This weekend marked my very first hoop dance workshop. Baxter of The HoopPath fame brought his Earthquake tour to Minneapolis for the first time. When I say this man is magic, I mean it. I went in expecting to learn a bunch of specific tricks and styles that Baxter is known for and I came out with a new outlook on hooping. I wouldn't say I learned a ton of new tricks this weekend but I'm actually happier for it. I'll go into more details in the daily breakdowns. Since each day brought new revelations, I'm going to break them into individual posts so please check back if you find this recap interesting. I'll be honest, most of this is for my own future reference when I want to remind myself what we did. It's also mostly for people who already hoop, because most of these things just won't makes sense to non-hoopers. That's not to say I don't think you should read this if you don't hoop, just be ready for some rather out there concepts.
Day 1: Flow Session
The first night of class started like all classes would. We sat in a circle, introduced ourselves, and talked about the intention for the day/weekend. Baxter shared some of the theory behind his style and his approach to hooping. A good amount of focus was on thinking about hooping as a way to tap into your actual self. He talked about how our outward self (our hair style, our clothes, our hobbies, our job, etc.) is not our true self. It's an expression of how we interpret ourselves and very much influenced by our surroundings. But our true self is harder to pin-point and express visually because it is ever changing and sub-conscious. Baxter theorized that dance was a way to tap into that expression of self in a visual way but emphasized that it doesn't happen instantly. He called this state "Flow" and said that you could feel it for a moment or for an hour, but you could never force it.
When we were finally ready to start moving, Baxter introduced us to his practice of "swaying blind". We all spread out to give each other space and donned a blindfold to block out any visual interference or thoughts of "looking stupid". This was an exercise in letting go of any mental blocks about looking stupid or not doing something right and just getting in the habit of listening to the music and letting your body react to it. It felt liberating. I still thought I looked goofy but it was an amazing feeling to let my body explore movement in ways that I never really had before. We did this for a couple of songs, each time letting ourselves get more into it. I enjoyed this so much that it might end up becoming some kind of meditative practice for me... when I have the place to myself anyway. I don't think Chris is ready for that level of weird...
The blindfold practice continued with our hoops and we explored what hooping felt like when we couldn't rely on our eyes. After 15 seconds Baxter stopped us and reminded us to be aware of our hands or we will succumb to T-Rex hands. It's easy to focus so hard on maintaining the hoop that you forget where your hands are. Suddenly they look more like claws clutched tightly to your chest than part of the flow. The habit of bracing your arms like this most likely comes from making mistakes when you were first learning. Your body naturally wants to protect itself from an outside force. Hooping blindfolded got me to think about how it feels more than how it looks. I thought about the amount of energy I exerted and how to be more efficient with maintaining the hoop while being more expressive with my arms and legs. I was able to tap into my past experience with belly dance and let my arms be just as important as the hoop was.
After the blindfold exercise, we worked on walking and keeping our heads up to make us be more alert. We started walking in a circle but gradually Baxter encouraged us to cross through the circle when we found an opening to keep things moving and unpredictable. Running into each other was part of the exercise and we learned how to dodge and hoop on different parts of the body when we got too close to one another to stagger the hoops better. It felt very exciting and was a great way to really get moving.
The night ended with a short free hooping session and we closed the circle just like we opened it. I was absolutely glowing from the new ideas I was taking home with me, already excited for day 2.