You may have seen me with my hula hoop... dancing with a plastic circle with pure joy and abandon, in a public place...a park, or a beach, for example, or maybe a festival or a party.
You may have looked at me and thought, “I want to do that, but I know I can’t”. You may have even said this out loud, to your friend, or your husband, who replied, “Yeah, she must have a background in dance or gymnastics”. ( I have neither.)
You may have told yourself, “I am too old, too inflexible, too uncoordinated, too shy, too (insert appropriate descriptor here) to do that”.
You may have thought, “She is different than me”.
I may have made eye contact with you, and in your eyes I could see your feelings and recognize them as my own. I could feel your longing, and your self judgement, and your uncertainty, and I want to reach out and encircle you with my hoop and tell you this….
I am NOT different than you. And you CAN do this.
My hoop journey began when I was 36 years old. I was a stay at home mom taking care of my two daughters, ages 2 and 3. It was a difficult time for me. After my second daughter was born (13 months after the first), I gave up my beloved and exciting career as a freelance video editor. While I derived much joy and happiness from my wonderful and adorable daughters, the day to day tasks and monotony were grueling. I struggled with boredom, and with my perceived lack of a personal identify, (other than being a mom), since giving up my career. I felt like all I ever did was house and family related tasks. I dressed in dark colors to hide the food and other stains that come with toddler caretaking, and I felt drab, old, and boring. My yoga practice was really the only thing that saved me, but even this was not enough. I was judgemental of myself on, and off, the mat. I was struggling to just get by, I took myself way too seriously, and I generally was not having much fun. In becoming a mother, I had lost my spontaneous self, my adventurous and playful self, and yes, even my sexy self. I didn't like it.
On the Summer Solstice, 2009, my amazing and wonderful yoga teacher Sally Noel began our yoga practice by asking us what we wanted to work on in this new season of light. I had been brewing on the above issues, so I already knew what I would say when my turn came. "I want to become more playful," I said clearly. "Not just in my practice, but in my life. My goal is to take myself less seriously". How I was going to achieve that, I had absolutely no clue. But saying it out loud was a start.
Well, as the Universe would have it, about a week later I was at an evening party near the sea in my home state of CT. It was a mixed age crowd, varying from twenty-somethings to 50 plus bracket, and the atmosphere was festive and friendly. Music was playing, but no one was really dancing yet. Suddenly, I heard the hostess, my good friend Vonni, yell out "Ready, Kelly?" Her daughter, who had been living in California and was home visiting, replied "Ready, Mom". Her mom tossed her an enormous and beautiful shiny magenta and metallic gold hoop, then turned to the stereo and blasted the Michael Jackson song "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough”.
Kelly began to move and dance with the hoop. This was the first time I had ever SEEN hoopdance. I did not know such a thing existed! She moved it up and down her body, twirled it in the air, performed seemingly impossible tricks, and essentially...made magic. I was enthralled. Not only was I struck by the beauty of her dance, I was completely entranced with the look of pure, essential bliss and freedom on her face. She was beaming, and the joy and happiness spilling out of her was intoxicating. "THAT." I thought to myself, "I MUST do THAT". After the song was over, everyone clapped, and people took turns trying the hoop. Young, old, male and female.... a lot of people gave it a go. But did I? No. I desperately wanted to try that hoop more than anything, but I was too shy. What if I failed? What if I couldn't do it? What if everyone looked at me and laughed? I just could not do it. I wanted to be that free, but I couldn't.
You see, I was just like you.
That night, I went home, and stayed up till all hours researching hooping on the internet. I ordered a hoop off Etsy.com and waited impatiently for it to come. I dreamt of my hoop. It was the first thing I thought about in the morning when I woke up, and the last thing I thought about at night. When it came, I at first practiced in the backyard at night, only hooping in the dark because I was afraid what my neighbors would think. I soon learned how to make my own hoops, and my house became a hoop making factory. I slowly stopped practicing in the dark and came into the light, bringing my hoop with me, everywhere. I didn’t care anymore who saw me… I needed to practice and spend time with this new obsession. With each new move I mastered, I felt like a rockstar. I practiced for hours and experienced cathartic moments of both happiness and frustration. Then slowly something started to change. I began to experience a new connection between my body and my mind. As I developed my flow, I began to find great joy in using my body as a creative tool. As a lifelong artist, I was used to creating or experiencing art with my eyes and my mind. But now I was creating art with my body. My love for my own body and my appreciation of movement as an art form soared. The joy and the freedom I had seen in the face of the hoopdancer that night were becoming mine. My shyness, my fears, my cares of what others thought melted away, and I really believe it was NOT because of my increased skills as a hooper. It was because something in me had CHANGED. I WAS taking myself less seriously. I WAS becoming more PLAYFUL. I WAS living in the moment and celebrating this precious life. I progressed from someone who would only hoop alone, to someone who would bring her hoops anywhere, to someone who has performed in front of large crowds on stage. I WANT to inspire others as Kelly had inspired me. I WANT to spread joy and smiles and share the love of the hoop. I AM becoming the person I always wanted to be. And all because of a colorful plastic circle!!!
So this is what I want to say to you. You, the person who watches me, or watches any one of thousands of other beautiful hoopdancers out there in the world, and then walks on, telling herself the story “I can’t do that”.
You CAN. Hoopdance is a journey. It starts with just picking up the hoop. It starts by being gentle with yourself. It starts with learning how to play again, and with taking yourself less seriously. It starts by saying “So what?” It starts by reframing how you look at yourself. It starts by being in the moment, and by not being afraid to try.
Yes, hoopdance takes time, and patience, and the willingness to be in the moment. But what it really takes in trust in yourself, and the ability to let go of whatever is holding you back. There is a dancer inside all of us, and the hoop is the ultimate dance partner. There is no age limit, no right or wrong body size, no reason that YOU can not also dance with circles. Inside that circle you are safe, and you are not alone.
“We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust”. -Rumi