When a super-skilled hooper, on the brink of becoming a ‘performer’ asks me for suggestions, it always starts with …
“Get your eyes up”
When a performer looks at the ground, it gets a so-so reaction. “You looked like you were having a good time” or “You must have practiced a lot”. When the performer gets the eyes up, and connects with the audience, the comments turn towards “Inspiring!” “I felt like I was dancing with you!”, or my favourite — a stunned, wide-eyed, loving, silent moment.
Hoopers looks towards the ground for many reasons. We start our hoop-life staring down at the wonder of our own hooping ability. We hoop outside and need to watch the ground for sticks and potholes and poo (or, inside, watching for lamps and toys). We wear sexy halter tops that pull the neck forward. We are nervous and don’t know where to look, so we look down to avoid eye contact, which becomes a habit that can stay with us even after the butterflies have passed.
The first two we get used to, the third requires a wardrobe shift, and the final, it takes a little bravery and some focused practice. Here are some exercises you can bring into your practice to activate your eyes!
Fix your gaze – Identify a Spot in your practice space that’s not on the ground. My favourite is tree tops, you could use a picture on the wall, or the seam between wall and ceiling. For one song, keep your eyes fixed on The Spot and when you notice yourself going back to the ground, gently (and lovingly) bring your gaze back to The Spot.
Expand your view – See how far you can look to the left and right, up and down. Focus on something close and focus on something far. Scan across the scene and look at every.point.along.the.way – no skipping to the end! When our mind focuses, we lose peripheral vision, so this is an especially important step when hooping right after work.
Notice your surroundings – To get your sights outside of your sparkly bubble, be curious about your surroundings. Read signs, count cars, find the tallest tree, find the slowest moving cloud. Look at the people hooping next to you!
Watch the music – Bring all these together! Move your focus point each time the music changes. Maybe it’ll happen with the chorus, maybe every 4 counts of 8, maybe every time you hear that ‘woop woop’ sound you love.
PS: The night after writing this post I went out dancing and remembered another factor that keeps eyes down – bright lights! Whether trippy-flashy-rainbow lights in a dark hall, or that big-burning-hunka-star that hangs out in the sky, we’re going to bow down to avoid direct light. To help with this, I wear a short-brim hat so that I can stand tall and keep my eyes up, stylishly shielded!