I am pleased to be teaching a beginner and intermediate belly dance fusion class this fall at The Abbey Studio! I feel this is an honour: to share my love of dance with others in a magical space that has become very special to me over the years.
This class is multi-level and appropriate for new dancers as well as for those with some years already under their coin belt. We will delve into the zen of drills to hone our technique, as well as learn combinations to help us embody movement and flow. Belly dance can be earthy and sensual, graceful and elegant, or fun and funky and I wish to tap into all those areas of joy throughout the session. It is also a great core workout and wonderful for our postures.
Due to my diverse dance background and my eclectic taste in music and pop culture, this class will have a strong fusion feel to it (with homage to the traditional roots of Middle Eastern dance, of course).
My approach to teaching is based on my years of studying traditional and fusion forms. I have had the opportunity to learn from talented local teachers Cathy Stoyko, Bridgit Salas, and Edith Jacob, as well as from international notables such as Tamalyn Dalal, Aziza, Rachel Brice, Mardi Love, Kami Little, April Rose, Coleena Shakti, Martina Crowe-Hewett, and Luciterra.
I’ve been spending the past few days refining the elements of my upcoming workshop at Atmosphere Gathering, when, mind-mapping over coffee this morning, I had a sudden and powerful recollection.
It was at the Atmosphere festival (in its earlier incarnation as The Big Time Out) about 10 years ago when I really became inspired by hoop dance. I had taken a hula hooping workshop before, but put the hoop away for a couple of years and forgot about it. I had found one laying about at this festival: curious me picked it up.
My toddler son and his dad were amazingly preoccupied (napping?) at the time, so I indulged in this playful session with the hula hoop, with an abandon only a mom of a small child and an even smaller amount of free time could, to the beats of amazing live music coursing through my body.
After some time, a friend came up to me and said, “You are really good at that!”
Now, I’m not mentioning this compliment to toot my own horn, but to point out that what my friend was seeing was not my skill set (I could barely even waist hoop at the time) but myself captured in the beauty of flow. Her kind words only reinforced the “goodness” of my feelings, and sent me on a hoop dance trajectory in pursuit of the flow experience.
Flow in others is a delight to watch, but flow in the self is blissful to feel. It is a psychological phenomenon where the activity’s challenge meets the person’s skill set. Expertise is not required in order to reach flow. Indeed, I was a very beginner hula hooper and I was in flow. This is not to say there are not times now where I feel disappointed or frustrated with my hoop dance flow; yet, it always feels special and new when it does happen.
We can feel flow in any activity: from washing dishes to climbing a mountain. I find myself trying to become more aware of those times when I am in flow throughout the normal course of my day because these moments can potentially lead to a more fulfilling life.
So now, I find it quite touching that I will be teaching a workshop on hoop dance flow at the same festival where I found it, around a decade ago. My hoop and I have come full circle (ha ha).
I love making connections between things I am passionate about, and the circle of the hula hoop is an apt symbol to integrate the oneness of all (mysticism), with the union of movement (flow), and the integration of our ways of knowing.
In the workshop we will:
Examine the connection between mysticism and flow
Use our four ways of knowing to learn skills and help integrate flow into our hoop dance. We will be accessing our physical intelligence, our mental intelligence, our emotional intelligence and our imaginations in order to foster flow.
This workshop is suitable for all levels! As well as learning basic hoop skills for newcomers, I invite the intermediate and the advanced hooper to come and explore their mastered moves in new and playful ways. In fact, this workshop may benefit the flow artist who is feeling stuck or repetitive in their current flow. The focus will be on joy and playfulness. Many people relate to having mystical experiences as children: I invite you to bring the open and curious child in you to this workshop.
I am excited to be offering weekly summer drop in classes, Thursdays, at The Abbey Studio in Cumberland, 6:00 to 7:15pm. I look forward being your guide as we explore hoop skills and movement inspired by the elements. These classes will be suitable for all levels as we focus on skill development, layering challenges as needed. Tricks will be combined into sequences and circuits to help you integrate them seamlessly into your flow. There will be no class July 20: The Abbey is hosting a special event. Hoop classes will be $5 to $10 (suggested donation).
JULY 13: AIR
Waist-hooping/core hooping to off-body hooping skills and transitions
Floaty hoop isolations and tosses
Introduction to chest hooping
JULY 27: FIRE
“Wow Factor” tricks–even ones that look hard but are quite easy!
Hooping on different body parts
Escalators and wedgies
More chest hooping practice!
AUGUST 3: WATER
Creative transitions between moves that facilitate flow
In this workshop, we will explore how movement with the hoop can create a sense of dance and flow, no matter how new or experienced we are with the hoop itself.
The hula hoop is simultaneously a playful toy, just like the one we used as children, as it is a symbol of continuity and unity, shaped in the archetypal circle or wheel. In my belief, it’s in its playful beginnings as well as its symbolism which is what makes the hula hoop so appealing to so many people.
Wham-O may have trademarked the hula hoop; yet, there is another hoop revolution happening throughout the world. It is a social movement where people of all ages, genders and abilities are finding it as an outlet for personal expression. There are many masters out there who hardly hula hoop at the waist, and there are many hoopers who love to rock the hoop out on the core body, almost exclusively.
What is refreshing about this particular spinning prop is that there are no rules on how to use it–other than some physics and geometry, but heck, we deal with those details everyday. So no biggie, right? In essence, we creatively navigate these physical details everyday in our personal being and ability.
The elements, likewise, are the stuff we are made of. Using the four main elements (earth, air, water and fire) as a guide to our movement, we can channel those elemental feelings in our personal hoop dance expression. As your workshop guide, I will introduce moves and technique which I feel represent the elements, but how you interpret them is up to you.
The only prerequisite is that you drop the hoop from time to time in the process. It happens to all of us, and when you do, it only means you are imagining, experimenting and learning.
When: Thursday, July 6 6pm to 7:15pm. 2017.
Where: The Abbey Studio, Cumberland
Price: Free (this workshop helps me as a new hoop teacher, so I can’t promise a glitch free experience!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
Am I the only flow artist who has a hard time keeping up on her blog?
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.
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.