Those Who Can’t Do, Teach? Why I’ve Decided to Shift Away from Performing and Move Toward Teaching.

I am debating whether or not I will use, “Those Who Can’t Do, Teach?” as the title to this post: it has such a negative vibe to it.  Also, there are a lot of people out there who do both, especially in the arts where the doing often doesn’t pay as consistently as the teaching.  The fact that I am practically half way through a hoop dance teacher training program is wonderful and exciting news and that is what I really want to share with you all.

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I think my personal path to signing up for teacher training, however, is a result of moving away from using performance to justify my hoop dance practice (the “doing”) and toward creating another kind of publicly-shared hoop experience for myself (the “teaching”).

You see, I never considered myself to be a natural born performer.  I was quite shy as a youngster, and never really felt drawn to life on the stage.  But, I have always loved the act of  dancing and I always wanted to be a dancer.  It wasn’t until I started Middle Eastern, Romany trail and Tribal Fusion dance in my twenties and thirties that I started to perform.  I am so grateful for those opportunities, but the reason why I enjoyed them so much was not so much for the tremendously uncontrollable bout of nerves before going on stage (yikes!), nor for the audience’s adoration, but for the comraderie with my fellow dancers, the creating of costumes, and the feeling that I accomplished something I’d never thought I’d do–dance in front of the stark eyeballs of many spectators.  There was a tremendous sense of pride and adrenaline after a show, and the feeling I accomplished something significant and totally uncharacteristic of me.

Then I learned that stage fright, in essence, is the poisoning of one’s self with adrenaline.

Despite me trying to identify myself as a performer, over the years my my nerves never really settled, and they seemed to be worse when I did hoop performances, perhaps because there was a prop involved, and that prop was often on fire.  The last few times I performed with my hoop, I felt the satisfaction that came post-show didn’t outweigh the anxiety I felt prior.  After one recent performance I had a full on panic attack!  I was wondering what was going on with me.

I realized that hoop performing for me was not so much the song of my soul, but method of filling a hole in my ego.  I no longer felt the need to prove myself, and really this proving was only to myself and not others, although the self and others for me got quite mixed.  Now, that’s not to say I will never perform with my hoop ever again, but I want to move away from it being the purpose behind what I do, thereby lessening the expectations I place upon myself and hopefully reducing some anxiety around it in the process.

What is weird is that I am not super keen on teaching, either; that is, teaching in a traditional sense.  I do enjoy teaching, though, and my typical “day job” is a kind of teaching of sorts (I provide student support in public schools).  I have a background in horticulture therapy, and because I work with people of diverse abilities, I think the therapeutic approach has really influenced my philosophy on how and why we learn and acquire knowledge, for what reason and to what end.

It is a very western thing to live a competitive existence where what matters are excellent results, and where social esteem comes from being considered the best at what you do.  A lot of people are naturally competitive, they have a healthy approach to competition, and I think that’s great.  However, in a move toward a more inclusive world I really think we need to re-evaluate our ideas of mastery and success and what those two things looks like on every body.  What I really love to do is create programs and experiences that are accessible to everyone, and that are more about the process than the end result.  Sure, I love to help someone learn a practical skill like waist hooping, but I really like an approach to learning things that is multi-faculty and and multi-sensory.  I desire to create opportunities where the sheer joy and experience of learning comes from participating in an activity, and where the end results are secondary.

Remember being a kid and practicing something over and over again simply because you wanted to learn it, and then the practice itself became part of the passion for learning?  Through teaching, I desire to rekindle this playful curiosity with our learner selves.  Often when I see an adult pick up a hoop for the first time in awhile, they spin the hoop around themselves, it drops, they perceive it as a failure and say, “I could never hula hoop, even as a kid…” and move on with their day, secure in their belief that they will never hula hoop.  Not to say that everyone has to hula hoop, but it saddens me how hard we are on ourselves and how we don’t even give ourselves a chance to make the mistakes needed to learn.  And heck, even if we are the slowest learners in the class, so what?

For my next few blog posts, I want to share my ideas on learning, teaching, the concept of Flow, movement as healing, nature archetypes….  All of these “soft skills” that come from learning which are quite often devalued in our results-based society.  I am feeling, with all the things going on in the world right now, a return to valuing such concepts equally and alongside the conventional purposes for any kind of education is direly in need.  Yes, perhaps it is a feminine/masculine balance, in the spirit of yin and yang, but I don’t want to dismiss it entirely as New Age hoo ha, either.

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions Three: Exposure and Expression (Part Two)

So, I spent a good while thinking about this topic, how women present themselves in social media and whether I thought showing skin was radically feminist, or the internalization of misogyny.

Could it be possibly both?

Just as a disclaimer, how a woman chooses to express herself is her choice and I totally support that, above all.  When I see a hoop dancer on Instagram in booty shorts, I’m not judging her choice of clothes because I’m too busy admiring her hoop dance.  I just remember being mildly shocked when I first came across this phenomenon, and I wondered, despite my self-declared open-mindedness, why?

I never feel like a woman is “asking for it” whether she is in a string bikini purchasing batteries at Walmart or walking downtown at night.  Above all else, this is my firm and unshakeable belief.  I just wanted to state that clearly, in case I appear too judgemental of others.  A woman is a human full of ideas, thoughts, emotions before anything else and we should always be treated as such no matter what we are wearing.

Nor do I think myself intellectually superior because I choose not to hoop in my underwhoopies.

Yet, I hoop in my sports bra and post it to Instagram (which some might think a 40-something year old woman should not do), and I often get sidelong glances for walking downtown in my leggings.  Yes, I  have legs!  Unbelievable!  Some women have legs.  Shocking stuff.

This is my point.  I consider myself to be a feminist.  However, I wanted to examine this issue a bit more deeply for myself than dismissing it thus: “Whatever people want to do, if it’s not hurting anyone, is just great!”

To be honest, I am finding my answer harder to express than my question.  Here it goes:

I think this issue is less about women themselves and more about the ideas about women in any given society.  Whether it’s the Canadian conservative government trying to ban women from wearing the niqab at the citizenship ceremony, or the judgements that arise from how a woman presents herself in social media, it’s less about the cloth trappings and more about the controlling of women.  The irony is, whether it’s the niqab or the using of scantily-clad women to sell beer,  both are expressions of patriarchy imposed upon the female body and therefore both shape society’s perceptions of women.

Yet, when women try to claim these physical expressions for themselves, it becomes a social, political, and moral outrage.

This, I understand now, is why I have some messed up beliefs about when and how I thought it okay to expose whatever body part, and when and how contradictory, nae, hypocritical, these now self-imposed regulations were.

All my life I have been delivered contradictory and hypocritical messages about my body, and as a result, I have internalized these messages into a bizarre set of rules about when and how I should express my physical self.  These rules do not make any reasonable sense; for example, hooping in a bikini on the beach versus hooping in your underwear in your living room.  Is there a difference, really?  I mean, really?  The same way rules around what a woman shouldn’t wear because she is a certain age or size are equally illogical.

To end, perhaps a woman hula hooping in her underwear and posting it on social media is a most radical act against patriarchy.  So is the woman insisting on wearing her niqab at her citizenship ceremony.  For some reason, it has been deemed okay if women are wearing these clothing options as an expression of patriarchy, but as soon as they are choosing them for themselves it becomes problematic.  Women are told to be modest, but if we choose it for ourselves we are prudes.  We are told to be sexy, but if we choose it ourselves we are slutty.  We are told we should look like a certain physical standard and wear certain clothes, but when we choose that standard for ourselves, we are hostages of a patriarchal Stockholm Syndrome.

Society has made it almost impossible for women to be perceived as independent thinkers.

In these times, rejecting these double standards and  reclaiming our physical self expression is a rebellious thing, indeed.

vid_19770228_120821_370_moment-2

Confessions Two: Exposure and Expression (Part 1)

About a year and a half ago, I joined Instagram.  My main motivation was the “Trump your Cat” movement where people were brushing their kitties then putting the loose fur on their heads in a haphazard toupee.

I have a ginger tabby, and as a result, I thought he would be a suitable candidate for presidency.  Orange-ish toupee?  Check!  Clearly, an unattractive hair piece is all it takes  to run a campaign?  Certainly, my cat would do a better job than Trump?

That’s when I thought Trump was some kind of weird joke.  I don’t think I would subject my cat to this humiliation now given the current reality of the situation.

Original Donald Trump Cat Toupee
Not my cat

Anyway, as I perused Instagram, I discovered not only was it populated by many, many cats, but many, many hula hoopers as well!  Cats and hoops! Well, I’ll be!  For me that was an addictive combo and I quickly became hooked.

Like everything in this rapidlychangingtechnologicalworld (yes, that phrase has now become a word in its own right), people feel strongly about social media exposure.  Some people–and not just older generations, but the younger ones as well–think people post too much, give out tmi, expose too much flesh, use too many filters–the list of criticisms go on and on.  Quite often I hear these comments directed at how women present themselves in social media.  Maybe men are criticized too, but because I am a woman perhaps I notice this more with women.

Awhile ago, one of the Kardashians posted a selfie of her naked body’s reflection in a mirror, her middle finger defiantly pricked up, with a comment along the lines as, “I love my body for all its imperfections so eff you world.”  I don’t follow the goings on of this family at all, but I reacted strongly (internally) to this image.

First,  I doubted the authenticity of her statement.  She seems pretty proud of her body, and it seems to be a beauty ideal most of us don’t share.  I mean, how extreme are those curves?!  I’m sure she spends a lot, a lot, of time and money on her body and has the luxury to rid herself of perceived imperfections and to cultivate a form that represents the epitome of physical female beauty.  Flat tummy, large breasts, perky bum, toned thighs:  she’s shaped like a babe from a Conan the Barbarian comic book.  I felt her statement to be false and grandoise.

And her vapid expression annoys me, to be honest.  Does she ever say anything worthwhile?  (I wouldn’t know, since I don’t follow her goings on).

You see, I originate from a school of feminism where I think women should be celebrated for their thoughts and not their bodies.  However, I also applaud burlesque dancing and how much of contemporary feminism involves a woman’s freedom to love and express her physicality and sexuality.  Yet, If burlesque is considered more of an art form that embraces all body types, conversely I have frequented and performed in strip clubs (not as a stripper, but as a hooper for a cancer research fundraiser) and I am not offended by them in the least.  Stripping, one might argue, is sex in its most base expression.  And yet, I had to add the caveat “not as a stripper but as a hooper” because although I support women in their occupational choices, I fear being morally judged, myself.  It was for cancer research, after all.

This Kardashian post, to me, seemed like an ego-driven attention seeking action… But, oh oh, double standard alert!!!  How is what she is doing any different than a burlesque dancer doing a strip tease for an audience, or me posting three hooping videos back to back on Instagram, wearing nothing but leggings and a sports bra?  Are we not all seeking some sort of attention?  Is it because she is a Kardashian that I automatically reject anything she does as worthwhile?  Is it her celebrity I find offensive, or her act?

If I had a daughter, I would want to raise her to be a combination of her intellect, her emotions, her passions, not as an expression of her body, but of her mind.  But then, where does her body come into it?

All of this really made me question how I felt about how women presented themselves in social media.  There are a lot of hoopers on Instagram who like to hoop in their underwear.  Bums are in style.  I enjoy a good bum, myself.  However, my initial reaction was to question why do these lovely young women feel the need to dance in their underwear?  Don’t they want to be appreciated for their skills rather than their skin?  Are they trying to garner some sort of extra attention, clicks, likes, followers?

My judgements were quickly challenged when I realized I had certain situations and contexts where being scantily clad while hooping were, for me, morally acceptable.

For example, hooping in your bikini on the beach=OK.

If that bikini went up your butt=cue mild outrage.

Hooping in your briefs and t-shirt although said hooper is actually more covered than in a bikini=mild outrage.

What was with these weird  and arbitrary compartments in which I placed my morality?

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I’m okay with vintage boobies, but what about modern bum bums?

I am realizing I will need to do a part two on this discussion, but I will end it for the time being with the above image, which I love, of a Ziegfeld Girl holding a hoop.  I love the Ziegfeld dancer portraits by photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston.  How do I reconcile this image within my compartmentalized morality?

To be continued…

 

 

 

Confessions of a Skeptical Mystic: One

new-year-moon

Happy New Year World!

Well, scratch resolution number one off the list: vamp up old dance blog.  Well, not quite.  I’m halfway there just by showing up, right?  This whole site will be undergoing major renovations over the next while.  Yet, I really wanted to put something out there for this auspicious day of days, January 1.

How I came back to this place, my old The Spin Jinny website, you ask?  First, be forewarned, this blog entry will be rushed and the whole site in a state of transition and chaos–which is when the experts say not to put out anything new.  In your face, experts.  And the experts say, in your face The Spin Jinny, when no one bothers to come read your ramblings.

I am at work–I do care/support and I spent my New Year’s Eve happy, project-oriented, but sober in every conceivable way, since I am at work all weekend.  I’m sure my employer would be pleased to hear this bit of news.  However, a dry New Year’s is not new for me so I can’t use work as an excuse.  After indulging excessively during Christmas, I often use the new year as motivation to wake up bright and shiny–even early, earlier than normal.  I love waking up before the world does.  On New Year’s Day, the world takes longer to wake up, too, which is sweet.

Sleep in world, rest tight, I’ve got things covered for awhile while you nurse your tender hangovers.

My main Christmas sins are wine and cheese, how about you?  I know wine and cheese sound completely cultured and respectable, but I don’t really care how fine the wine is or if it pairs well with the cheese, so long as I’m tipsy, my taste buds are satiated, and milk fat is coursing through my veins… that’s as high as my standards go.

Oh yes, how can I forget, dark fruit cake for breakfast: a newly acquired habit picked up this festive season, and I indulged in this fancy to a point where I couldn’t wait for January to show up so I could just stop! 

Oh yes, and don’t forget the social cigarette smoking. Non-smokers like to remind me of this, when they look at me, eyes wide, like the fragile fabric of their entire world has fallen apart at the seams, and say, “I didn’t know you smoked!”  I don’t.  Just socially and when I’m feeling social anxiety.  And since I am an socially awkward introvert, social anxiety smoking happens more than when I am socially smoking, but not that often, since I hardly go anywhere worthy of too much anxiety, like a bar or a party.  I’m generally a pretty healthy person.  I run, do yoga, love nature, and I’m almost a vegetarian.  Don’t judge me too harshly, but if I help you with your sense of superiority, you’re welcome.

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Right, why I am here, instead of feeling defensive and writing about it.  The need for justification is strong within us humans, so here this human goes with her justification.

The main reason I set up this site and paid for the domain name was to provide cyberevidence of my dance and performing activities when I applied for a particular music festival awhile back.  However, I have paid for “thespinjinny.com” while doing very little with it for over three years.  When the renewal comes up every May, unable to let it go, I pay the fee which goes to support the fine people at WordPress, I help to put food in their little bellies,  but in the end it gives me very little in return.

I am here now because I went from performing and studying dance frantically for several years to a point where I wouldn’t care less if I were to perform ever again.  Well, “care less” is a strong statement, since there are parts to performing that I really enjoy.  However, I am not about to give up dancing.  Then what’s the point of training if one does not perform?  Personal satisfaction, of course, yet I like to add dimensions of intention to my endeavors.  Perhaps that is that “justification” thing creeping in again.  If I pay a couple of hundred dollars for a tribal fusion belly dance workshop, I should do something with it, right?

For some reason, the title “Confessions of a Skeptical Mystic,” as cheesy (and as self-aggrandizing) as it sounds, popped into my mind this morning, and I like the irony of all of these words put together.  For me, the connection between seemingly opposing things has been a major source of inner torment for me for much of my life.  My interests and beliefs seem to defy reason, yet I am strongly influenced by reason.  Yet, I resent reason to the neglect of intuition.  And yet, I become frustrated with too much woo-woo without intellectual contemplation.  I feel my intellectual/emotional innards are being pulled apart on the medieval rack.

Already this blog post is way longer than I anticipated, so I will go more into oppositional forces in future posts.  Indeed, that will be the main theme of this blog: uniting things from seemingly opposite ends.  My main effort will be seeing how successful I can combine hoopdancing with writing, if there are any interesting connections to be made worthy of your eyeballs and respect.  I like hula hooping.  I like writing.  If I am not performing so much anymore, perhaps I can use writing to justify my hoopdance and vice versa?  Why not give it a whirl?

Blessings in the New Year, fine people. I love us.

The Spin Jinny

Dance Blog

Summer 2014 to Spring 2015

Am I the only flow artist who has a hard time keeping up on her blog?

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It is hard to believe spring is here already, and it has come early to us on the west coast.  Time to plan for summer!

The biggest event for me, performance-wise, in the last year was ArtsWells, Festival of All Things Art.  Situated deep in the Caribou of British Columbia, the village of Wells itself is a vintage gem… almost literally since it was once the heart of a 1930s gold rush!  It has been revitalized by a bunch of spirited, pioneering, and creative souls who also produce an incredible festival where a goer can be expected to be surrounded by music and art wherever they wander: in the venues, in their tent, while bathing in the stream, while watching the sparrows fly…  It is truly a magical place to which I hope to return.

LED hooping to Adham Shaikh at ArtsWells
LED hooping to Adham Shaikh at ArtsWells

In August 2014, I also had the pleasure of performing a solo poi hoop “belly hoop” performance at Atmosphere Gathering, as well as joining my friends at Arcana Dea Dance in a fusion belly dance choreographed by Cathy Stoyko.

In November, NOVA Firespun Arts was invited to do a show for the Comox Valley Christmas kick off, “Moonlight and Magic” event.

Moonlight and Magic 2014
Moonlight and Magic 2014
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Balkan Brass Wedding, April 2013 with Orkestar Slivovica http://www.orkestarslivovica.org/

More here soon!

Performance

photo by Ron Pogue

 

ArtsWells “Festival of All Things Art,” August 1-4, 2014.

I loved this festival, village, and landscape so much I want to move there.  I still have to convince my family, though.

 

Atmosphere, Cumberland BC August 15-17, 2014

 

photo by Ron Pogue

PAST PERFORMANCES 2014

 

Canada Day Variety Show at the Sid Williams Theatre, Courtenay BC, July 1, 2014

Guest hoop dancer with Island Hula Hoopla

 

Elevate the Arts, Courtenay BC, June 4-7

Fire show with NOVA Firespun Arts

Solo bellyhoop dance at the Tribal Cafe, hosted by Cathy Stoyko and New Horizons Belly Dance

 

Taiwanese Lantern Festival, Cumberland BC, February 15

Fire show for sky lantern release (in the sleet and snow!)

 

Electroswing Speakeasy at The Waverly, Cumberland BC, January 17

Guest LED hoop performance for Speakeasy night with DJ Elizar: old-timey-techno-swing-belly-dance-hoop-fusion!

 

photo by Sarah Kerr

OTHER PAST PERFORMANCES

 

Tribal Cafe at Elevate the Arts 2013: Arcana Dea Dance troupe member and solo bellyhoop fusion

 

Tribal Cafe 2012: Blue Lotus (“Romany trail” dance fusion troupe member) and solo bellyhoop fusion

 

Balkan Brass Wedding, April 2013 as LED hoop dancing bride

 

Courtenay Winter Fest, 2012 and 2013: fire spinning guest with VestFire Entertainment

 

Comox Valley Art Gallery Masquerade Ball Fundraiser 2012: bellyhoop dance

 

Vancouver Island Musicfest, 2009 to 2011 with NOVA Firespun Arts: roaming flow artist aka “Magical Friend”

 

Vancouver Island Musicfest, 2012: guest roaming flow artist with VestaFire Entertainment

 

Comox Valley Nautical Days 2009 to 2012:  NOVA Firespun Arts Fire Show

 

Cumberland Village Works‘ Big Time Out Music Festival, 2008 to 2012: Blue Lotus troupe dancer, solo bellyhoop fusion, NOVA LED roaming

 

Cumberland Village Works’ Big Day Up, 2011 (on Mount Washington Alpine Resort): NOVA fire show

 

Island Hula Hoopla’s Happy Love Hoop Show, 2011

 

Cumberland Village Works’ Winter Solstice Event, 2008-2011: NOVA multi-media spin and glow show; Blue Lotus dancer

 

Campbell River Pirate Days 2011: NOVA Fire show

 

Campbell River Rain and Fire Arts Festival, 2011: NOVA Fire show

 

 

led
photo by Sarah Kerr