This week, the Bay Area Guardian featured Christabel Zamor (a.k.a. “HoopGirl”) on its cover. The article opens by stating that “Zamor is a hoopdancer — one of those sylph-like sirens who show up at parties and raves and on the playa in order to make the men drool and the women vow to do sit-ups.” Sylph, in case you’re wondering, applies to a lithe girl or woman, or to a mythical creature whose base element is air.
I would assume this was one reporter’s take on what I do for a living – if it weren’t such a commonly held vision. Over nearly a decade as Revolva, I have come up against the assumption that my hoop act will be based on sex more than a handful of times. More than one hundred handfuls of times. “Can you bring a sexy number?” is a pretty common question I’ve been asked by promoters.
On-body hooping does engage parts of the body related to sex. It rocks the pelvic core and can be an activity that causes women (and men) to feel more confident and at home in their own skin. I have experienced a high and felt sexy and empowered when rocking out with a hoop. That said, I have also felt sexy and empowered when dancing my heart out, when several miles into an intense run, and when I finish writing something satisfying and run around doing ninja kicks in the air.
I feel sexy when I’m fully present in my body, which most often occurs when I’m being my authentic self.
I understand that Zamor’s mantra “Hooping is sexy!” as quoted in the article, is “as much about self worth as it is about a satisfying session in the sack.” Those familiar with her work know that she holds empowerment retreats for women, writes prolifically on spirituality and has embarked on a life path dedicated to helping people heal. Sometimes, simply learning how to feel sexy is a powerful medicine.
Yet, I found some humor in realizing my own mantra (it’s been listed in this blog for a long time) is both similar and very different from the HoopGirl mantra. The over arcing phrase that defines my own path is: “Funny is sexy!”
When I look at the media produced by our culture, I see this:
Yet, it aligns with my nature to look like this:
In terms of a guiding principle, I have felt the need to remind myself (and sometimes people booking me) that there’s more than one approach to being a hoop dancer. In fact, I’ve felt the need to remember that there’s more than one approach to being a woman. Period. When I perform to “The Final Countdown” or dress up as Beyoncé or strap on a headset mic and do a talking, comedy hoop number, despite the fact that I might be in a show where only the men are doing comedy – I’m being myself.
And while hooping may or may not be sexy, depending on how the artist or audience experiences it, being one’s self is always sexy. On my path, funny is sexy.
I often wonder whether the pressure women feel from the culture to have magazine-style sex appeal makes it less possible to approach sexiness from any other standpoint. I saw this video recently, which “empowers women to reconnect with their sexual core, one sexy squat at a time.”
Undulating one’s core can help with sexual performance and confidence. But I didn’t see a wide variety of physical aesthetics, body types or dress styles in this video. Which led me to wonder how empowering, or even how accessible, it actually was to do Kama. Would someone feel comfortable being sassy and flirty in this class without a bare belly, thigh highs and the right hair extensions? I wonder the same thing when I see the prevalence of one sexy archetype in the hoop world.
In addition to more than one approach to LOOKING like a hoop dancer (or woman), there’s also more than one approach to DOING hooping. Off-body tech hoop moves do not actually engage the pelvic floor. They do not necessarily involve the hips or undulation. Yet, they can be done while dancing and are part of many hoopers’ repertoire.
I currently live in a community of object manipulators, The Vulcan (in Oakland, CA), where the reigning mindset is one steeped in theory – and not in an internal or external relationship between the artist and “sexiness.” An almost holy reverence is given to the possibilities of human body and object, to the slight turn of a wrist that can enhance momentum and further open a doorway into flow. Every day, I see examples of hooping that have nothing to do with an undulating pelvic core or sex. Sometimes, they have nothing to do with being a woman. (As some of my talented neighbors and friends prove, men also do incredible work with hoops.)
A few zillion gigs under my belt, and I can tell you that the Guardian reporter is not alone in assuming a “hoopdancer” is a lithe, sexy woman who exists “in order” to make men drool and women feel bad about their abs. But I can also say from practical experience that the Guardian definition is limited to one archetype. It doesn’t cover what I do. It doesn’t describe the “I wear whatever I want while blowing your mind” style of Brecken or the over-the-top hilariousness of Miss Saturn or the pure art of Malcolm Stuart or Native American hoop dancers or – well, probably a lot of people who use hoops without simultaneously being “sylph-like sirens.”
Following one’s own path can lead to confidence. Which is ultimately the best way to feel at home in one’s body. Unabashedly being your self, no matter what that looks like, is the most convention-shattering, SEXY act imaginable.
Here’s to an ever-expanding definition of what it means to dance with hoops.