Earthquake: The HoopPath in Minneapolis, Day 3

I know these posts are long winded, but there's so much to think about and I don't want to forget anything! If you're just tuning in, please take a look at Day 1 and Day 2. If I'm feeling particularly motivated after this post I might do a post about my general thoughts of what I got from this workshop. That could be fun to. :) Day 3: Technique Intensive

Sunday is when things really started happening. After warming up, we jumped right back into where we left off with shoulder hooping since we would spend most of the day on the shoulders. There must have been something about letting everything sink in for a day because I started shoulder hooping with less difficulty than the night before. It's still a struggle to maintain but it is definitely feeling more natural and that's always a good thing!

The first technique of the day was learning how to break the hoop while hooping on the waist or shoulders. When I say break the hoop I don't mean to snap it in twain or anything like that. I mean breaking the direction that the hoop is traveling and push it in the opposite direction. If you break the hoop and let it continue in the new direction, it is called a reversal. If you break the hoop and quickly break it again, that is what Baxter called a fit of breaks. I haven't really gotten far enough into learning second current that I can do anything beyond fits of breaks, but learning the different break styles has been very helpful.

Baxter advised that he thought most hoopers would improve their breaks by improving the moment the hoop reverses direction, or the catch. Instead of stopping the hoop completely, we needed to try to absorb the hoops momentum with the rest of our body. We started to twist into the catch instead of purely stopping the hoop and pushing it in the other direction.  Our hoops were less likely to be off kilter when we sent them in the new direction which is a common problem for people first learning breaks. If the hoop is just stopped suddenly, the side opposite of the catching hand has no where to go with all of it's momentum and has to go either up or down. The added benefit of this movement was that our breaks became more fluid and dancerly with our knees bent and our torso twisting with the hoop.

After learning a few different breaks, we started working on learning about "paddles". These involve pushing the hoop along in the direction it is going by using your hands inside the hoop. This might be a little tougher to explain so now is a great time for another Baxter video (even he makes mistakes sometime! ouch). In the video you can see one of the many techniques Baxter is famous for, a combination of breaks and paddles that creates this wonderful rhythm of motion and sound. When we started working on paddles, it was key to keep the hand as flat against our bodies as possible. Gradually we worked on trying to paddle with our arms more than the back of our hands to give the hoop a rounder surface to move on. This is where the bruises really happened! The combination of breaks/paddles is definitely something to work up to, the speed that hoop is moving is a little too much for me to process at the moment. I'm excited that I know the elements of this move because it brings a new connection to the music with the beats!

We were starting to run out of time when we dug into the Warrior technique that Bax is also well known for, so it was abbreviated. This style is more aggressive and tends to channel more meditative martial arts feelings. Check out Baxter's video of Warrior while he hoops to Tool to get an idea of what it looks like. This time was spent mostly playing with combinations of breaks, paddles and holds with the mindset of channeled positive aggression. I loved it and I look forward to playing with it more as I get better at the foundation moves.

Point was next and very brief due to time constraints. This technique involved not gripping the hoop at all, working with the natural movement of the hoop as it rested on you hands. Although this video shows more Isolation than Point, it's still pretty close to what we are aiming for. It was difficult to let go of the hoop so much and just let it go on the path of least resistance, moving with it and seeing where it took us but the challenge was interesting. I accept the fact that practicing this stuff will mean I look ridiculous to onlookers, but the point of Point isn't to impress people, it's to explore movement in a different way. At the end of this section, we tested our patience by balancing the hoop on the back of our hands at 5 and 7 for 2 minutes... Ben was the only one who maintained the balance the whole time (which was apparently a first for Bax, to see a student go the full 2 minutes on their first try, Go Ben!).

The very last thing we worked on in class before we called it a weekend was the toss. Tossing the hoop it pretty much the most fun thing in the world. Also the most terrifying. Between being worried that you'll cast it far off in another direction, thinking you might just miss the hoop entirely, and having it smack you in the face, there's a lot that could go wrong with tosses. The only toss I was all that familiar with prior to the class was the J-motion throw which gets tons of momentum. But a problem I was experiencing in my practice was beating the crap out of my hand when I caught it on the way down. Baxter told us that if we focused on catching the hoop at 5 or 7, not 6 and definitely not 12 (if the hoop were a clock-face), we would ease into the catch more and it would become more fluid.

At this point, we had gone over our time by an hour and simply had to wrap up. I was sad to end the weekend and say goodbye to Baxter (not without buying my fair share of HoopPath merch though...).

I think I will follow up with more thoughts on hooping in general since there's a lot of stuff I just didn't get to cover yet. Blogging might just have to happen more often. I'm having fun with this...

Happy Hooper

Blind Sway

Photography by Jessica Bessette