Let’s face it – hoopers are territorial creatures. Sure, we welcome any one to come join us, try our hoop, but that doesn’t mean we’re low-maintenance — we like to have the space of 10 people when we do our dance!
I’ve benefited from this perimeter and the ‘safe’ feeling. Inside this sparkly bubble I’m free to move however I like, and no matter what I do, the hoop will be bigger, it will protect me! I love warming up the dance floor at the beginning of the night, my body alone seems so small in comparison to the endlessly empty dancefloor, but with a hoop it’s just the right size. Same goes for park space – that open field is crying to be used – me and my hooping friends can help make it vibrant! As a teacher, I’ve watched the shyest scardy-pants dancers explode into the space of the hoop – expanding and soon demanding more space! And I love that when I bike with a hoop cars give me more space on the road.
And it’s universally agreed that hooping makes you a better dancer. I think it’s because our beloved circle lets us conquer new territory in hoop-sized chunks.
(Today I think…) This is a core benefit of flow toys – they set up a boundary. Boundaries give something to expand towards, a goal of bigness. Sometimes this takes the physical form of a flying object, and sometimes the boundary is emotional – by practicing in a park I show ‘I’m doing something, I belong here.’
I see the same effect in other flow toys, each with it’s own bubble. Here’s a diagram I made.
Each of these toys has it’s own boundary, and it’s own feeling. If you like to get in there in the deepest part of the dance floor, or you want to have a solid conversation while playing, you’re going to like contact juggling. If you are wanting more personal space in your dance/life, you’re going to gravitate towards bigger props like hoop, staff and dart.
I recently realized my relationship with darters is based on territory. I hate jamming with darts, and I think it’s because they take up more space than I do…. and it scares the bejesus out of me when a dart whizzes too-close-for-comfort, with an unapologic darter on the other end of the string. I think about my favourite darter to jam with – Roland – and how he adjusts his perimeter and tricks based on the space available, and drops the prop for a conversation or hug or smoke break. Here’s a great example of using space – dynamic and shared.
While these boundaries help us to get more comfortable in a space, territorial behaviors can be aggressive and destructive to the dancefloor ecosystem. Like the executive wanting the biggest house house on the block, we too can get greedy about the space and miss the point – the joy of moving, the rawness of expression through dance, and the community flow that comes from dancing together in a shared space. My favourite shared spaces are fluid – where every dancer has a chance to take up space, and also gives up their space to allow for another to shine.
Of course you may be saying “My dance is different, I use a small hoop!” With a smaller hoop there’s the opportunity to take up less space, cause you need to work on those isolations anyway, right? Well, we can be just as territorially aggressive with a little hoop – the sharp motions of pops and the unpredictable nature of body rolls may not take up much physical space, but their speed and sharpness are scary, so there might as well be a full-sized hoop around you.
So how can I, as a space-hogging-hooper, keep my territorial nature in check? Here are a few ways….
Be aware – take your focus out of your bubble every now and then to see how the space around you has changed – are people still smiling, dazzled by the hoop moves? Or do they look cramped? Use your eyes as part of your dance and you’ll be able to move with the ever-changing space around you.
Connect with pedestrians – Find ways to bring them into your dance. Be friendly, wink, wave, check in. I find the best way to make a spot for myself in a typical bar venue, full of “let’s stand equidistant and totally still” beer-holders, is to ask “Would you like to see a hoop show?…. The more space you can share, the better the show”. I’ll show off for a minute or two, thank them, then go into my own jamming zone in my new-found space.
Share space – Move it or lose it! When you’re tired, let the space go so that others may fill it. Let space be liquid, allowing for you to come and go, and for other dancers to step up and take the extra space. Trust that space will be made when you’re ready to start dancing again. If you’ve worked to carve out a hoop-sized space (like in a ‘let’s stand equidistant’ situation) then it’s good to have hoop friends around to keep the space active 🙂
Just do it ….with pride! Yeah! BE THE SHOW! Warm up the dancefloor! Reclaim space for the Forces of Movement! Stand tall, let your joy shine through, and proudly take up all the space you can.
Don’t crumple – There are plenty of negative ways to protect yourself – like putting on a ‘I don’t want to talk to you’ BigCity face, slumping the posture to show ‘I’m unhappy with this situation’, or checking the pocket-computer to show ‘I’m busy, I don’t even care about this event, or how much space I have’. BUT these feel icky to the one doing them, and are not effective at making more space! If there’s not space for your unique flow and you’re feeling cramped, then it’s time to find a new spot, go for a bubble break, or start the mission to fill the water bottles.
Drop the prop – Get out there and take up all the space you want, without a hoop! Sound scary? Try grounding first – close your eyes and and surround yourself with a protective shield, a glowing orb, a flock of butterflies, maybe even an imaginary hoop. If you want more space than you currently have, then dance with big, sharp, unpredictable, exaggerated motions, using all the nooks and crannies of space around you. I also find making crazy faces gets me extra space really quickly 🙂
And like everything else… practice makes improvement! Keep dancing, exploring, and sharing your discoveries with the world. There’s enough room for all of us when we’re able to adapt to our ever-changing spaces!