I had a complete muscle tear in my right piriformis, with microtears in the connecting muscles: gluteus, hamstring, and IT band. It took a healing journey of physical therapy, acupuncture, and regular massage therapy to feel better again 9 months later....but I'm still dealing with varying repercussions that pop up now and then, I just have better self-care and management tools (along with an incredible massage therapist).
I have had a lot of time since to process why I had this injury, and I have identified the following points I think are important.
- I was obsessed with practicing the isolation barrel roll and even though I was normally good about doing most of my moves in both currents, I was only barrel rolling in one direction. I later learned my technique needed to lead more with the hand & momentum that builds to provide less impact on the body.
- No teacher I had until the point of my injury ever discussed the importance of warming up - whole-body official guided warmups are only done by a handful of teachers, all of which I had post-injury. Also, when you're hooping many hours a week you need to mix it up with things like yoga and pilates. This is not talked about enough in the hoop community!!! All extremely essential parts to injury prevention that I have discussed with multiple professionals since my injury.
- Combine all this with the fact that I was drinking the night of my injury - I had 2 or 3 glasses of wine previous to hooping, and add that to no warmup and overuse of one side.....hello muscle tear.
This is what my hooping looked like after those workshops, taken on the UPenn campus in December 2012.
Prospect Park LED Jam
I returned to Mexico in 2013 and had an amazing time hooping on the beach. Here's a piece from where I stayed in Tulum.
This last year really took things to the next level for me within the hoop, both physically and socially. I started out the year attending weekly advanced classes with Bex Burton that were built around a structure of learning a "phrase" - a combination of 4 or so hoop moves flowing together. I did this through the end of April, and the number of new tricks learned and the ability to easily combine them together really took things to a new level for me. I had a second incredible experience participating in a Figment group hoop performance by Bex, this one titled "All is Love."
In 2013 I truly became comfortable hooping and getting into flow in front of others. It all started at Globesonic, an annual dance party held on a pier off the Hudson River in NYC. The music was good and loud and I was accompanied by other hoopers, so I didn't mind the throngs of onlookers - and this ability to comfortably hoop in front of a group of onlookers continued at crowded parties.
Highlights of the training I did in 2013 included attending HoopPath for the first time, my second Return to Roots festival, and some classes with Philadelphia-based hoopers at an event Be the Strange. I worked on many personal goals this year like the downwards escalator, body rolls, coin tosses, wedgies, a flique toss-to-body roll I'm still mastering, and more.
Socially, 2013 highlighted my friendships and sense of community with local NYC hoopers and I hung out with several of them outside the hoop. I had a major "first" when I officially taught hoop-dance for the first time as a Dance Leader and Co-Organizer of NYC's World Hoop Day festivities. This was the culmination of a vision I'd had for months of a video featuring many iconic New York locations.