My daughter was born in August of 2007. Most mothers experience depression soon after the baby’s birth but I didn’t until I returned to work. I like to refer to that time as “the winter of my discontent”. Now that’s a bit laughable because I’m known as someone who’s in control and not phased by her negative emotions. I was taking to being a mother with unexpected grace, but I had completely abandoned any remnants of me in the process. I spent my days interacting with the world as a zombie and saving all of myself for little Amara. It was easy to say that I was just tired because of the baby but to be honest, I felt like I was melting from the inside out. I needed a lifeline, something that was only about connecting to myself. I began searching the internet for anything that resonated with me. I found hooping on you tube and tribe.net simultaneously, and they seemed to fill the gaping hole where happiness should be.
I became enamored with the idea of twirling the hoop around my body. I wanted to be physically dynamic like my you-tube hoop heroes. I started using Walmart hoops with a group of 4 year old girls that I worked with. They took to it quickly and teaching them gave me the inspiration to continue trying. By May, my depression was the farthest thing from my mind. I was consumed with my family, hoop-dance, yoga and belly-dance. For my birthday my mother bought me an adult sized hoop from Lara of Superhooper.org. That gift was a game changer. I started hooping that night and have never stopped practicing regularly.
Learning how to practice was the hardest part for me, although being driven by my passion helped lessen the strain. For the first year of my hooping life, I twirled the toy around my midsection exclusively. I learned to walk, spin, change speeds, change levels and how to express the message that I found in the music. I think of this time now as my incubation period.I was trying to improve my skills on my own, but trying reinventing the wheel limited my abilities and keep me from getting involved in the greater hooping community. At some point around my 1 year hoop anniversary I wised up and attended my first hoop jam hosted by Lara. We danced, mostly interpreting the music that she had mixed for class. It was a range of music designed to keep us on our toes and not get lulled into a secure groove.
One day Lara taught me to lift the hoop from spinning on my waist to my hand, overhead. She was so upbeat that I couldn’t help but feel enthusiastic about my progress. I left class without a success but bursting with confidence. The next day I put some music on and just drilled the movements. I continued like that for 20 minutes until I got it right. That’s the only way that I’ve ever successfully learned new hoop moves. If you want to learn how to hoop, my suggestion to you is to drill the movement super slow with the largest hoop you have and then practice full speed until you’re either exhausted or satisfied. After that, apply the movement into your dance in as many ways and combinations as possible. Play with the angles, beats, and don’t forget to use your reverse direction! Hooping in the reverse is vital. This video, LOVE, from Hooplur, will illustrate how very basic moves can be strung together in a flow. That’s what hoop practice is about, thinking up a challenge to take on and then finding your flow, gracefully.
My first event that I brought my hoop to was a party called Body Shots in downtown Atlanta. I danced all night to electronica while my husband played photographer. Back then, no one that I encountered in the Atlanta party scene knew what hooping was about, but now there’s a hooper at every party I attend. As my talent grew, so did my need to be accepted by the hooping community. I’ve never felt that I fit in with the norm so I was extremely dedicated to adopting the hooper persona. I wore short skirts, furries and bikini tops and toted my hoop to outdoor music festivals and any parties that were playing electronica. I threw myself at any opportunity to dance in public and I’m so glad. At this point my highlights include gogo hooping at a foam party, being a moving model at art parties and dancing to the beat of my own drummer in the lobby of the Hilton during Dragon*Con.
My absolute favorite way to hoop is improvisational dance to live music. Dance can be so logical but if the dancer has an undeniable understanding of the music they can turn something beautifully unruly and confusing like EDM into something so obvious that it feels like the idea is originating from inside the viewer. It’s like the musician, dancer and viewer are having the same thought all at once. We’re co-creating the performance. It’s the most lovely experience and I deeply wish for every dancer to have that at least once.
As with any relationship, I have ups and downs with hooping but it’s always been the community that reminds me of how much I love my practice. Aside from youtube, the following resources are my favorite places on the internet to get my hoop inspiration.
Lara of Superhooper uses this blog to prompt students to move forward in our personal hoop practice in a thoughtful way.
While most people claim the “Tribe is dead”, I feel differently. Pour through the archives of various groups and you will find the entire history of our community as well as amazing advice to problems that you’re having or hadn’t even thought of having yet.
Created in 2003, Hooping.org has become the center of the hoop culture. While everyone uses the resources available in their own way, this site is the closest thing to a newspaper that we have. Updates are daily and always pertinent.
No matter who your teacher is, what your musical taste is or how you practice, everyone’s dance is inherently different. I tell my students that hooping is a mirror. It shows all of your influences, your aspirations and your experiences. Hoop dance is not just an adult’s way of reinventing a childhood toy. To hoop is to spiral into the truest expression of your Self. With all my love, I wish you joyful dancing and an enlightening journey.
About Ayanna Kafi
Ayanna Kafi: My name is Ayanna Kafi. I’m an introverted, highly friendly and style minded, Taurus, mommy. I spend my (free) time chasing knowledge. This has led me to my obsessions with writing, yoga, Reiki, hoopdance and bellydance. I have a knack for understanding with great depth, where people want to be and how to get them there, even if they have no idea themselves. My external mission is to clear the fog from people’s path so they can see it as clearly as I. My internal mission is to live an ecstatic life that is self-contained, self-sufficient, sustainable and highly styled. You can find me at http://www.ayannakafi.wordpress.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.