Hoop Convergence 2009
“I am often telling my artist friends that through my lectures I may reach a few thousand or a maximum of a hundred thousand people. But artists, through music, painting or sculpture, whether it is a constructive message or a destructive message, can reach millions. Therefore, artists can produce peace, love, compassion and harmony, which everybody wants, you see. Everybody is praying eagerly about that.”
-H.H. the Dalai Lama
One year ago last month I coincidentally jotted down this quote as a preface to the notes I took during the Hoop Convergence 2008. The first real gathering of that magnitude inside our diverse community. I, like many of you only had to show up without much planning or thought, and because I did I left accepted and held by our larger circular and sacred family.
I would say that was where the seeds were planted, and the intention set, but like so many lessons the hoop teaches I have ‘felt’ enough to turn away from linear time trickery – to at least conceptually breach the maya of our shared holographic universe… The overwhelming sensation is this:
We’ve all been here before!
Simply points along the circle, feeding into each other – slick diamond scales on the snake-like Ouroboros of Eternity.
Even still, the Earth has played it’s spiraling dance once-over around the Sun and here I am dissolving into depth. In fact that is what we are all doing. If time does not progress linearly outside of our carnal confusion, if all the pieces already exist inside of us, deepening, is what’s left. Deepening of relationships, of information, of message, of art, of understanding and experience.
The Hoop Convergence 2009 was deep man.
Ha! I find it gleefully serendipitous to run into that quote again one year later as some kind of E.T. feedback metric for the reach of this movement art, the very tangible growth of this community. And somehow seeing the ‘progression’ through the years is in fact testament to the blissful, and still untainted core of hoop dance. Call it what you will – we had many different interpretations of it in each workshop – but this flow, this Kundalini awakening has us each in a vice grip with no right angles to be found.
“But artists…can reach millions.”
And this is just the beginning. Revolva, Queen of Wit, mused on the shuttle back to Carborro of Hoop Convergence 2050. We’ll be in the old ladies dorm, grandmothers of an art form whose future is no longer our own…possibly knitting boot covers for the Indigo children of hoop dance…“back in my day…” Can you imagine?
But enough astral digressions.
Rainbow Michael and I spent the 3 days leading up to our departure frantically fulfilling firehoop orders, making double minis for our workshop and ironing out the redefinition of our interpersonal relationship…so it wasn’t until we were Raleigh-bound on one hours sleep that I had a chance to check in. Sifting through the memories of 2008 in between waves of pure exhaustion I took internal inventory of what felt different. The obvious: momentum. SO much more momentum in the hoop community…and with momentum came an astounding wealth of new information – new initiates into the community. But this year also had the sweet anticipation of reunion – that age-old nesting of tribal integration, of group-think…the web has been weaving around us. 2008 taught me enough to know that what I will take away from this year’s gathering will be unfathomably more than I could ever speculate or imagine. Surrendering to this I did my best to relax – airplanes have always uneased me…but as Michael says; the Angels can fly anything… and that day, they did.
We landed in humid, sunny Raleigh on Wednesday, May 6th. The ball began its proverbial roll. Our first interaction? Malcolm. Hilarious, talented, quirky, kind and communicative Malcolm (don’t worry, more on him later). Scooped up curbside by one of the many fairy helpers of the Carrboro tribe, the lovely Rhonda, we made quick time to the Heart of Hooping Haven. The Basecamp of Boo-ya, Hoopdrum Headquarters. Jewel’s, Scott, and Miss Rosie greeted us outside. Later to arrive was intelligent, chattery Kara Maia and Troy along with our muscle’s hero for the weekend – his hands.
The rest of the afternoon was prep-time played out, re-acquainting with each other verbally, and then later as guests in Jewel’s class, inside the hoop. We ate a sleepy dinner at Carrburritos and came back to find the buff, babe-alicious, the infamous, the diva; (drum roll please)… Spiral. Had. Arrived.
Haha, ok, sorry, just made myself laugh there. But really, I love her, and consider her one of my best friends – she’s certainly earned her pedestal. A little bubbly, beer and mosquito-biting porch time ushered me into bed before the rest. I made like a rock, and slept without dream.
I awoke to the Sun, and to the voices of Kara and late-night arriver, Revolva on the front porch. Revolva is a writer too. in fact, we share a lot in common…a discovery that to me is extremely flattering. It was nice to be able to chat through my morning maté high with someone on so parallel a path. Another business-minded moonlighter with a circular fetish. Makes for an interesting dichotomy at the very least. We all spent the morning getting things together, walking to Weaver street for breakfast and supplies. The shuttle to Chestnut Ridge Retreat Center came for us mid-afternoon.
Chestnut Ridge is located on who-knows-how-many acres of pristine, lush Carolina forest complete with a large canoe-friendly pond and accompanying snapping turtles, about 30 minutes from Carrboro. Michael remarked on the ancient quality and history of the land. It was nice to return to a place of ceremony.
Many of us teachers shared the Falcon Lodge cabin, which spoke again to the progression of the event, considering last year the Falcon Lodge accommodated everyone! The day did indeed smell of summer camp. I eagerly awaited my ‘bunk’ assignment. Number 4, with Ali Cat, Caroleena, Spiral, Revolva, and Kara. Score! Others started to trickle in…Rich, Stephan, Bas, Brecken, Michelle, Nayeli, and more. The general participants weren’t scheduled to arrive until the next day, leaving Thursday for the intimate ‘geek sessions’ between teachers and organizers. We certainly wasted no time.
Spiral and I were eager to share information outside the hoop while we still had the chance. As many of you know, Spiral has been training at the New England Center for Circus Arts in Vermont, and I at the Boulder Circus Center on aerial fabric. Fabric, as it turns out, is much like crack (disclaimer: I’ve never actually done crack), and I was in need of my daily fix. Lucky for me Spiral carted all 30 feet of tissu in her checked bag to the Convergence. We promptly found the perfect tree and rigged it effortlessly – well…she rigged, I watched her muscles bulge.
That day really did set the tone for the following few. Everywhere I looked I was overwhelmed with inspiration. I lifted my jaw off the floor more than once. My internal dialogue was wrought with disbelief that I even have a space amongst such raw talent. How is it that we are this blessed? What is it about plastic circles, balls on chains and sticks that empower us to be this embodied, this blissful?
Rhetorical question, of course.
Day 3. Enter Nayeli. One of my favorite Goddesses. Sweet, intelligent, tuned-in, not to mention breathtakingly beautiful, she led us early-birds through a morning Prana Flow and Acro yoga session in the sun. I practiced next to Jocelyn who was to lead our opening and closing meditations – so palpably pure-of-heart I had to stabilize myself more than once not to be knocked over by her Care-Bear Power. Not a bad spot to be in. As a group, the shared morning ritual further laced the invisible threads of our cohesion and trust with one another and an effervescence of gratitude set in for the simple things. The sun, the trees, the friends and the honoring of universal union – the oneness that yoga often brings.
The first sight of participants was an abrupt reminder that Hoop Con 09 was only just beginning. Opening circle began after lunch with the aforementioned Jocelyn grounding meditation and a silly name game reminiscent of the prior year. The lovely Jewels welcomed the group with natural ease, and was only slightly eclipsed by the camera man who chose to be the center of our circle (and who would make similar and equally flow-breaking decisions throughout the event, bless him). I stood pseudo-still succumbing to my fidgety excitement and peered out across the circle at all the faces. The energy of the collective was decidedly different than last year. Not better or worse, just very different. 3 times more people, 3 times more men and 1 year of tight cyber-sharing birthed a residue of overlap. Whereas last year I felt fresh and new, this year I wondered what I had to offer that was different than others around me…the ego knocks, such is human life on this planet.
Very appropriately Spiral kicked off the workshop circuit. Full of embodied grace that is second nature to one so polished, she set the stage for deepening awareness inside the hoop. Using the Labon (sp?) theory taught to her by a grandmother of aerial performance, Spiral worked with us to pay attention to both the micro and the macro movements, changes in speed, directions and sustained spinning to imbue performances with flawless intention. I stood at the front of the class like an A-student, hoping for some osmosis-like rub-off. Heck, any chance I can get.
Opposite her and next in line was the Boston Hoop Troop, Marria and Alicia who had us work in groups of 8 to explore linking patterns and fun movement games like roller coaster chains, flower of life patterns (my favorite) and partner collapsing cubes. Rainbow and I definitely geeked a bit on the cubes.
Day 4 began with Caroleena’s hand work class where we broke out of ‘T-Rex’ hands to borrow from popular dance forms like Flamenco, Modern, Jazz and Indian mudra (of course, my favorite). I pulled a lot of useful information out of this class and appreciated the guide to gaze, center line awareness and visualization.
Next I wandered over to Rich’s class (Isopop)…one I had been looking forward to since it was announced. Rich’s style is technical and masculine. Perhaps the most striking aspect of his flow is that he consciously uses all the space around him through maximum extension only to reign it in with ease and ‘pop’ into an isolation (the smallest circle your hoop can make). These abrupt changes in direction, speed and space along with a refreshing use of anti-spin vs. regular spin patterns make Rich one of my favorite hoopers today. Adding to his laundry list of desirable hoop qualities, Rich led his workshop with skill and was able to effectively communicate somewhat difficult and definitely new information without hitch.
Brecken. Wow. Brecken. Hands down Brecken takes the cake for repeatedly blowing my mind. Going back through notes of the weekend she appears on virtually every page. My aerial trainer/dance teacher once said; ‘there are no transitions in dance,’ and Brecken’s workshop and dance style both were testament to that statement. Breaking out of traditional horizontal vs. vertical plane structure, Brecken led us through a series of visualizations where the hoop was allowed to move ‘sphere-like’ through space like a coin wobbles on the rim. Once the sphere passes through, say a vertical space, we worked to seize that opportunity to pass seamlessly into that movement plane and back. Rather than 2-D flowers and spirals I imagined my hoop carving 3 dimensional spheres in the etheric field. I am looking forward to more of the wealth of information and inspiration Brecken has to offer.
The hilarious Miss Rosie of Hero Hoops kicked off the afternoon series with her playful dance workshop, ‘Fancy Footwork.’ Miss Rosie is one of those teachers who immolates polished professionalism, as she directs the class with the ease of a veteran instructor. We worked through 8-count dance-step movements like grapevines, pivots, and forward/backward steps with the hoop on our waist. I appreciated this workshop for the giggles it produced, the variety of movement (not-to-mention a yummy taste in music), and the joy of challenge. I told Rosie after class that she should really consider offering similar classes on a weekly basis in SF…lots of potential for raving-fans.
Next up, Revolva’s ‘Below the Belt.’ An entire workshop dedicated to the tootsies. It’s wonderful to have the space to focus on small bits of the whole and I appreciated Revolva’s enthusiasm to share an aspect of her dance that she has such command on. We began with a foot-Chakra grounding meditation that truly helped to stabilize for the following difficult foot combinations, like knee hooping, kick outs, and other such below the belt debauchery. Second half of the class we played with foot hooping on our backs. Always a HUGE treat to see, Revolva graced us with a demo of the 2008 trademark, the Tootsie Roll, leaving us with something to aspire to. Revolva, if you don’t already know, just absolutely rocks.
Last for the day, but certainly not least, fun and funky Michelle kicked my ass in the afternoon heat with her challenging double-angled on-body tricks. Michelle is one who consistently surprises me with her creative style and obscure techy tricks. Adorable and very lovable, she also made me giggle more than once when she’d say nonchalantly; ‘it’s like this,’ or ‘just do this,‘ and proceed to flawlessly demo a outrageously complex sequence. No problemo, right? Gotta love those classes/teachers who never fail to humble you. I have a big box around the words ‘MORE ANGLE PRACTICE’ on the page I used to take notes for her class.
Saturday night was the Fire Light Special in the pavilion. Ali Cat carved sacred space with her prayer song to the Goddess, invoking our ancestors and teachers around a huge bonfire. After individual prayers and the setting of intention under the full moon, Anah a.k.a. the infamous Hoopalicious was asked in the spirit of lineage to christen the performance circle with the first fire dance. The music, a delicate and haunting beat with an Eastern flare, began slowly at first. Anah’s incredible movements matched undulations and drum beats with practiced precision that rendered me, and many others, hypnotically speechless. Thus began a long night of both veterans and virgins igniting the sacred flame and harnessing the transformative power of FIRE. I went out close to the beginning with double fire hoops…warming up in a somewhat lackluster performance, then played later on with the double fire minis, Cosmic Fire‘s newest toy, and finishing with a super fun game of partner pizza tosses with Rich. Whoa, more of that please. Other memorable moments were Rich’s double mini performance, Rainbow Michael’s poi, SaFire‘s doubles and Jody’s virgin burn.
A little on that: Jody ordered a fire hoop from us days before the event. Michael and I traveled with it to give to her. Upon lighting Jody’s face drained of color, fear and near tangible concern set in and she watched with glowing eyes the flames reach their zenith. Holding the hoop still she muttered ‘is it burning right?‘ and a few times looked as though she’d rather pass it off or faint than begin to dance with it. I sat opposite her and was a part of the encouraging virgin burn committee who said, ‘hoop with it!’ ‘hoop with it!’ The moment that hoop began to circle her waist with the rush of the fire-like wind, Jody’s face transformed into pure bliss, her subtle body transformed so VISIBLY in the fire. The obvious metamorphosis brought many of us to tears. I have never been witness to such a breathtaking and special moment. It was a gift to remember. Thank you Jody.
The Hoop Convergence 2009 was characterized by a few pervading emotions. One of them, unfortunately for me, was exhaustion. The night after the fire jam a few of us…me, Spiral, Rich, Malcolm, Michael, and Revolva, Stephan and others, fed off the residue of whirling hoops and dissolved into late-night giggles and stimulating conversation. It was always difficult to pry away from the group long enough to throw in the towel for the night. 3 or 4am bedtimes became the norm…not that I’m complaining. The tightness of our bond so obviously goes deeper than the hoop. In retrospect I can only sigh with complete and total satisfaction and appreciation for such potent connections with you all. Yay! Blessings to you (and I’m talking about more than who is listed above – you know who you are), hoop brothers and sisters, you rock my world!
Day 5 dawned bright and clear. Another day of perfect Spring weather. Jewels channeled the infinite in her workshop that laid a roadmap of the Chakra system. Jewels deserves some serious cyber loving here. I have never met anyone so genuine, humble, open and honest as sweet Jewels. Speaking from the heart she easily taps into a Sufi-like mystical ancestry with gentle, un-presumptuous grace. Her dance, a whirling prayer. Her demo at the end was more than noteworthy. Moving with fluid, watery, whirling grace, a dance that can not be described as anything less than Bhakti – divine devotion, she moved us onlookers to tears. Jewels spoke about the power of healing others through movement and dance. She does just that.
Alley-Oop spent the first half of her workshop recapping some of what we learned from her last year – multiple hoops on the core, how to split them with hips and shoulders and how to maintain them. She’s a pro, and left much room for improvement on my part, but I did receive new downloads and was stoked for the break-down. In the second half of her class, I took 3 pages of notes. Alley has been studying with a Native American Hoop Dancer in Canada who was willing to divulge his sacred coupling of dance and story, ancient information. Alley taught it well, and had us squealing, ooing and ahing at every combo. I’m excited to see where and how this will be incorporated into each individual’s flow. Again the inundation of new information in the hoop community leaves so much space for inspiration. Thank you Alley for sharing!
Anah’s workshop was on partner or tandem hooping – one I would have LOVED to make, but RM and I had not yet planned out our workshop for the following morning (slackers!) and needed to slip out. I did hear about it the rest of the day, however. Many people saying that was their first successful attempt at tandem hooping. It’s no surprise to me that Anah delivered!
Stephan’s bubbly, fun and informal workshop entitled; ‘Campy Tricks and Cheeky Tosses’ held true to it’s name. Laughter was the background noise for this class as we experimented with huge tosses, unconventional kicks and circus wobbles. Stephan constantly reminds me to not take things so seriously, to add in character and theatrics into a performance and that a smile is sometimes worth much more than a trick.
Malcolm gave us License to Flail in what turned out to be one of the most valuable exercises I have experienced so far Demonstrating his wiggly, dancey, flaily free form gave us new permission to move, to open to what may initially feel stupid and ungraceful. Through that twitchy, uninhibited space new sequences came through that I began to decode and incorporate. Malcolm is a joy to be around. Very well spoken, a gifted conversationalist, he moves refreshingly against the grain. At the end of his workshop we formed a circle and stepped out one at a time to demo our new discoveries. Whattya know, there were MANY of them!
Closing out day 5, sweet late-arriver Annie, Queen of Annieland, led us in some indoor craft time, where we learned how to re-purpose tee shirts into sexy, fitting, Annie-style costumery. Yes please!
The Hooper’s Ball that night was a blast. Incredibly exhausted I went into it dragging my feet, but as things go, a few spins in the hoop to some funky music quickly re-energized me. I spent the night avoiding the video camera, whose bright light was disorienting. It was fun to switch between props; hoops, minis, flags, and poi and was even more fun to put everything down and just plain dance. A highlight of the evening was when Revolva stepped out onto the stage to throw down some tricks, thus creating a dancer’s circle. One brave hooper after the next made their way to the center evoking applause, laughter and admiration.
Afterward it was another late night on the porch of the Falcon Lodge. As Revolva and I made our way inside for bed a white, and entirely bare ass disappeared into the boy’s room sending us into fits of giggles as we brushed our teeth and pondered over the ass’s owner. Since that moment, the aptly named ‘Phantom Ass’ has been the brunt of many a joke.
Rainbow Michael and I rose way too early rubbing the few hours sleep from our eyes and chugging maté, desperately working to get into the groove to teach one of the harder workshops of the event IMO. 8:30am rolled around, breakfast time, and not one resident of Falcon so much as rolled over. Our workshop was scheduled to begin at 9:30. On top of that, Mother Nature decided Monday was a perfect day for rain showers, contributing to the lethargic, and overstimulated vibe of the morning. Slowly, people began to emerge from the shadows, rubbing circles of mascara, some still in the costume casualties of the previous nights pageantry. Going with the pudding-like flow of the morning Jewels announced at breakfast that workshops would begin a bit later than planned, buying us some much needed time.
Because of the rain, our workshop, ‘Magnificent Minis‘, was to take place in the lodge, rather than the sodden tent. We were excited for this change as it gave the minis a container, and us a stage to more visibly demonstrate. Despite the rows of red eyes and yawns, the workshops passed with much success and excited feedback. I was appreciative of Michael’s humor and clear grasp on the material and our trade-off of stage time complimented each other nicely. As the popularity of the minis or poi hoops grows, I’m excited to continue to challenge myself and others to find spaces otherwise unaccessible with the larger hoops. At Hoop Camp this year I will be teaching another minis class, this time with more focus on personal flow.
Our workshop ran parallel to Kara Maia’s of Mandala Hoops. It was a shame, as I would have loved to get her in depth insight to sacred geometry and hoop dance, but was also a blessing. Our workshops touched on some of the same information and thus complimented each other well, so I was told. Next time Kara, I’ll be there!
Well folks, that’s pretty much it. If you’ve read to the end of this blog post (ahem, novel) I applaud you. As much as I attempted to cut things out, the event itself left me too full for that to be an option. A HUGE thank you goes out to all of you who shared this space with me that were not mentioned here, and another HUGER thank you to Jewels, Scott and team for your never-ending and selfless hard work!
As Jocelyn closed out the circle I stood tall in a fully empowered personal space – a personal space that could not have existed without the support and love of the greater collective. Hooping and dance for so many of us is medicine. It is the stepping stone recognizing our own divine nature, our own connection to the infinite. Like Jewels said in her workshop, ‘Inside the hoop I felt like I had come home to my body’. It gives us the permission to love deeply. Why we feel like we need that permission in the first place is the real question.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”
Until next time brothers and sisters, be blissed and blessed in the hoop!
I’d like to take this moment of reflection to dedicate this blog entry to the ‘Phantom Ass,’ our mascot du jour.