Review: Romancing the Hoop Workshop
by Anah “Hoopalicious” Reichenbach (Victoria, BC: April 22-24, 2016. Hosted by Hooperfit)
Romancing the Hoop: A Sensual Epiphany
|My hooperfriend 'The SpinJinny' got to attend a workshop with Anah 'Hoopalicious' Reichenbach! Here's her thoughts on the experience.|
I have considered myself a hoopdancer for 7 or 8 years now. My dedication and enthusiasm for my practice began waxing, waxing, waxing, then, ultimately, waning, waning, waning, until... you get the idea. Up until recently, I had felt I would be okay if I never really hooped again, the way I hooped in those early days, when I spent late nights on Hoopcity or Youtube, watching hoop tutorial after hoop tutorial. Needless to say, in those early days, I was obsessed. Or, to equate my hoop romance with a new love relationship, perhaps it is healthier to say infatuated rather than obsessed.
In the last two or three years, however, I had to make choices with my time. I chose belly dance over hooping and spent much of my extra energy and cash on dance workshops, classes, travel and costuming. The majority of my performances were belly dance based, and my exercise regime consisted of dance conditioning, yoga, and drills. Indeed, most of my social interactions revolved around belly dance.
I did hoop, but only when it was leading up to a fire spinning spectacle or a “belly hoop” performance (belly dance and hoop fusion, which I am often asked to do since it adds a little more visual diversity to a show). Other than that, months would go by before I picked up my hoop, I didn't devote time to learning new skills, and besides playing around at festivals, I was fine with this general drifting apart of “us.”
At one point, I thought to myself, if I never hula hooped again, I would be okay with it. It was, “Sorry, Hoop. I think it would be better if we were just friends.”
All this changed for me last fall when, for a variety of reasons, I started to pursuit the hoop with vigour once again. Enter phase two of my hoop relationship, where my hoop and I decided to reinstate our vows. There I was, comfortably in love with my familiar old partner, but doing the same expected moves: the dreaded relationship “rut.” I was experiencing a second honeymoon with my hoop, yet the vitality of the early years wasn't quite there.
Coming back after my hiatus, I noticed so much had changed in the hoop world, different styles and techniques I found endlessly inspiring, yet I was challenged trying to tap into that new creative spirit. I wanted to keep my own style, influenced by those body-rocking pioneers of the early hoop renaissance, while longing to spice up my skills. I also fell victim to comparison, the saboteur of creativity, and it hijacked my mental space while I watched hoop videos of these new, mind-blowingingly talented hoop innovators. Comparison is still something I struggle with, but I'm getting better at channelling that energy into inspiration instead of feeling not enough.
Late this winter, it was with impeccable timing I noticed Hooperfit Victoria's Meg McCormick hosting a weekend workshop: Anah Reichenbach, aka “Hoopalicious.” The Hoopalicious! Anah was my first hoopspiration, and she continues to be so. As I mature as a human and a dancer, I notice this interesting fact about myself: it isn't necessarily the tricks a dancer does that draws me to them, it's how they move, and often, it's a simple accent danced in a moment of stillness that wins my heart rather than some flashy techiness. With Anah, her technical skills are solid without a doubt, but it's her quality of movement and creative expression I find truly inspirational. Not only that, the current theme for her workshop tour is “Romancing the Hoop,” and it's all about building/re-building our relationships to our preferred instrument of flow, whether we are in the passionate throes of early love or in the“scheduling the nookie” stage. This workshop was just what I needed.
On the Saturday, Anah had us write down in journals why we hoop, and like any relationship, what do we give it in return. For example, for one reason I wrote, “freedom of movement,” and in return, to my hoop-partner, I devote “the practice and purchasing of hoops.” This writing activity sounds simple, but for many of us it may serve as a helpful reminder in any area of our life where we are experiencing the doldrums. The same activity could be applied to “why I jog” or “why am I avoiding sugar” and can help us keep our purpose fresh in our mind without taking it for granted as time passes. For me, it helped me put my hoop practice into perspective. It recreated intention. Then, we devoted the day to “body rocking” hoop exercises and techniques, which felt familiar yet strange with all the off-body hooping I've been doing lately and which seems to be popular these days in the hoop world!
A note on perspective: Anah was a master at honouring the importance hooping plays in our lives, all the while not taking it, or ourselves, too seriously. For example, on day one we began with waist hooping which we could all do easily. Anah would say, “You are moving an object with your waist! How cool is that? This was the hardest skill to learn at first and now you are all doing it effortlessly.” And we were all like, “Yeah! That's pretty freaking cool! Waist hooping is a pretty amazing concept!” That said, if we were to drop a hoop at any time in our process, Anah would say, “If the hoop drops, no big deal. It's just hooping, not the end of the world.” I really appreciate Anah's philosophy that simultaneously understands the importance and dedication of practice and celebrates the spiritual aspect of hooping, all the while allowing for joy, spontaneity, freedom, mistakes, and lightheartedness. In North America, we live in a competitive society where much of life is focused on results. Early in my hooping life, I too, I became overly concerned with nailing that trick, or being as good as so-and-so, and this pressure I put on myself contributed to me leaving the hoop for awhile, I believe. It could be why I burnt out: it took me away from why I hooped in the first place.
On Sunday, Anah led us in her off-body moves. Although she did teach us drills, combos, and technique, I don't want to dwell on those so much here. Quite often, I forget 90% of what I physically learn in a workshop weekend but the insight and wisdom I gain I remember forever. So here's what I scribbled down in my journal that day: “Feel hoop around body. Whenever stuck on a move. Focus on contact.” This was truly a magical moment, and I'll explain my gibberish now.
Anah instructed us to think of a trick we maybe get about 50% of the time (I chose the bunny ear pass). She then told us to close our eyes and waist hoop, just feel the hoop around the body at every contact point, and the ease by which we do this. Just breath and feel. We then returned to our “trouble” move with the same approach: just feeling the hoop as it moved around our body. No only did I nail the bunny ear pass each time after that, I felt more flowy and in-tune with my hoop. I was less anxious and more present. It was kind of spooky, actually, how well this tactile and mindful approach to hooping worked. Spooky-cool.
All in all, I really benefited from the sensual and mindful experience Anah offered us in her Romancing the Hoop workshop. The weekend was an epiphany for me. I feel I live my life analytically and also instinctively, and this has been how I approach my hooping. I'm a mind/heart person: equal parts intellect and emotion. The benefits I've received from my hoopdance practice were sensual and spiritual, but I wasn't always aware or appreciative of these by-products, nor was I cognizant of how tuning into my sensual side could not only help my hoop practice but also make it more pleasurable. Every since participating in Hoopalicious' workshop I can honestly say I enjoy hooping even more, I am enjoying my body while it hoops even more, and I feel more playful and light. And at this stage in my life, this is exactly the kind of romance I need.