A Portrait of the Artist’s Mother

I’ve often thought, “How did I turn out so differently from my own mom?” I live in California, where I work as a freelance writer and circus performer. I have one and a half masters degrees (which sounds dignified without the qualifier “… in Creative Writing”), around 56 zillion hula hoops, and my hair is still streaked with hot pink – in my 30s.

My mother? Miles away. I was born “down river” of Detroit, where my mom got married at 20, had two kids by 25, and worked her way up the through the administrative assistant ranks of a school district. She planned our family budget with military precision, cutting coupons to help direct what we could afford to buy at Meijer grocery store. Car payments, house payments, college tuition for her kids – these were milestones on a path that led, with a lot of love and hard work, to a golden finish line: retirement.

How could two people be on more different paths? As my 20s wrapped into a neat bow, and my path still hadn’t settled into anything conventionally “neat” at all (I had actually quit a job as an advertising copywriter to spend more time performing with hula hoops), my mom began calling me — sometimes in the middle of the night — in a frenzy of care and worry, asking “What are your plans?”

Hey, you gave me a red cape and a sailor dress, both of which I’ve worn on stage *just in the past year.* Forget “plans,” mom — I got this!

Like a baby who can’t yet tell its mother what it needs, I initially – couldn’t formulate a response. Somehow, I couldn’t say, “It’s terrifying enough just to believe in myself as an artist. I need you to believe in me, too.” It’s taken years, conversations, tears – even going to a counselor together – for us to work our way toward understanding. And you know what? We’ve come pretty darn far.

Lately, I’ve even realized that despite our different approaches to life, at the core, we’re molded from the same stuff. We both have intense determination and see our work as a way to help people. We’re both moved to tears by dance. On Mother’s Day, I wanted to honor some of these things I’m only beginning to understand about my mom the human being. So I asked to interview her. I wasn’t expecting to cry, reading some of her responses. Without further ado, I present the woman who created my life . Ladies and gents, my incredibly patient and loving mom, Eileen.

My mom (second from right) with the women of her family, late 50s.

Can you describe your own family life (the family that raised you)? What kind of values were you raised with?

I was raised in a suburb of Detroit in the 1950’s. I was the middle child of three daughters. My father had fought in WWII and started his family soon after the war ended.  Consequently, my sisters and I are considered “baby boomers.”

My childhood was a time when most moms stayed home to raise their kids, and dads were the head of the house – financially and emotionally. I lived through the 1968 racial riots in Detroit. Racial equality and women’s rights were changing a lot during my adolescence. My mother tried to instill in my sisters and me that we could do whatever we wanted to do. We could be mothers if we wanted, and we could also have a career if we wanted. Things were definitely not equal for women, but they were certainly better than when my mother and grandmothers grew up.

What was your financial situation growing up – and then in your married life?

Even though I lived in the outskirts of an affluent community (Grosse Pointe), we were by no means rich.  My father was an architect, but he supported his parents his entire life. His father was blind, and his mother had never worked. Both of my parents lived through the Depression, so the importance of saving for a rainy day was drilled into me over and over again.

I married when I was only 20 years old. Your father was still in college so I dropped out of school and supported him (as a secretary) through his last two and a half years of school. Money was extremely tight, and as I look back on those years, I really don’t know how we made it, financially.

I worked part-time as a waitress while you and your brother were preschoolers. When you entered kindergarten, I decided to go back to work full-time. It was hard for me to find a good paying secretarial job, since I had been out of the workforce for seven years. Computers had come into the work place during the years I had been raising my family and I didn’t have any experience with them. I had to start out at a minimum wage job and work my way up.

My mom and dad on their wedding day – age 20.

I now know things were pretty tight when I was a kid – although I didn’t realize it at the time.

Money was extremely tight when you were growing up. I was constantly trying to get all the bills paid along with putting some away for braces, college, and my father kept telling me to put money away for retirement. I also wanted to have enough money to be able to offer you and your brother piano lessons, dance classes, acting lessons, gymnastics, or whatever you wanted to do (within limits).

I remember you saying to me one day when you were in college, “You guys still only have an 8-Track recorder. Why don’t you get a decent stereo?” The 8-Track player was actually broken but we could at least play the radio. The rest of our friends had purchased the latest cassette player and then moved on to CD players when they became available. We didn’t keep up with the latest electronic devices because money was tight, and we were investing in our kids rather than “things.” I knew you didn’t understand that at the time. Maybe you do now that you’re an adult.

It probably wasn’t until you and your brother were out of college and I had a pretty big promotion at work, that our financial situation changed dramatically. Your dad and I were finally able to do a little traveling and get some serious money put away for retirement.

*Omg. Who gave me piano lessons?!?

When I was little, or maybe even before I was born, did you have any thoughts of what your daughter would grow up to be?

I guess I assumed all girls crave to eventually find a “man of their dreams,” get married, buy a house, start a family, and live happily ever after. That was what I wanted – and basically did. Most of my friends followed the same path.

You decided to take a different path. I was very proud of you [when you got a job as an advertising copywriter] and was very glad that you could financially support yourself. During this time, I would hear you complain about your job. Initially, I couldn’t understand. You made great money, were able to work with very creative people (like yourself), the company put money toward your retirement, and you finally had a career.

It probably wasn’t until I watched the TV series Mad Men that I truly understood what your life was like during that time. The poor copywriters in that show are at the beck and call of their boss(es). They could have to work until midnight or through a weekend at the last minute if their boss wants them to. I know now that this was what your life was like. I do understand that money isn’t everything. You can have all the money in the world and not be happy. The bottom line is I want you to be happy!

You know you have an unconventional child when: She is dressed like the “Flashdance” lady and sharing a lineup with a unicorn and a guy in red, patent leather boots. My parents at a show, Portland, Oregon.

You signed me up for dance classes when I was four years old. Can you tell me how that came about?

When I was a little girl, I wanted to take ballet lessons in the worst way. My father refused to pay for lessons but was kind enough to buy me a tutu and a Nutcracker Suite record. I would dance around the living room and watch my reflection in our TV set.

When you were born, I was determined to let you take dance lessons if you wanted to. You didn’t ask for lessons, but when I asked if you would like to, you said you did. You took dance lessons from the time you were four until you were about 17. You may have been taking the dance class, but as I watched you, I would pretend it was me dancing to the music.

Mini Revolva, on my grandma’s lap, after a dance recital. My mom sewed that costume.

Seventh grade jazz photo.

Did you see signs, during my childhood, that I would turn into an “unconventional adult”?
I guess the first thing that made me realize you were trying to find your self and wanted to do your own thing was when you dyed your hair purple, just before you started college. You didn’t seem to care that you looked really strange. As I look back, I think you were trying to fit into a conventional life, but it just wasn’t making you happy.


In my adult life, there has been a sense of urgency about what were “my plans.” Was there a turning point where you realized being a hula hooper, traveler and writer WAS my plan? How did that make you feel?

There were times in your life when you worked as a freelance writer and performed on the side. I didn’t have a problem with that. I knew you had a steady income coming in and could support yourself. It was probably when you announced that you were going to try to support yourself full-time as Revolva that I became worried about you. All the typical “mom” questions popped into my head: Can she really make enough money to support herself? How will she pay for benefits? What will she do in her senior years?

As you know, it took me a while to wrap my head around the fact that you weren’t going to lead a traditional life, but that was okay. You are an adult and you get to choose your own path. The bottom line is – I want you to be happy!

There were no clear signs anything was amiss during my childhood. Except that I seem to have been dressed as “Little Miss Muffet” on this day. (Wait a minute, mom, I think you started something here!)

If you had to give advice for other parents whose children are following an unconventional life path, what would you say?

I guess I would tell parents to keep an open mind about their child’s life choices. It is extremely important to keep the lines of communication open! There were many times you and I had discussions about your life choices, and we even saw a therapist together to work out some differences.

If you had to give advice to kids who are following an unconventional life path, what would you say to help them better understand their conventional parents?

Try to understand that it may take a little time for your parent(s) to change their paradigm of your life. If your unconventional life path is something you really want to do, then stand firm and don’t let your parents talk you out of it. Life is shorter than you think, and you should find something that you truly love to do. However, you need to understand that your parents should not financially support you the rest of your life so you need to make enough money somehow to take care of your needs.

Family circle. Detroit, 2008.

Is there something in particular you wish that I had been better able to understand about you, over the years?

Maybe if you had understood how I was raised, you might have understood better why I reacted certain ways. Even though I may not have always understood your choices, I have always tried to support them (even if you didn’t think I was). I guess I wish that you had understood that it just might take me a little time to grasp that you preferred an unconventional life.

In the past, when your friends or co-workers asked what I did for a living, was there ever a period where you didn’t know what to say?

When I try to explain that my daughter is a “Hoop Dancer,” people get a little smile on their face and look puzzled. Thank God for the Internet. When people ask what you do, I am able to pull up one of your outstanding videos and show them. My friends are always blown away. Every performance seems to be bigger and better than the last. You’ve actually been performing for so long that most of my friends now know what you do, and if you are in the area, they all want to come and see you perform.

My advice for other parents of artists, who might not quite know how to describe their kids’ path, would be to smile and sound excited about your child’s “unconventional” career when describing it to friends and family. Sound supportive of your child’s choices. If it is hard to describe what your child is doing, use pictures or the Internet to show examples of what he/she is doing.

“Oh, those are lovely shots of your daughter’s wedding. MY daughter has wedding photos, too!” (Photo Michelle Bates)

What is your proudest moment, being the mom of “Revolva”?

I think when I watch you perform as Revolva, it reminds me of when I watched you at your dance classes. A secret part of me wishes that I also could have led an unconventional life and “danced to the music.”

I am always proud of you! It takes a lot to stand up to your parents and follow your dream. It takes a lot to accomplish all that you have done over the years. You are such a creative writer, outstanding performer, and all-around great daughter.

Would you ever be in a hula hoop act WITH me? If so, what kind of act would we do? What would your stage name be?

Yes, I would join you in a hula hoop act. Maybe I could flip you on your back while you hoop on your feet (like what you do with your friend Bags), and then you could do all the work. Here are some possible stage names for me: E-volva, I-Lean, Yo Momma, Huper Mom (I could have a “H” on a cape – like Superman), The Incredible Mrs. Inflexible (I could come out and try “unsuccessfully” to touch my toes or twirl a hoop).

In my ideal show, you would open for Madonna and then perform again later in her show. I would join you and Madonna in the closing number. We would perform at a theatre in the Detroit area so all our friends and family could see us.

My mom and I on a hot night out, at Teatro Zinzanni, in San Francisco.  As soon as “Revolva and Huper Mom” have our duo act together, I’m sure we’ll be performing it here.

Since you created me, on Mother’s Day, how does it feel to know that any inspiration I’ve been able to lend to other people’s lives – leads back to you, for putting an “unconventional person” into the world?

I guess I never thought that I had anything to do with your creative talents. However, after answering all your questions, now realize that I did try to get you to experience as many different things as you could, to see where your interests lie, and encouraged you to follow your dreams. At the time, I was assuming that your dreams would be conventional dreams – but that was my incorrect paradigm of your life. It just took me a little while to realize that you can be successful leading an unconventional life.

I couldn’t be more proud of you. Thanks for hanging in there with me until we could better understand each other. Any really good relationship, whether it is husband and wife or mother and child, takes a lot of hard work. I love you so very much!

I love you, too, mom. And we’re totally doing a show together next time I’m in Michigan. Does anyone have Madonna’s phone number?

With this ring: A hula hoop love story

Two hoop performers recently met and fell in love. With around zero odds in their favor, they crossed oceans, emptied their pockets, turned night into day (how else can one skype between time zones?) and made their relationship work. Because their dedication is inspiring, and also because I see a way for the hoop community to give them the best wedding gift ever, here is their story.

Kay Dent and Dustin Hubel exchange rings.

* * *

Most newlyweds don’t work during their honeymoon. Then again, most newlyweds don’t hula hoop for a living, or require a trans-Atlantic plane ride to be together. Meet Kay Dent, of Bristol, UK, and Dustin Hubel, of Omaha, NB, two international hoop stars whose chance meeting eight months ago has turned into an unlikely fusion of lives – a wedding overseen by Elvis (and watched by hoopers on multiple continents) – and a six-week journey dedicated to breaking through a wall of immigration red tape.

Say what?

If you’re confused, that’s because sometimes love defies all logic. But let’s rewind through the details of this epic union. Although Kay and Dustin didn’t know each other until August of 2011, hoopers in the online community may have known these two quite well, via youtube. Last year, Kay whirled her way into the finals of hooping.org’s Hooping Idol contest, with videos such as this gem:

That same year, longtime master mini hooper Dustin posted a new demo video that currently has over 127,000 views.

So how did these two finally cross paths? “We were both at Burning Man this past summer, where we were introduced by our mutual friend Gail O’Brien (2011 ‘Female Hooper of the Year‘),” Kay explains. “I think I was just drooling over Dustin, watching him hoop for ages. I cleverly asked him to teach me some moves, so I could hang out with him.”

“I thought Kay was adorable, friendly,” says Dustin. “We couldn’t stop talking.”

Mere hours after they met, in the desert, blinded by love.

After Burning Man, the two traveled to the Lake Tahoe Flow Festival – before Kay had to hop her flight back to Bristol. Sad? Sure. Fortunately, professional hula hoopers are born without the gene that causes one to believe in conventional obstacles.

“We liked each other a lot, and we didn’t know what would happen, with us being from two different countries. Then, Dustin just went home and booked a flight to Bristol,” Kay laughs. “That sorted it out.”

Bristol was voted 2011 Hoop Community of the Year by the international hoop community. So Dustin fit right in, and it wasn’t long before he realized he didn’t want to leave Kay. As Christmas approached, and his flight home loomed, they made a plan: He’d go back to the U.S., wrap up loose ends, and return to Bristol by Valentine’s Day, for good.

A classic film plot? Nope. Just two hoopers in love.

Unfortunately, while love defies all logic, immigration laws are more strident. With Dustin unable to secure an entertainer’s visa on a timetable that matched their desire to be together, they had a serious talk about the future. Cue … Elvis?

“We managed to shock most of our friends and families, who never thought we’d get married,” Kay says. “But we love each other, so we flew to Las Vegas and just made it official on April 18. The chapel we found was perfect. It streamed our wedding live, so all of our friends in various countries could watch it as it was happening.”

CLICK HERE TO WATCH KAY AND DUSTIN’S ELVIS WEDDING! AUTHOR’S NOTE: HIGHLY ENTERTAINING

Emma "Kenna Hoops" of Bristol cheers while the Bristol hoopers watch the live stream of Kay and Dustin's wedding on April 18. (Note Kay and Dustin on the screen.)

“Before we met, both of us thought that we’d be doing all of our teaching and performing alone, even if we met a life partner. It’s been a really nice surprise to have someone to do that with. I’m looking forward to sharing that part of my life, forever,” Kay says. This would lead us to the final happy ending, if not for one thing.

“We’re married,” Dustin explains. “But we still have to save up the money for my visa – about $1200 – on top of the wedding and all the flights we’ve had to make. So our honeymoon is my workshop tour.” Doesn’t teaching put a damper on the honeymoon part?

“It’s work, but it’s also a means to an end – and we think it’s going to be really fun,” Dustin says. “What do normal people get, a week-long honeymoon in Florida? We’re doing six weeks in six cities. Plus, we get to meet a lot of cool people along the way. Beat that, regular couples!”

“We’d be hooping on a honeymoon anyway,” Kay points out. And although she won’t be teaching, due to work restrictions for non-U.S. citizens, she will be at each workshop, hooping it up, bringing balance to Dustin’s skills with her own style. What better way to set the tone for a happy future?

Newlyweds in Vegas.

HELP WRITE THE HAPPY ENDING TO THIS LOVE STORY

If you live in San Francisco, Oakland, L.A., Seattle, Portland, Kansas City or St. Louis, you can take Dustin’s (highly recommended) workshops – and pour champagne on Kay – in person. It’s a great opportunity to learn from a ninja, host a post-class wedding reception, or otherwise support the extreme lengths this couple has gone through to be together. If you don’t live on the tour route, I asked Dustin for his paypal info. As someone who has been blown away to see two people take such a chance on their feelings, I have one question for the hoopers of planet earth: Can we help this couple stick it to immigration, in the name of true love? Wedding gifts (to offset visa fees) can be sent to: dustin.hubel@gmail.com

I was at Burning Man the night Kay and Dustin met. On April 18, I was laughing through tears watching them get married. Life is amazing. Let’s celebrate how inspiring it is when people don’t follow societal convention, and instead, follow their hearts. Hoopers unite: Let’s get this man a visa!

HUBEL HONEYMOON TOUR 2012: Come spin with the newlyweds

April 29 – San Francisco – Alonzo King Lines Ballet, 2-5p

May 5 – Oakland, CA – Prop Box Studio, 2-5p
http://www.facebook.com/events/396637507013670/?ref=ts

May 6 – Los Angeles, CA – Groove Spot, 5-8p
http://www.facebook.com/events/401320916561913/?ref=ts

May 12/13 – Seattle – Dance Underground, 2-5p both days
http://www.facebook.com/events/307901315945452/?ref=ts

May 19/20 – Portland – The Lotus Seed, 2-5p both days
http://www.facebook.com/events/366954060010006/?ref=ts

May 26/27 – St. Louis – 2720 Cherokee, 2-5p both days
http://www.facebook.com/events/369988016385994/

May 28 – Kansas City – Info soon

http://www.facebook.com/events/359094184138132/

Congratulations and a happy, happy future to Kay Dent and Dustin Hubel.

IF YOU MISSED IT, CLICK HERE TO WATCH KAY AND DUSTIN GET HITCHED

“THAT WAS INCREDIBLE! Just watched the wedding this morning … completely bonkers!” — Gems Goddard, Hooper, Brighton, England

“Finally managed to watch. BEST WEDDING EVER!” – Zoe Horisontaltightropewalker, Hooper, Bristol, UK

“That was great! Congratulations!!!” — Paola Berton, Hooper, Italy

“OH my god this wedding is AMAZING!” – Gail O’Brien, Hooper, Belfast, Ireland

“Ahh, you two look so cute. Love that this is being broadcast live! Congratulations!” – Tracey Chin, Hooper, London, England

(“With this ring, I thee wed” just got a whole lot cooler!)

The 2011 Revolvies

Good evening, and welcome to the Revolvies, an awards show that is totally biased and based solely on the opinion of one ridiculous, unitard-loving woman. The Revolvies began in 2008, as a way to spread some honor beyond the Hoopies. At that time, it was hard to compete in the Hoopies without seven computers, 500 family members and a mailing list that stretched around the earth 46 times. In 2009 and 2010 the Revolvies provided comedy relief, as the Hoopies instituted technological and human-o-logical changes to make voting much more fair. Unfortunately, by that time, people already started to put “I won a Revolvie!” in their bio. So, here we are.

What is the difference between The Hoopies and The Revolvies? You can vote in the Hoopies (major props to Hooping.org for overseeing the complex process of producing the only community-driven hoop awards). If you asked to vote in the Revolvies, I’d say, “Step off, son, this is the Revolvies – not the YOUS.”  So what’s the point? Chillaxing. In the Revolvies, you don’t have to worry about campaigning, endorsements, voting or thinking, “I’ll never win; I only have 156 Facebook friends!” and then drinking an entire bottle of scotch by yourself and passing out in the fetal position. It’s a bit of levity – meant as a compliment to the election hoopla.

The Revolvies is an awards show and a year-in-review, with a dash of salt. It comes out at the same time as the Hoopies, so that results in one do not impact (or even appear to impact) the other. And just to be clear, the Revolvies loves the Hoopies, and if anyone tried to say something negative about hooping.org, the Revolvies would hoop in your face. This is just a way to acknowledge that elections and awards can be funny. So sit back, grab a bottle of scotch, and raise it in the air: We made it to 2012!  Let’s see what happened along the way.

It's the Revolvies. Not the Yous.

REVOLVIES PRE-SHOW
Last year, top awards were given – in both the Hoopies and the Revolvies – to two major hoop entities: Spiral and Philo. One might call these two hoopers, and their absolute concentration of honor, the top “1 percent” of the hoop world. The 99 percent of our community who didn’t win an award couldn’t stand for this power imbalance any longer. Here is the revolution that took down two of the top entities in hooping and redistributed the awards amongst the people. Enjoy the pre-show.








And now, on to the awards!

Overall Concept of the Year: Style
When Hoopalicious called her midwife and gave birth to the modern hooping movement, no one could have predicted that “hooping” would eventually become such a varied family, influenced by older circus relatives and marrying into disciplines such as poi. Much like ballet can be broken down into classical, neoclassical and contemporary – or “popping” is an umbrella term that covers “tutting” – we’re at a point in where “hooping” means a lot of things. Do you dance hoop? Poi hoop? Mini hoop? Multiple hoop? Is a 40” fitness hoop even the same prop as a 25” polypro? This year, Revolvies are given for many different styles, from tech hooping to hoop rolling, to honor with the fact that “hooper of the year” begs a question: What kind of hooper? Check out the Spin Cycle hoop jam at this year’s Burning Man for a lot of jamming, in various styles. (That Hoopalicious sure had a lot of children.)






Mini Hooper(s) of the Year – Piryokopi
The Piryokopi hoops routine is the story of a caterpillar named Gary, in post-apocalyptic New Jersey, who tries to overcome loneliness by breaking his body segments into multiple caterpillars, so he’ll have friends around to listen to him sing Katy Perry songs. I made that up. But seriously, the isolations in this video are out of control – and so are those deadpan facial expressions. Come on guys, could you do this to Katy Perry, while imagining Gary the caterpillar, without breaking into a smile once?  If you do it to “Last Friday Night,” while wearing sequined pants, I might give it a second Revolvie.





Hoop Performer of the Year – Annabel Carberry
Annabel Carberry made me nervous (without knowing it) because she performed on the open stage at the 2011 European Juggling Convention … the night before I was scheduled to perform. I didn’t see Annabel’s act, but I heard about it – repeatedly. “Revolva, there was the BEST comedy hooper last night!” At the time, it only contributed to me doing my most nervous performance ever. But I watched the video later, and what I like about this act is that she kick starts four hoops into a split (in heels) then spins a bunch of hoops – and that’s not even what it’s about. We’re hooked to the thread about the “glass of red.” Great act. I forgive you for making me nervous, Annabel. Let’s drink wine together sometime.





Fitness Hooper of the Year – Jocelyn Gordon
Jocelyn Gordon has a great motto on her website: “Ecstatic Empowerment: Proving that transformation can be fun.” She’s a master-level (Hoopnotica) hoop fitness trainer, and has also created Lovers Rock® – Partner Yoga & Massage for Couples in Love, Bhakti Boogie® and HoopYogini.™ She’s taught around the world, appeared in Gaiam Productions’ Marisa Tomei hoopBody DVD Kit, been on The Dr. Oz Show. Check out the video below for proof of how articulate and awesome this woman is. A true ambassador for fitness hooping.






Isolationist of the Year – Dustin Hubel
I first saw a video of Dustin when I was still living in Detroit and he was probably still in high school. When I moved to Oregon, I looked him up immediately, because I wanted to learn from him. I can’t say I’ve gotten far, although the “isolation orbit” (I think someone else gave it that name) is now solidly in my bag of tricks. (I learned that from Dustin.) I gave him an award in the 2008 Revolvies. At that time, there were just a sprinkling of Dustin videos in existence. I’m bringing him back around because he finally put out a demo video in November. It highlights some ball work, too, but check out his isolations. Clean as a whistle.





Multi Hooper(s) of the Year – Lisa Lottie vs. Satya
According to her bio, Satya Bella practices a “fusion of hoop dance, circus style multi-hoop, rhythmic gymnastic tricks, and hoop spinning.” I was going to give this award to her because I saw her hooping at the Lake Tahoe Flow Fest (where she also performed with badass troupe Flame Oz) and liked her style. When I was scoping out a video for the award, however, I came across Lisa Lottie vs. Satya. They had me at “Beyonce.”  Why don’t y’all split this one, ladies?






Comedy Hooper of the Year – Jon Coyne “Hoopsmiles”
Earlier this year, I saw a video of a Jon Coyne wearing a hot pink shirt and roller skating while hooping. It made me laugh, so I followed a link to another video – which turned out to be his “How to Hoop” rap song (see below). Later, Jon released the “Hula Hoop Appreciation Song,” featuring cats and gnomes. All of these things have cracked me up. But when he’s not rapping, rollerblading or playing a Woodstock piano – it turns out Jon also makes totally serious, incredibly thoughtful tutorials, in regular clothing. Which because it’s so unexpected, is somehow also funny. I’m a big fan. Thanks for the hoopsmiles, Jon.






Hoop Juggler of the Year – Nicolas Longuechaud
This man’s isolations are off the hook. His video “Clockwork” totally deserves a 2012 award (came out this month). The Revolvies decision process is based on a lot of things, though, including, “Omg! Look; that person who is so well known for one style just totally excelled in this whole different style!” And I’d like to point out that he is using *hoops* not the juggling “rings” that most jugglers use (flat circles). This is the year of style. Way to rock it juggle style, Nicolas. (That offer from the 2009 Revolvies, to father my children, still stands.)





Hoop Roller of the Year –
Raw Art’s “Ring-o-graphy,” Alexandra Savina

Everyone in the world should watch this video.  At least eight times.  I’m actually wondering if Raw Art locked Alexandra Savina in that dark room until she got every move exactly right because I can’t imagine how many hours and hours and hours and years and years it took to get so smooth.






Tech Hooper of the Year – Gail O’Brien
Some people perform with objects. Other people work out with them (hooping for fitness), play with them or socialize with them.  And SOME people invent with them. You may have gone to a hoop event, or perhaps the European Juggling Festival, only to find Gail O’Brien, in the corner, quietly inventing some crazy-ass half chest roll, turn around to back roll that probably has an anti-spin in it somewhere. This video’s cool, so I’m including it, but I don’t think it even does justice to her complete spectrum of ingenuity. She’s got the moves like Jagger.





Street Performer(s) of the Year –
Jo Mondy and Angie Mack “WHOOPS Women’s Hoops Squad”
Many hoopers define “busking” as freestyling next to a drum circle. I was impressed to see Jo Mondy and Angie Mack write a proper circle show in 2011, and then just go for it. After practicing locally, they began touring it.  I ran into them at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. They had some pretty good crowds for their still-new show, and even better sweatbands from their sponsors, The Women’s Athletic Team (T.W.A.T.). Way to go WHOOPS!






Hoop Choreography of the Year – Brecken and Tiana

Brecken and Tiana rehearsed this act at the Vulcan – for hours a day, days and days and weeks on end. There were charts on the wall, with stick figures, circles, arrows and wavy lines. Something I find amusing is how often people say, “I love Brecken; she just doesn’t care!” – not knowing that, while she doesn’t bother with the glitter, she approaches hooping like a dancer/artist and trains more than anyone I know. Tiana came over and did the same. This routine didn’t emerge from inherent talent (although there’s definitely that, too). It came from hard work, endless hours and commitment. Please take note of 3:49-50, which is literally impossible.






Fire Hooper(s) of the Year – Bags and Tilly, partner fire
This year’s nod goes to Bags and Tilly for the *variety* of styles they are able to pull off on fire. It’s easier to land things at a “jam” and much harder to land them in an actual show, where the entire crowd’s focus is on YOU. Bags and Tilly perform fire hoop moves, from tech to juggling, that are already hard enough with normal hoops. I couldn’t find a great video of their fire work, so please enjoy this Juggling Inferno show video – and note Bags and Tilly’s next-level ridiculousness at 1:13 and 1:32.  (You’ll enjoy the other fire hoopers in this video, too! Nice work, y’all.)






Air Hooper of the Year – Lila and Luna Breeze (tie)
I am just DIGGING this west coast woo-woo spiritual life, so I’m not going to stop with awarding the element of fire. I am also going to award the element of air, my sisters and brothers. 2011 saw some true advances in air hooping.  I think we’re going to see a lot more of this element in 2012.  Here’s Lila demonstrating the backyard version and Luna Breeze taking it to the stage.






 

Water Hooper of the Year – HoopCharmer
F it! Here’s water, too!  (We all hoop on the earth, so I’m not going to go there.) It’s hard to imagine a more gorgeous hooper than HoopCharmer. This video snuck its beautiful self into the last days of 2011 – and almost made me want to start dating women.😉 In all seriousness, there’s something so relaxing about the setting, mixed with the vibrant hooping, and — it’s just all around beautiful. I’ve already watched it like 20 times because it’s uplifting. I might go watch it again.





Male Core Hoopers Doing Their Own Thang of the Year-
Simon Purdie, Rico Titou

What is up with the men this year? Aren’t you guys supposed to have hoops in your hands and, you know, isolate them or something? (Just a little joke; don’t hurt me, male core hoopers.) The Revolvies wants to honor two awesome gents who not only concentrate on the core, but also put their super, super unique spin on things. I have to admit that when I first saw Simon Purdie’s “Monkey Hooping” video, I thought, “Well, that looks cool. But what’s the big deal? He’s moving his arms around inside the space of a larger hoop.” Then I tried it. It requires very precise timing to get an arm through. Just one arm. Just once. I recant my initial “So?” Monkey Hooping’s awesomely challenging, and also just awesome. Rico tips his core and works it on the neck and shoulders. This is also a style all his own, influenced by contact staff. Rico provided one of my favorite moments at Hoop Camp this year, when he kicked over a cup of almonds or something (while teaching) and yelled into the headset mic, “Oh, my nuts!”






The Revolvies had planned to launch a youth and over-40 Revolvie this year. It was an idea whose time had come! Hooping.org launched a youth Hoopie, so the Revolvies is focusing on the other side of the 20s/30s.

Over-40 hooper of the year – Sue Wilkinson
A standing ovation to Sue Wilkinson, for rep-ra-zenting her over-40 self repeatedly in 2011. This resident of a 70-person village in England not only managed to inspire hoopers far and wide, with her amazing contribution to Hooping Idol, she has also outfitted us with bling for our hoops, via her business “Fancy Tapes.” Sue started hooping in 2007 and has subsequently begun aging backward. According to her: “I would say that before I hooped I looked and felt and behaved my age. Now I don’t. It took years off me.” Cheers to that!






Zombie Apolcalypse Hooper of the Year –
Thriller, Astral Rhythm Dancers (tie)
A recent photo featured on hooping.org claiming that hooping keeps zombies away. Turns out, exactly the opposide is true. That’s why I can make up a ridiculous category like “Zombie Style” and have more than one winner. Nicole Wong and Sarah Starlight’s “Thriller” (featuring many guest stars) wins hands down for production value, costumes, creativity and Michael Jackson-ness. And then, I also liked the Astral Rhythm Dancers‘ routine … on a bed of leaves … to the MOST UN-ZOMBIE-LIKE song ever! I don’t understand it. And I simultaneously love it. If the zombie apocolypse really happens, we’re all screwed because apparently zombies are going to run straight toward our hoops.






Debut Hoop Props of the Year – Maghoops, Poop Squoops
A lot of what we now do with hoops is possible thanks to the R&D people put into props. This year, two especially interesting props hit the scene. Laura Scarborough launched Maghoops – a series of hoops connected by magnets. While finicky if you (by “you,” I mean “me”) don’t know how to use them, they look incredible once you (by “you,” I mean “Laura”) get the knack. Another cool prop was “poop squoops.” In 2008, Caroleeena brought a giant square hoop “squoop” to Hoop Convergence. In 2011, Amelio Bedelio brought a pair of poi-hoop (poop) square hoops (squoops) to hoop camp.  Poop Squoops are as fun to use as they are to talk about. Thanks for the new toys, ladies.






Best thing to happen to hooping –
Renegade Shows and Heckling

Drop a hoop, and hoopers will say, “That’s the sound of progress!” Who knew that this friendly crew can also act like ESCAPED FELONS ON SPRING BREAK IN MIAMI? Hoop Convergence and Hoop Camp both debuted “Renegade Shows” this year, a tradition borrowed from juggling festivals, in which attendees do stupid tricks, use unfamiliar props, imitate festival goers, and heckle the pants off of performers. Heckling is the art of telling someone to “Do it again, only better,” and it can be the most entertaining part of a Renegade show. High five to everyone who participated in two of the funniest Renegades I’ve ever seen — and it would be criminal for Alley ‘Oop, Gail and Emma not to be mentioned as the most wicked hecklers in the hoop community. Please enjoy the attached video of Nick Guzzardo diving through a fire hoop balanced on Poki’s face (one of the few 2011 Renegade acts the Revolvies can feature from largely NSFW shows). You’re all crazy. Do it again in 2012, only better!

Trivia: The “Renegade Show” is named after “Renegade Juggling,” a founder of which, Blaze, is now an avid hooper. We got him jugglers. You’re all next.






Hoop Community of the Year:  Bristol
This is one category where I will break my own rule and possibly repeat an honor.  (Bristol’s up for the same award in the Hoopies). Why?  Because Bristol deserves it.

Last year, I awarded “Bristol Hoop Massive” group video of the year, with an attached suspicion, based largely on 80s track suits, that they might be my long, lost hoop family. This summer, I visited Bristol for the first time. Turns out it was true; they are the soul mates for whom I’ve been searching my entire hoop life. I cannot recommend highly enough that YOU visit Bristol in 2012, where you will find Hooping Mad  — host of the SWHoop conference and traveling teachers, Bags and his fab hoop partner Tilly Twist, Hooping Idol winner Nick Broyd (see winning video below) and a crew of other hilarious and amazing local hoopers. One might say it’s a “pimp” place to be.






Debut Class of the Year – “Acro Hooping,” Ninja Hoops
A few years ago, “I just dance with it” was probably the annoyed response of every hooper who was asked, “How many of those can you do at once?” Now, a lot of hoopers have passed through one, experimented with adding more, and in a healthy effort to challenge themselves – want to try things like hooping cartwheels. Ninja Hoops, a.k.a. Zach Fisher and Marria Grace Key, made a bridge between the hooping and circus worlds this year, by launching “Acro Hooping,” a class where even beginner tumblers can learn acro hoop moves. Which is great because there are endless classes about tapping into one’s existing hoop flow. Kudos to Ninja Hoops for offering one on discovering complex new skills.






Overall Instructor – Emma Kerr, Hooping Mad
I learned some slang in England: mental.  I think it means something so crazy, it has become awesome. Emma Kerr is mental.  As far as I know, she spends 90 percent of the hours in a day teaching and organizing conferences for her company Hooping Mad – including SWHoop (see video below), which features top American teachers (this year Hoopalicious and Malcolm Stuart), alongside the UK’s best. Emma hosted Brecken, Ann Humphries and I this summer on our way to the European Juggling Convention. When we went to bed, Emma was working. She was up before us, working. Her teaching has been cited as influential by people like Nick Broyd (Hooping Idol) and Bags (Pooping Idol). Hooping Mad is hooping mental. In the best way.






Extreme Hooper of the Year –
Parkour-Hooping – Josh and Pocok

This is a revived category from 2009, when I gave myself an award for breaking my foot jumping through a hoop. (And I’m cheating a bit because the video was posted a matter of days before 2011 started, but it didn’t get rolling, pardon the pun, until the year was in swing.) The extreme lameness of the “hooping” in here is actually balanced out by how dangerously cool these guys look. In fact, that’s the only required skill for parkour-hooping: “You gotta be really cool.” Laugh break.






Hoop Troupe of the Year – Rings & Tings (Bags, Tilly Twist)
One would be hard pressed to find another modern “hooping” troupe that features the ridiculously variety of skills Rings & Tings (Bags and Tilly Twist) are able to pull off, not just on stage – but also on fire. I saw them perform live this year (under the title “Bristol Hoop Massive”) and was also blown away by the attached video. They core hoop, tech hoop, partner poi hoop, acro hoop, juggle hoops, split hoops in the circus style, and they can do it all in character. I was slightly afraid they’d get big heads from receiving two awards, so I considered giving this one to someone else. But then I remembered that bragging about having a Revolvie is basically saying, “One person likes my work!” Anyway, the Revolvies is honest, even in its snarkiness. Mad props to your prop work, Rings & Tings.






Hoop Blogger of the Year — Lara Eastburn
As a writer myself, I’d like to honor the fact that video isn’t the only medium for advancing an artform. Lara Eastburn chronicles the hoop world for hooping.org, writes excellent articles for her blog “Hooposophy,” and has even gone so far as to put together a genealogy of influnces for hoopers called “The Hooping Family Tree.” I’m a stickler for quality of writing. When I see hooping/spinning/juggling blogs with butt loads of cool graphic design elements — that are not quite distracting me from the poorly written text-message-ese crap on top of those cool design elements, my inner writer nerd BUGS OUT. Thank you, Lara Eastburn for having a nicely designed blog full of interesting, well-written pieces — and also lending your mad skillz (purposeful misspelling! I know what I’m doing; I swear!) to hooping.org and the Hooping Family Tree.






Overall Badass of the Year – Kimowan Metchawais
In 2011, something significant happened to the hoop community. We lost a longtime member of our tribe.  I only met Kimowan in person once, but like many hoopers whose presence makes a big impact in the online community, his reach was much further than his physical location. Perhaps that’s still true. I’ve given out this award for the past few years, and because I don’t know of anything more epic than making the transition on to the next step of the journey, this year’s award goes to Kimowan. The following videos illustrate both a dance that makes me cry, and a tender goodbye to the hoopers leaving a Hoop Path retreat. The goodbye is returned, with so much love from so many people who were impacted by your presence, Kimowan. In your own words, “travel well.” For more about Kimowan’s amazing life, please read this beautiful blog by Ann Humphries.






Revolvies Acceptance Speech of the Year – Miss Saturn
Let’s end with something lighthearted, to soften any tears about the previous award.  The Revolvies has always encouraged people to make acceptance speeches. Folks wrote a few comments here and there. But no one ever went for the gusto – until Miss Saturn.  Thanks for making us laugh, Saturn. You’re welcome for the nail clippers.






And that’s it for the awards! Congratulations to everyone who won a Hoopie, everyone who won a Revolvie, and everyone who just got up today and hooped without even looking at the internet — or caring who won anything. It’s effing fun, right? Wooooo!

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2012: “Do 2011 again – only better!”
I’m going to sign off with 5 predictions for 2012. Please heckle me if they don’t come true. I can take it.

1. Jugglers surprised to see women: A juggling festival takes place in a gym, costs zero to $35, provides no vegan meals, and never features the word “chakra” even once. That said, there are free workshops, renegade shows, gala shows, and endless access to a big gym full of (mostly male) object-obsessed nerds. I foresee more hoopers cross-training and keepin’ it real at juggling fests in 2012. Trust me, I started in 2008 and never turned back.

2. Hooping really is the new yoga – It’s been approaching for a long time. We’re not quite at the yoga class-availability level. But hooping has already branched into its own sub-genres (dance, minis, tech, fitness), and I hope 2012 is the year when you’ll find multiple hoop teachers in every city, teaching multiple classes, in multiple styles.

3. Acro Hoop Explosion – “I just dance with it” is so 2004. “I did a cartwheel for the first time, and I’m in my 40s and – whooooo!” is so 2012.

4. “Mooper” is the new “goddess.” Male hoopers are multiplying, and they seem confused when I say, “Your hooping is divine. You are such a GODDESS!” I can’t quite bring myself to call them “gods,” so I foresee a language shift in 2012.  Less hoop “goddesses,” more male hoopers.  “Moopers”?

5. Reality TV a continued hit: Hooping Idol and the Great Hoop Race did wonders to identify undiscovered talent in 2011. I predict more reality hooping in 2012. Suggestion: The Real Housewives of Beverley Hoops. Philo?

Do you have a job?

During a recent night out in San Francisco, another performer and I struck up a conversation with a fellow bar patron. Life details emerged, and it wasn’t long before the question arose. The one all performers must navigate. The one that caused my friend to look at me, eyebrows raised, suppressing a laugh (or possibly a horror-movie-style scream).

“So do you two just perform – or do you also have jobs?”

It doesn’t matter how many contracts pass through our hands, how many emails are sent, how much time is dedicated toward editing video and answering phone calls. It doesn’t matter how many hours of our lives are spent not “just performing,” not even “just rehearsing,” but also doing the administrative, marketing and promotional work that would be done by countless people and departments within a typical company. The question still lingers:

“Do you have a job?”

To be honest, there are two answers to that question.  The first one involves falling to the floor, clutching one’s belly and rolling around, laughing so hard that it’s nearly impossible to discern your words, which are: “A job?  A JOB! Ahh haaaaa haaaaaaaa!”

The second answer calls to mind an old sketch from the show “In Living Color,” in which a West Indian family gets through life by piecing together so many odd jobs that one job just winds up sounding lazy.

Q: “Are you just a performer, or do you also have a job?”

A: “I’m a performer. So I have eighteen jobs. Thanks for asking.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I understand that people are focused on the end product of performance, the time spent on stage.  They may understand that involves some rehearsal.  They probably haven’t spent too long considering any other work involved.  They also view performance as fun (which the end product often is). In their own lives, they may have been conditioned to think of a “job” as work and “fun” as not-work.

Ergo, performance is not a job.

“Do you have a job?” can be taken as a compliment, mixed with a bit of longing. What they’re really asking is: “Have you been able to support yourself by performing, or do you also have to deliver pizzas?”  In my own life, the answer to that question is: I HAVE been able to support myself entirely by performing. I have also mixed that performance career with freelance writing.

Spinning together the moves for a fire show. Photo by Rich Porter

Sometimes, I don’t have any writing clients, and I’m just performing, for long stretches of time. Sometimes, I have a writing client that requires a lot of focus, and I downgrade the amount of gigs I can do. This is my own personal path, forged because I love to perform and I love to write, and I have noticed through direct feedback that I’m able to touch more lives when I create than I can when I work a 40-plus-hour-a-week corporate job (I tried).

But I can honestly say that one of the most challenging, edgy, time-consuming, risk-taking, educational, work-intensive endeavors of my entire life has been building my performance career. When people ask me (either out of disdain or wonder), “Do you just perform, or do you also have a job?” – and I reply that I perform, and I also work as a writer, I don’t think they understand I am NOT saying, “I have a fun activity and a job that you might consider real!”  Instead, I’m saying, “I have a job that’s eighteen jobs in one – and another job. So I have nineteen jobs. Thanks for asking.”

Spinning a yarn. (Writing the tour blog for the New Old Time Chautauqua Vaudeville Tour.) Photo by Michelle Bates

In solidarity with other professional performers, I wanted to zoom in on the performance part of my life and break down what we actually do for a living. As we grow, it’s possible to pay for assistance, and some of us do have help/ management. But I’m going to state all of the following tasks because before, and even after, we form a reputation, making sure they are accomplished (even if that means by hiring one or more people to help) is on no one’s shoulders but our own:

  • Booking Agent – Want to earn money so that you can continue to eat while you put your art into the world? As a performer, you must connect yourself with shows. Someone else can also do this job (it requires finding the right agent and giving that person a percentage of the profit). When a show arises, a large amount of psychic energy must be spent deciding which number(s) you will perform, how many hours you will be at the event, how much space is available, what kind of performance they are suggesting, whether or not the client’s expectations are realistic. There are contracts to negotiate and sign.  There are gigs that arise and take up weeks of time that appears to be leading somewhere – only to fall through. There are major gigs that pop up at the very last minute, in California, when you just agreed to be in another state. Performing is fun. It’s necessary for the world to contain art. And each minute on stage is connected to about eight zillion minutes of back end time that it took to allow the world to contain your art. I’m just sayin.’
  • Administrative Assistant – Most corporations, schools, non-profits, churches, restaurants, car washes, grocery stores, nail salons – pretty much every organization on earth – has a buffer between the public and the organization itself. Guess what happens when people call performers about a gig? Guess what happens when performers receive an email from a client, a fan, a reporter or a stalker? Performers put on our administrative assistant hats and administratively assist our selves.  Thank you very much.
  • Director of Marketing – You might have a business card for the organization where you work. Did you personally hire the designer and oversee all aspects of that business card’s creation?  Or did you stay up all night, nights in a row, designing that business card yourself?  Have you spent months filming your own promotional video footage, then teaching yourself how to use video editing software so you could cut that film together, with sound? Did you know what “</br><em>” means and how to add widgets and paypal buttons and navigate html, even though you never went to school for web design? If you answered yes to most or all of these questions, congratulations. You are probably a performer.

"Here, have a postcard. I made it myself."

  • Public Relations Specialist – I feel grateful that past experience with both receiving press releases (as a journalist) and writing them (for clients) has helped me understand how to pitch my own performance projects to the media.  But if I hadn’t learned that on-the-job as a writer, I would have had to learn it on-the-job as a performer. The world’s journalists and newscasters aren’t following my every move on twitter, waiting for the breaking news that I will be doing a show. The press must be contacted with information. Someone must contact them.
  • Social Networking Manager – Speaking of twitter (and Facebook, youtube, blogs, etc), keeping up with a network of people who are passionate about the same art and promoting gigs to potential audience members and clients is a full time job, in an of itself.  Unfortunately, it’s just a full time job that no one considers, while asking performers, “Do you have a job?”
  • Travel Agent – Want to book a tour down the west coast? Or maybe you’ve been hired for a gig in Paris but then want to spend some more time hitting European events, while you’re on the other side of the pond. Better get on kayak.com and pull up your frequent flyer numbers and figure out bus routes and train routes and baggage restrictions (hoops count as a bag, and every single time you go to an airline counter, they will be unsure how to attach the tag or whether they count as oversize baggage).
  • Business Manager – Try spending five weeks in Europe and saving all your receipts in a pocket of your suitcase, which incidentally has gotten wet in a leaking tent a the European Juggling Convention.
  • Costume Designer– A performance is a spectacle that causes audiences to laugh, cry, think, hope, believe. What we wear on stage, whether or not our art is mainly visual or aural (juggler vs. opera singer) is inseparable from the act itself. To that end, many of us have an idea of what clothing would best support our performance – and wind up making it ourselves.  Or modifying something existing. Or swimming through a stream of online stores, searching for exactly what we need. This can take hours, days, weeks.

    Bavarian dress modified to remove zipper and replace with all-velcro back, sleeves sewn from slip, hand sewn hat band with feather, costume reveal (not shown) black outfit with modified straps and punk rock skull from resale shop t-shirt, punk rock wig (top not shown) searched for until found.

  • Music Editor – A few years ago, I used to contact my friend Andrew to say, “Hey, can you edit 30 seconds of ‘The Chicken Dance’ together with the song ’99 Luftballoons,’ with the sound of a record scratching, in between those tracks?” And then we’d go back and forth for a while, via email, until it was exactly right. Now, when I’m doing my solo fire show, and I need to knit together two songs, I use Garage Band.  But first I had to learn how to use the program. I taught it to myself.
  • Performer – Wait, what?  Is there any time left to even rehearse and develop one’s act? Yes. There is. Sometimes, it comes at the cost of sleep. Sometimes, it’s hard to create while simultaneously expending so much mental and emotional energy on all responsibilities listed above. Sometimes, artists linger in obscurity or sink into deep depression because it is so hard to navigate everything involved with dedicating a life to art – including the misperception that our work is non existent or less valuable than something like having a corporate job. But it happens. Through nerves, through sweat, through failures and successes and self-doubt, performers forge ahead. Maybe we’re crazy. Or maybe we’re less crazy than people who stifle their creative urges and talents because the process of putting them into the world is too frightening.

I’m not complaining about life as a performer.  I’m only pointing out, for people who don’t know, that it’s less a selfish life led by lazy, lucky people – than it is a selfless one led by people who often spend every waking moment dealing with (or even thinking about) some aspect of how to raise our art into the world, the way a mother raises a child.

So the next time you’re tempted to ask a performer whether she “also has a job,” why don’t you instead ask her obscure questions about i-movie, about bus routes between Bristol and London or about what to bid on a two-hour walk around gig? If she knows the answers, give her a hug.

Revolva is a hula hoop performer and writer, based in Oakland, CA. Check out her work at www.revolvahoopdance.com

Huggling. Photo by Mike Maginot

Occu-play Everywhere

By now, the word “occupy” has become almost surreal. Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Oakland. Occupy your mind. Occupy your life. I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the “occupy” movement having such staying power. But in part, its widespread attraction may hinge on that critical verb. Occupy.

It means to fill space, but it also means to take possession of (occupying an empty house) — or to employ the body or mind. A job is known as an “occupation.” Our thoughts are occupied by whatever is most critical to us at the moment. Occupy covers where we stand, what holds our attention, what we do for a living. At a crisis point, where so many people are grasping for something to occupy a void where their houses or jobs used to be, it’s a powerful word.

As I’ve watched images of people gathering in public spaces lately, I’ve been thinking about how the word “occupy” functions in my own life. I have a particular view of public spaces, thanks to one aspect of my career “occupation,” which is: street performer (also known as “busker”). Armed with hula hoops, juggling balls and jokes, I regularly stop pedestrians in their tracks and deliver a message: Where you were just going isn’t as important as stopping to enjoy your life. To laugh. To have fun.

Busking is a real job. But it’s also a real art form — an incredibly interactive art form. It has to be. The sidewalk, square or lawn is literally the stage. There is no curtain or implied “fourth wall,” the way there is in formal stage performance. There is nothing indicating a separation between crowd and performer. Passersby often end up in the show. Before and after performances, conversations happen between artists and pedestrians — all “occupants” of the same public space — whose lives never would have crossed, if not for busking.

Like Occupy Wall Street, buskers face restrictions on the what/when/where of their occupation. On any given performance day, I might be standing outside, expressing myself, while simultaneously being asked to leave. I’ve been moved, sometimes multiple times in under an hour. I’ve been shut down. Permits, rules and appropriate times of day govern this occupation — even when it is literally my right to stand where I’m standing and express myself.

This fall, The Busking Project and Flowtoys launched a contest, asking spinners and jugglers to address the question: “How can playing with toys in public make the world more beautiful?” Thinking about how Occupy protest have drawn more attention to public spaces, I’d say the answer to that question is that street performances draw people together, around expression and shared experience. A sidewalk-level performances causes folks to stop. To laugh. To interact.

In a culture that’s often full of stress and isolation, levity and connection are beautiful.

Like protesters, buskers are also out there “occupying” the sidewalks, despite occasionally being forced to shut down (even when it is literally our right to be where we are standing). We practice an art form dedicated to forging and facilitating human connections. It might seem simple or frivolous to think that hula hooping in public — and hula hooping with the public — adds anything to the world. But how else would my life ever cross with those people I meet outside? How else would we stop to share space? And how better to feel more like a community (and less like strangers with potential conflicts) then to interact with each other? Especially when we come together in the spirit of play.

Occupy Wall Street has been criticized for not simmering its movement down into a single talking point. As a fellow “occupier” of public spaces, I’d say that demand for focus from outside the movement misses the point of what’s happening inside the movement. The point is that people who didn’t otherwise know each other, who never would have otherwise met, came together in public space and talked at all. About anything. About everything. That never happens in our everyday lives. And maybe the only way we can move forward as a healthy society is to listen, collectively, to what we each individually need. Maybe something as simple as standing in a park and communicating with each other — is incredibly profound.

This is the video I made, on the Busking Project/Flowtoys question of how playing with toys on the street can add to the loveliness of life. It’s my individual form of expression, involving a pink wig and a stack of hula hoops. But it’s part of a universal right to express ourselves in public spaces — and to form spontaneous pockets of community along the way. Which is a beautiful thing. Judging by recent events, it just might change the world.

Click here to visit the Busking Project’s site and view the other videos, addressing the same question.

Revolva in Europe – thanks to YOU!

[text updated since the original post]

Dear community,

In early 2011, a woman whose partner committed suicide wrote to tell me that watching my act inspired her to get back in touch with the part of herself that laughs and feels joy. A San Francisco dad (primary caretaker for his young son) recently wrote to tell me he had an uplifting break from exhaustion by happening across my street show. The list goes on, and it includes a lot of laughter and personal breakthroughs. It surprises me all the time how profound it is for human beings to wake up in the midst of life stress and simply feel joy. It also surprises me that I have the ability to facilitate that experience for people.

I have almost given up on performing a million times, when I was low on money and even lower on self confidence. Each time I’m at the very edge of myself, however, I’ve received feedback that kept me going, from people who seemed to benefit from what I was doing.

I’ve received heartfelt emails and post-show hugs from people who had been inspired or moved. I’ve had women thank me for helping them believe they could do comedy, in a world where female entertainers can’t unhinge their worth from beauty, and men are the funny ones.  I’ve sat with little girls, after shows, as they tell me about how they want to be in the circus. I started to believe it made more difference to the world for me to connect with people, through performance (and sometimes lie awake at night as rent day approached) — than it did for me to have money come out of the ATM machine every time I stuck a card in it.

This curious path unfolding before me has caused me hardship, at times. Performing is worth it for the benefit to other people, which can be a benefit to the performer’s heart. But it’s also a lot of work, for an uncertain financial return. I’ve kept moving forward because there were always people there, at the right moment, to make me understand that they’d received something from what I gave out. So I kept giving it.

After a crisis year of breaking my foot during a rehearsal, then having my car engine explode shortly thereafter, I made this video, asking for help forging ahead — taking what I do to Europe in August, 2011. At the time I made the video, I was treading water financially, and I knew I couldn’t afford to do something so hugely *extra* to my everyday existence without raising funds.

Thank you to all those who contributed to my journey. With around $1,500 of support, I was able to get a round trip ticket and also have a bit left over to travel within Europe. I wrote each person back, individually, to express my uber-gratitude. But I also want to publicly show y’all what you helped me accomplish. Here are some highlights of the trip:

* BRISTOL / SECRET GARDEN PARTY / “POOPING” WITH BAGS
This video gives a pretty good overview of week number one in Europe. I came. I saw. I learned how to “poop” (poi + hoop) with Steve Bags. It was wicked.

* EUROPEAN JUGGLING CONVENTION

Even more so than throwing balls up, I learned the most by going “balls out” (as they say) at EJC this year and challenging myself to a nerve-wracking performance. I never get stage fright anymore. Typically, performing feels like having a nice conversation. I speak with moves, the audiences answers, we have an exchange. Might as well be drinking a cup of tea together; it’s lovely. That changed this year in Munich, when I signed up for the EJC Open Stage and realized I’d be performing for the most critical audience on the planet. Jugglers. Hundreds of them. From all over the world. With opinions about planes and numbers and movement and … ahhhhh!

The Open Stage shows ran each night of the week, leading up to the weekend Gala Show. Open Stages were held in a large tent, with around a 500 person capacity, and the demand to see them was so high that the line of thousands of EJC participants would start forming sometimes hours before the show began, to try to get a seat. Fortunately for me, I signed up on Saturday, the first day of the festival, before I knew what I was getting into, and committed myself to Tuesday evening’s show.

The juggling world can be kind of a sausage fest, so I was the only woman in the lineup that night. (In fact, I was the only woman involved with the show – period – that particular evening, including tech folks, stage hands, everyone.) I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to push myself through the fear of doing it. I didn’t drop anything, but I wasn’t as precise or graceful as I wish, and I think any humor that might have come through in character was diminished by nerves. But it was super-heroic to think, “I flew all the way over here — and went for it!”

Sometimes, I judge decisions by what will make me more proud when I’m 90 years old and looking back on life. From some future rocking chair, I thank all of you for helping me stand on that stage. I don’t have an edited Open Stage video to post, but here’s another performance I did from the European Juggling Fest Fire Renegade Show. The point was to try things that were too hard or to do a *funny* fire act. So I worked up to 6 fire hoops, trying flaming tricks I normally don’t try, along the way. Thank you for everyone who helped me get to the EJC!

* BERLIN

After the EJC, I traveled up to Berlin and stayed with the contemporary dance master of the hoop world Rebecca “Beka” Halls. (She also hosted hoopers SaFire and Brecken.) We had a brilliant time, and I got to visit the Jonglier Katakomben, a community juggle/spin space that gave me some insight into how Europe approaches group warehouse-style practice spaces. That’s something on my mind, since I live in a similar space, in Oakland (the Vulcan). Here’s a funny hoop video that SaFire, Beka and I shot in Berlin, as a parody of that great German youtube meme “The Techno Viking“:

* EDINBURGH FRINGE FEST

For the last week of my journey, I traveled to Edinburgh, for the Edinburgh Fringe Fest. Interestingly, although the European Juggling Convention inspired me to hit Europe, and I really just tacked on Edinburgh because someone offered me a cabaret stage and my cousin lives there — it wound up being such a huge highlight of my trip. Edinburgh is fabulously beautiful, and during Fringe Fest, it’s full of the most kooky, skilled, awesome variety acts. I had a blast doing street shows by day and taking to some cabaret stages by night. I’d like to go back next year.

On the streets of Edinburgh.

* * *

In summary, I’m grateful for a circle of support that exists in community. At the end of the day, we only have our connection to each other. You gave something critical to me by helping me out on this journey. I learned so much, spinning and juggling with the European artists, and taking in countless street shows. I met so many new people, and I felt newly inspired about movement and performance.  In return, I hope to keep giving what I learned right back to those around me. On that path, I appreciate your support more than you know.

Love,
Revolva

ETERNAL GRATITUDE TO THE FOLLOWING DONORS

Hoop City
Flow Toys
Hoop Technique
Superhooper.org
Jeff and Sue Jones
Aaron Wilmarth
Amanda Shumack
Amanda Syryda
Ann Roth
Bill and Eileen Jones
Bitty Yancey
Brigitte “Hooperella” Ethier
Chelsea Taxman
Chris and Deena Jones
Elena Flores
Elena Romanyuk
Elizabeth Scagnelli
HOOP-the-FLOW (Stefana Serafina)
Jacqueline Becker
Jana and Bud Chase
Jennifer Alvarado
Jessica Wagstrom
Karen Suwinski
Kelly Minnick
Ken Hill
Krissy Humphreys
Leah Shoemaker
Maria Randolph
Meghan Griffith
Mike Maginot
Morgan Skowronski
Pamela Whitney
Rebecca Emerson
Rosie Lila
Sage L Komisar
Scott and Shannon Jones
Stephanie Clark
Tara Burke
Tehya Ross
Trish Stolte
Tirzah Shiya
Valentina “Unity” Martin
Vera Fleischer
William Brieger
William Kurth
Yan-Chi Tung
Zachary Jacobs

Funny is fresh forever

I’ve seen the future. Her name is Lynn Ruth Miller. That’s not hyperbole. I’ve just met a woman who inspires me to believe that female performers do not have a shelf life.

Lynn Ruth Miller is a 77-year-old firecracker, with a sharp wit and an even sharper intellect. Back in November, we shared a lineup, and my jaw dropped to see her unabashedly sing, dance, perform standup comedy – and even do a faux strip tease while belting out a parody of Rod Stewart’s “Do you think I’m sexy?” I was not astonished because it’s inappropriate for a 77-year-old woman to do such things, but rather because it’s damn appropriate for talent to have no age limits. And it’s a shame we do not often apply that truth to women.

Where can I look to find cultural messages supporting the idea that women are allowed to age on stage? In all my years as Revolva, I can tell you: almost nowhere. I couldn’t even count the number of men I’ve seen, with a full head of gray hair, in the spotlight, doing something funny. I could count the number of older female variety acts I’ve seen – on one hand.

I had lunch with Lynn Ruth today, and hearing a bit of her story, I realized that over the course of her life, many people have told her she couldn’t (or shouldn’t) do what she’s doing. At some key point, her own voice just took precedence over all the others. She has two advanced degrees. She’s authored a collection of books. At age 71, she decided to segue her love for story telling into standup comedy. And she’s fu*(%ing hilarious.

It is not easy to swim against cultural conditioning. So I want to acknowledge how much soul and strength it takes to do things despite mass opinion and not because of it. If I had a trumpet, I’d totally blow it in Lynn Ruth’s honor.

There’s a theory that breaking the “four minute mile” wasn’t possible until Roger Bannister ran a race in world record time in 1954. Having an example makes the impossible attainable. Ladies, if you have a talent, please take a cue from Lynn Ruth, and do the world a favor: stay up there on stage and break the age barrier.

Check out Lynn Ruth Miller’s upcoming shows, from the Bay Area to Edinburgh Fringe Festival at http://lynnruthmiller.net/