Don’t go back to sleep

It takes energy to embrace change. Repeatedly. But it’s natural to transform because the universe isn’t static — even when we pretend our lives are somehow cemented in place. After navigating a traumatic past year (lost writing job, broken foot, mangled car, multiple deaths), it was painfully obvious to me that “reality” could shift. The end result, however, is that I now feel a heightened sense of importance to living from my core right now.

The urgency isn’t based on fear. It’s based on the happy discovery that none of the material possessions and societal goals we’re taught to cultivate can pad a life. Not a one-bedroom Portland apartment. Not a paid-off car. Not a seemingly secure job. So why cling to those things? Why not hula hoop and live in the midst of art and laugh all the time and love deeply? Why not wake up to what we really want? We’re here for a limited time, and that time can be spent sleepwalking through someone’s else’s dreams or living our own truth.

With all the recent global jitteriness, I wanted to post a poem that helped me understand that fear is a sleeping mask. The world is transforming because that’s what it does. Do we react by continuously rebuilding the past? This is a good time to open our eyes, ask for what we really want — and through a process of change, stay awake long enough to receive it.

The breeze at dawn

Has secrets to tell you

Don’t go back to sleep

You must ask

For what you really want

Don’t go back to sleep

People are going back and forth

Across the doorsill

Where the two worlds touch

The door is round and open

Do not go back to sleep

~ Rumi

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Defining hoop dance

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.

A rare sighting of a sylph without her hoop.

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:

"Hello, you probably see me every time you open a magazine."

Yet, it aligns with my nature to look like this:

This helmet makes me feel flirty.

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.

The 2010 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. It’s not often that I’m able to unite my two greatest powers (composing heartfelt prose and wearing-wigs-while-doing-stupid-sh*t ) in one project. So the Revolvies are back again, even though hooping.org’s “The Hoopies” have gotten so fair, I hardly need to parody the usual campaigning surrounding them, as I did in The 2008 Revolvies and The 2009 Revolvies.

This year’s Revolvies are dedicated to exploring the crossing point between hooping and other arts and also to highlighting our community in categories not covered by “The Hoopies.” Speaking of our community, I had to go out and get last year’s awards BACK before I could pass them on to this year’s winners. Philo, I got the Hoopies back for you, too. Isopop (who goes by the stage name “Rich Porter”) and Brecken Rivara knocked out my tooth, lost their pants and did not want to give up their power. Khan Wong and Tiana Zoumer also happened by. Please enjoy the pre-show.

Now, on to the awards!

GRAND PRIZE CONCEPT OF THE YEAR: CROSS-POLLINATION

What is cross-pollination? Your mother and I meant to tell you sooner. Cross pollination happens when a group of obsessed dorks (who love each other very much) come together as one – hooping, spinning and juggling various props. After a gestation period in a common practice space, this group of obsessed dorks conceives a 4-point flower, and a contact staff enters the flower, followed by some juggling balls. What? Exactly. I’m basically saying that 2010 was a year to realize innovation happens at the crossing point between props. In 2010 new multi-prop events, such as Pacific Fire Gathering, supported the idea that we can all learn from each other to access multiple doorways into flow. In 2010, I got so excited about learning new hoop moves, through club spinning and other props, that I moved to the Vulcan, a spinning community in Oakland, CA. So here’s my neighbor, Brian Thompson, and his multi-prop-infused hooping. I hope I don’t get really into rattlesnake hunting next year.

COMMUNITY OF THE YEAR: VANCOUVER, BC

I have three and a half words for you: VANCOUVER, BC KICKS ASS! First of all, it’s home to hoopers such as Alley ‘Oop, Christa Giles (a.k.a. Xta from tribe), Ariel Anderson (who clowned it up at Hoop Camp), Rebekah Goldin (shown in the MadSkillz video below, with Alley) and Pixie Hoops. It’s also a base for Ministry of Manipulation (specifically Ryan Mellors and Dawn Monette), site of several circus schools, location of Fantastic Space Enterprises and home of great jugglers (like Bekka Rose and Yuki Ueda).

In 2010, many of the people mentioned above banded together to debut “flow, juggle, spin” festival MadSkillz Vancouver (a.k.a. one of my new favorite festivals). In late 2010, Vancouver also climbed a step higher on the coolness meter when Alley ‘Oop, Graham Ellsworth, Yuki Ueda, Chris Murdoch, and Crystal Draper banded together to open Sideshow Studios, a warehouse space dedicated to the flow arts. This city’s spinning scene took giant leaps forward in 2010, and I definitely recommend packing up your hoops, shoving a few extra props into your backpack and making a pilgrimage to Vancouver in 2011. (p.s. The mountains surrounding the city are to die for.)

HOOP VIDEO OF THE ENTIRE YEAR: BRISTOL HOOP MASSIVE

It’s like one day, in a twist of fate, a giant comes to get you, and you go to a train station, and there’s this school for wizards, and you’re like “Oh snap! I found my peeps!” Harry Potter knows how I felt when I saw this video. I am now convinced that there’s a reason I was a lonely dork in a world of tribal beauties, hooping to Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” with a giant, gold dollar sign around my neck. It’s because I’m from Bristol, bitches! (On the inside.) This video rocks so hard, and Bristol Hoop Massive made my year with their mad mix of skills and humor. I even tried the foot-to-foot hoop cartwheel over and over until I got it, although not quite as well as the Hobbit. Gah! What inspiration. Okay, now could you come get me, Bristol? I’m ready to go home.

MULTI-PROP VIDEO OF THE YEAR: DETROIT FIRE GUILD

I hate when folks fetishize Detroit just because it’s suddenly in the New York Times and national hipsters want to move there to buy a cheap house. Where has everyone been for the past FORTY YEARS? I hope people start fetishizing Detroit for an honorable reason: because they see this video. There’s hooping. There’s spinning. There’s friggin’ incredible cinematography, capped off by a final scene that involves a shot taken from a helicopter. When I moved away from Detroit in 2006, there were like 15 people that would meet at a dojo every Friday night. When I went back this summer, there were like SIXTY people meeting in Detroit on Monday nights (and I was told that night wasn’t even well attended), and people meet in Ann Arbor on Tuesdays. I’m super proud of y’all for holding it down in the city, doing circus. Oh, and for appearing in this video, absolutely killing it.

OVERALL BADASS OF THE YEAR: PHILO HAGEN

Dude, Los Angeles, whatever you have done to Philo Hagen, I like it. I was dumbfounded this year at Hoop Camp, to see hooping.org’s editor – normally not one to make a big show of himself – climb on stage, in his hot-ass, shiny red pants and go off as the opener to the teacher’s showcase. And that was enough for me. But holy crap! A few months later, I picked up the New York Times sitting on my friend’s kitchen table, to see Philo. His free-spirited “Gotta Hoop” video is currently around 64,000 views. Being a badass is a multi-faceted thing, but it’s mostly about an attitude of “This is ME, world. Like it, or get the f*&k out of my face! Whoooo!” And I love that Philo’s badass self wears tighty whities and sock garters and dances on the streets of LA-LA-land all night long.

DANCE-HOOP FUSION OF THE YEAR: LUNA BREEZE

Freestyling lends to a particular type of performance that’s popular in the modern hoop world. I sometimes enjoy watching unrehearsed flow as a performance (if it’s done well; keep in mind that a performance is still a performance). However, I respect choreography a bit more because it’s so difficult when there are also objects in the mix. Hoops are unpredictable. Here, Luna Breeze does a beautiful job of not only dancing – in the best unitard ever – but also coupling her intriguing body movements with a butt load of hoops. The video begins with some great multiple patterns, but my favorite part is the second dance, beginning around 5:00. Nice mechanical, doll-like moves, Breeze. And I think I’m going to build a trophy just for your unitard.

INNOVATIVE HOOP CONCEPT (WITH THE BEST NAME): POOPING

“Hey there. My name is Bags and this video is predominately about poop. Poop is the art of spinning hoops like they were poi” – Steve Twobags, Bristol. (Did I mention yet how fascinated I am by Bristol?) Poi made a natural crossover into the hoop world years ago. What I like about Steve Twobags’ version of hoop poi is that he doesn’t effing stop. He goes way beyond the two-beat weave into partner poi with hoops. Which, I guess would be known as “partner pooping.” Steve, in the scenario where Bristol is my long lost home, you might be my brother. I look forward to one day meeting you in person so we can poop together.

COMEDY PERFORMER OF THE YEAR: MISS SATURN

Okay, let’s give it up. Jenny McGowen, a.k.a. Miss Saturn, has been doing this for a long time. I’ve seen her perform on stage, watched videos of her busking, and this summer, I also got to hang out with her a bit in New York. Homegirl is hilarious. I like her multiple hoop-tasticness, but she’s also studied clowning and theater, and I just think she’s the whole package. There are people who have an intangible magic in front of a crowd. She’s one of them.

STREET PERFORMER OF THE YEAR: VANESSA VORTEX

I went on the New Old Time Chautauqua vaudeville tour this summer, and Vanessa Vortex was also on the tour. It was fabulously helpful to meet her. It’s not often that I meet hoopers who are into street performing (a.k.a. “busking”), so having the opportunity to hang out with one for several weeks was inspiring. Vanessa and I made up some duo material and busked it at Oregon Country Fair – and she then went on to do a month-long gig of street shows in Virginia Beach. I want to give her props because she’s so committed to defying the notion that men talk during performance and women appear and silently look pretty. She spent the entire vaudeville tour challenging herself by emceeing and making up spoken material. Also, she’s been in circus school in Australia, San Francisco and now Brattleboro, VT, so hooping is just a fraction of what she brings to the street (or the stage). I’m also uber-committed to the idea that more female performers should talk and be funny. I like everything about what’s happening in this photo:

Vanessa Vortex rocking a street show in Virginia Beach

MULTIPLE HOOPER OF THE YEAR: ALLEY ‘OOP

Alley ‘Oop has a particular style. If I had to make up a name for it, I’d call it “Native American-inspired sustained circus spinning.” She splits up to 5 hoops on body. She studied with a Native American hoop dancer, so she takes up to 5 hoops off-body and makes Native American-inspired shapes with them. She spins so fast that I almost feel like puking just watching her. And she’s doing all of this at once. I love this video.

BEST HOOP ISOLATIONS: MOON

I can’t get over this man. I mean, he is a man. Look at him. I wouldn’t be surprised to come across him building a wall. But he’s not building a wall, and he’s not sleeping. He’s sitting there in his 8-ball shirt, weaving a dream. Moon does incredible things with multiple mini hoops, and I’d hazard a guess that his mastery of contact juggling crossed over into his skill with hoops. After I get better at juggling, apparently, I should work on contact juggling. And after Bristol, I’m going to Italy.

ADVANCING HOOPING AS A HEALING/SPIRITUAL PRACTICE:
HOOPING HARMONY and JAGUAR MARY

At the crux of existence, everything is spinning. The Sufis got it. And it’s no different for people who have powerful, transcendant experiences through modern hoopdance. I’d like to honor a few women who take hooping in that direction. First of all, the mother/daughter team Ariana and Laura Maria of Massachusetts-based Hooping Harmony are the real deal. Ariana has been a holistic health practitioner, spiritual and life coach for over 20 years. Laura Maria is a talented dancer, artist and designer. Together, the bring a wealth of empathy and holistic knowledge to a hoop company that is truly dedicated to healing people. I can’t recommend working with them highly enough.

LINK TO A GREAT HOOPING HARMONY INTERVIEW

And Jaguar Mary. Geeze! Last year, she was “newbie hooper.” By now, this filmmaker/artist/woman-of-the-stars from Washington, DC has run healing-focused “Sacred Circularities” retreats in Bali and beyond. She’s also used her filmmaking skills to make some of the best tutorials of 2010. I’m totally thinking about “Sacred Circularities Peru” in 2012. Jaguar Mary made this film of “Hoopalicious” talking about mentorship

RISING STAR AWARD:
TIANA ZOUMER AND NICK GUZZARDO

I’m sorry, but could 2010 could have featured two more simultaneously talented and sexy hoopers? I wanted to call this category “Hoop World Prom King and Queen.” Nick Guzzardo has been hooping a bit longer than one year. I believe Tiana’s been hooping for under two years. In the scope of things, they’re both still on the new end of the spectrum. Although you would never know that from watching them move. With a long eye backward into how things have progressed to this point in modern hoopdance, I can see how both Nick and Tiana are influenced by some other hoopers’ previous work in plane breaking. But these two put their own spin on the multi-dimensional style. Tiana somehow hoops so fast and precisely that her movement may as well be a clip from some expertly edited pop video. It doesn’t look even look real. Nick blew my mind in Malcolm Stuart’s class at Hoop Camp, entering the state of “flail” and exiting with some mind-blowing moves I had never before seen. Watch out for these two in 2011.

CROSS POLLINATOR OF THE YEAR: KHAN WONG

That sounds dirty, and I’m sorry. No one wants a trophy with “cross-pollinator of the year” on it. Fortunately, there are no trophies in the Revolvies, and what I meant is that 2010 was a year for fusing props and seeing what happens. And Khan Wong – a man who began with poi, moved on to hoop and simultaneously spins clubs and other props – is a great example of how exploring more than one tool can amplify beauty. From rocking the multi-prop troupe performance “Portal” (at CounterPULSE in San Francisco, with Tamara Bliss Sharp, Theodor Jerdes and Aileen Lawlor), to hosting the Bay Area’s annual “Flow Show,” Khan is pretty much pollinating all over the place. The result? Some pretty mind-blowing shapes, moves and performances. Plus, he looks like a really awesome shaman in his flowing, white skirt. Thanks for helping us transcend into ever higher realms of flow in 2010, Khan. Now get the f*&k out of my face.

HOOPING WHERE IT’S NEEDED MOST:
JAY EVERETT (AND THE GULF COAST HOOPERS)

Last March, my parents escaped the Michigan winter by renting a condo in Gulf Shores, Alabama. I came down to visit them. A Facebook post led local hooper Jay Everett and a friendly group of fellow hoopers to contact me. We hooped it up in the park, had margaritas at a bar on the beach, and I very much enjoyed their Southern hospitality. A month later, the Gulf Coast was hit with the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. How has the oil spill affected hooping in the Gulf region? Try having fun on the beach when people are walking around in hazmat suits all summer. Jay explains, “We haven’t been able to hoop outside. My practice was definitely limited this summer. All my hooping was done in my living room and backyard. Which is sad.”

Jay started hooping in Oct. of 2009 and co-founded a local Gulf Shores hoop group with hooper Shea Jordan. He’s currently trying to set up a permanent hoop venue on the coast and traveling to local cities like Mobile to teach hoop fitness. Being a man in the South, who is unabashedly committed to hooping, Jay stood out to me in 2010. Post-oil spill, his continued efforts to help people stay happy and healthy feel even more important. In addition to Jay, I also want to give a big shout out to every hooper on the Gulf Coast. You all deserve an award, some honor and a clean, outdoor place to hoop. Our thoughts are still with you.

Jay Everett hooping it up in Gulf Shores

HOOP DREAMER OF THE YEAR: GAIL O’BRIEN

In 2007, professional physiotherapist Gail O’Brien began hooping for exercise. Fitness gave way to obsession. She explains, “Instead of thinking about patients, I was wondering what would happen if you jumped into the bottom of an anti-spin flower.” After a request to go part-time was refused, Gail quit her day job. Suddenly free, she booked a trip to the States to hit Burning Man, Pacific Fire Gathering, Portland Juggling Festival, Hoop Camp and more. While in the States, she applied to circus school in Sheffield, England. And at age 31, she got in.

So let me recap: At the beginning of 2010, Gail O’Brien was a successful physiotherapist with a three-bedroom house, who manipulated objects on the side. At the end of 2010, she was a full-time spinner, headed to circus school, with one carload of stuff, a rucksack slung over her shoulder – and the will to believe this was all possible. Gail, if I could reach around the world to give you a high five, I would. Instead, I’m giving you a Revolvie. Rock it, sista.
This video is the kind of “wtf” move that Gail does on a regular basis.

FIRE HOOPER OF THE YEAR: SCREW IT

I initially had this great idea. I have two unitards with flames on them. I wanted Julia and Shredder to wear them and become the unstoppable fire super duo of all time. And I wrote that paragraph (before the Hoopies nominations came out). Under all these wigs, I still have a sensitive soul, though. It did suddenly feel weird to be a Hoopies “Fire Hooper of the Year” nominee writing about other nominees and leaving other nominees out. (Could I say “nominee” again?) So screw it. Here are videos of all of us. Julia, Shredder, SaFire, Kandice and Olive Oyl, you now officially share a 2010 Revolvie. I don’t get one because I go to the taco cart all the time anyway. I don’t really need anymore refried beans. (See Revolvies intro video).

JULIA “JEWELS” HARTSELL
Julia Hartsell has the power to make me cry just by hooping. For real. She is the only hooper who has ever brought me to tears by flowing so hard. I could not for the life of me find a multiple fire hoop solo video of Julia from recent times, so please let this load and look at this an imagine her two years ahead in time. And she’s rocking it hard enough here.

ERIN “SHREDDER” SCHRADER
My lord! I just barely caught the San Francisco precompression this year. I wasn’t living here at the time, but I was in town doing another show, and I raced over afterward. Holy crap! Shredder can acro-hoop. On fire. I am going to start doing handstands every day and in like 10 years, I might be Shredder. Maybe. But probably not.

KANDICE KORVES-KAUS
At Oregon Country Fair’s Friday night fire show, Kandice Korves-Kaus and her partner Andrew did a great character routine. She was dressed as a lion, he was dressed as an animal tamer. As she whipped out incredible moves, he whipped fire hoops right out of her hands (with an actual whip). I have to give mad props to people who do fire as a character act, since it’s a bit overdone in the sexy style. I can’t find a video of that exact act. Here’s Kandice rocking it in Bali, though. Cool enough!

OLIVIA “OLIVE OYL” PIZZO
When I went back to Detroit at the end of the summer, I had a chance to meet a fellow hometown gal, Oliva “Olive Oyl” Pizzo. While petite in stature, Olivia has no fear in rocking out with fire. I couldn’t find a solo performance video on youtube, but I found Olivia and Courtney Morningstar rocking it as a fire duo at Detroit’s Dubstep Circus. Check it out (Olivia is the one on the right during most of this). F8&k yeah! (Sorry, it’s the Motor City thing.) Go Detroit!

SANDRA “SAFIRE” SOMMERVILLE
I guess I was out of range when SaFire was burning up in 2010. But I have seen her do it in past years, and homegirl has crazy skills. She’s great at splitting multiple hoops unlit, and now she’s rocking the triple hoops — on fire. Da-yum!

UH, REVOLA: MY YEAR IN FIRE
I came back from a broken foot and won Fire Idol at Burning Man this year. Unfortunately, I now live at the Vulcan, and it’s all old news. I have to do something like juggle flaming clubs while rotating six fire hoops and standing on a flaming flag pole to even register with these fire ninjas. Great. Here’s to 2011.

And last, but certainly NOT least (I just wanted to end with something exciting.)

BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO HOOPING:
HOOP TECHNIQUE DEBUT

Actually, I’m still not sure. Was this even done in 2010? I think it was started in 1997 or something. I made hella fun of Rich Porter (excuse me, Isopop) and Spiral for all the hype surrounding their instructional/inspiration video “Hoop Technique” as it plodded along, trying to live up to its accompanying iconic photo by actually being finished. But in reality, I understand that this project was approached as art, and it was also a learning process, for people putting together a dvd for the first time. Despite my Revolva-like jokes, I’m going to admit something: I cried when I finally watched this. The inspirational dvd is so good. I mean, the movement footage of Spiral, Rich, Shakti, Poki, Malcolm and Brecken is exquisite. But the interviews are what made me cry. There hasn’t ever been a good, tangible product to hand to people and say, “Here. Look. THIS is what I love — and what I do with my life.” Props to Spiral, Rich and everyone who worked on the dvd for creating something so much more than an instructional dvd. It’s art. It’s beauty. It’s necessary. Thank you.

When the hoop hits the road

I’ve been so blessed this summer. With June came the opportunity to hit the road, first for WildFire, a Connecticut-based fire and flow arts festival. Check out this video, by Brandon/Hypnotic, featuring me, Julia Hartsel, Aileen, Noel, Brecken, Ian, MCP, Sticky, Zan, Lucas, Brandon himself.

We spent some time in New York City on the way in and out of WildFire, and I also had a chance to see Stefan (of Groovehoops), Malcolm, Brent and … Miss Saturn! It was a special thrill to connect with Miss Saturn, who I met once in 2006 and haven’t seen since. I absolutely love this hilarious, inspiring woman.

Let’s see, from there, I stopped in Portland, got into a big-ass pickup truck with Morgan, and we made our way to Vancouver, BC for another spin fest called MadSkillz Vancouver. I’d actually like to write about this more in-depth when I have more time. It basically involved me getting to stay with Alley ‘Oop (along with Miss Saturn, one of the few busking/comedy-style female hoop performers I know) and spin all weekend with a really great crowd of local Vancouver, national and international artists.

Now, I am sitting on a bench in Sebastopol, CA, in the midst of having the BEST TIME OF MY LIFE with the New Old Time Chautauqua Vaudeville Tour. We’re touring Northern California, partnering with communities along the way, and — gosh, this deserves more attention, too. For now, I’m going to just include a link to the Chatauqua blog (which I was tapped to write). It kind of explains what I walked into. The tour, co-founded by Patch Adams and the Flying Karamazov Brothers, has been going on for decades, and it is really a unique, community-based adventure.

Our show is about to start, so I will wrap up by reiterating how blessed I feel to be mobile (after such a long span of fall/winter immobility) and to be able to reconnect with friends again. I even spent a night with Spiral, Rich, Shakti, Isa and the SF gang after the Chautauqua San Francisco show. Hope to continue whirling near and far, as the summer progresses.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE NEW OLD TIME CHAUTAUQUA REDWOOD VAUDEVILLE TOUR BLOG

HoopCon Goodbye, Circus Artemis, Summer Tour

Dear friends,

I will not be at a Hoop Convergence this year. It was a tough choice (thus the late formal announcement), but it’s also been a tough year. And I just made the decision to streamline what’s happening over the next month. My original plan was to perform in Circus Artemis (Portland’s new all-women circus) this upcoming weekend, fly to Hoop Convergence straight from the final show, hit the second part of the conference, stick around for two weeks to hang out with Julia Hartsel and road trip to Wildfire.

In the version of my life that was pre-2009, this would’ve been normal. But late 2009 /early 2010 was so chaotic (recovering from major injury and navigating massive car repairs), I’m now filing this plan under the category “insane.” I no longer thrive on stress; I now thrive on drinking enough water, breathing deeply and being able to sleep at night. Because my car repairs are still lingering, I’m going to take a few more weeks to untangle my life threads before doing anything too wild.

Anyway, I’ll miss everyone in North Carolina. I feel a special attachment to Hoop Convergence because the first year (2008), Julia, Spiral, Caroleena, Ali Cat and I formed a planning committee and bounced around ideas of what it would be. Julia is the super goddess of making it happen. But I felt like a co-mom of a newborn baby that first year. And it’s such a charming event – like a family reunion. I’ll miss the late night sessions in front of Falcoln Lodge. (Put a beer and a lawn chair in front of me, and I’ll be up until 4 a.m. laughing my a** off with Shakti and Spiral.)

Shakori Hills

Ali Cat, Julia, Caroleena, Revolva, Alley’Oop – celebrating successful Hoop Convergence ’08

So that’s the sad news.

The happy news is that I still have a lot of fun shows in the works. I’m just concentrating closer to home this summer. (And I’ll still be at Hoop Camp in September.) Here’s the lowdown on the rest of my summer:

May 21-23 – CIRCUS ARTEMIS, Portland, OR (Staver Locomotive, 2537 NW 29th — Buy tickets by clicking here) — Circus Artemis is Portland’s new All-Women Circus. It is also known as THE SHOW FOR WHICH I BROKE MY FOOT REHEARSING. We had our debut back in October, and two weeks before opening night, I broke a bone jumping through a hoop. It was still thrilling to watch this labor of love sell out a 400+ person venue every single night for three nights in a row. If you are anywhere near the state of Oregon this weekend, don’t miss your chance to get a ticket for what I can honestly say is one of the most inspiring, empowering shows I have ever seen. (I wasn’t on stage in the fall; I was out in the audience, crying – not even just out of pain, out of extreme pride at watching so many strong, talented, powerful women evoke massive cheers and even standing ovations from the audience.) Here’s a video with footage from the fall show. Hope to see you there!

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The Women of Circus Artemis

June 11-13 – MAD SKILLS VANCOUVER – tbd – Coordinating a ride North-ward with the Vulcan Crew. If it works out, I’ll be at this fantastic-sounding combo of a spin event/juggling festival. Check out their promo vid:

June 18-July 3 – NEW OLD TIME CHAUTAUQUA REDWOOD VAUDEVILLE TOUR – I’m so excited, after hearing incredible things about this tour for a couple years, to finally have gotten around to applying for (and then being accepted to) New Old Time Chautauqua. This tour also features hooper Vanessa Vortex and many other fantabulous vaudevillians:

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June 19th – San Francisco, CA – Cowell Theater (7:30)

June 23rd – Pt. Reyes, CA – Community show, Workshops, Parade, Show at The Dance Palace (7:30 PM)

June 24th – Santa Rosa, CA – Community show

June 25 – Ukiah, CA – Parade, Workshops, Show in Hopland at Solar Living Center (7 PM)

June 26th – Sebastopol, CA – Parade, Teaser Show, Workshops (12-3 PM) and Show at Analy Theater (7:30 PM)

June 27th – Willits, CA – Workshops, Parade and Show in Shakespeare Tent (7 PM)

June 28th – Covelo, CA Round Mountain Valley Tribe –Parade and Workshops at Pow Wow Grounds (time TBA) Show at Round Valley Tribe Rancheria (evening TBA)

June 30th – Ukiah, CA Community Show at Ukiah Youth Detention Center (1-3PM), Ben Show at Ukiah Brewery

July 2nd – Redway, CA – Parade, workshops, Show at Mateel Community Center (times TBA)

July 3rd – Redway, CA -Community shows, Closing Circle

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Oregon Country Fair

July 9-11 – OREGON COUNTRY FAIR, Veneta Oregon — Back home in time to perform with the Bellini Twins (at Daredevil Palace during the day) and in the Friday Night Fire Show at the much-loved, much-attempted-to-be-snuck-into-overnight Oregon Country Fair.

I’m. Coming. Out.

Okay, to be honest, it seems like a big deal (what is that strange feeling, nostalgia?) to be springing back onto the stage again. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was sprawled out on the floor at L.A. Fitness, clutching my foot? Didn’t I just stop crutching, then stop limping, then throw my rehab boot on top of a kitchen cabinet in disgust and triumph? It all still seems so fresh.

But I took a look at my checklist:

*Cartwheel – yup
*Front walkover – yup
*Going on a trail run with the guys from Lost Valley – yup
*Sally Beauty Supply’s “Buy two false eyelashes, get one free” sale – yup
*Jumping through hoops without breaking a bone – yup

It appears that it’s time.

But before I get on with this blog — and with my life — I want to give a huge thanks to everyone who helped me out when I broke my foot. Being temporarily disabled (on crutches for two months and in a rehab boot for another) made me hyper aware of how important it is to have loving, supportive people in my life. I didn’t register at first how hard it would be to heal from this injury, so I was initially jumping around on one foot, trying to do everything for myself. I subsequently swelled out of three different casts. The circulation in my broken foot went haywire. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t walk. I finally had to just sit down, with my foot elevated. And sit. And sit. And cry.

And ask for help.

The hardest, most humbling thing about this experience was learning how to receive. I used to live alone and plow through life taking care of biz solo. And then, suddenly, I couldn’t do anything for myself — not even hoop to make myself feel better. I had to ask for help every five minutes. I am so grateful to everyone who answered, when I asked. It was not easy or comfortable to be so dependent on other people, but it was a critical life lesson in the importance of community. I will forever have ridiculous amounts of love for the friends who cooked food for me (and carried the food to the table), who drove me to the doctor’s office a bazillion times, who hugged me when I was sobbing with my foot propped up on the back of the couch, who made a family for me when I live so far away from my actual family.

(Thank you, thank you sweet friends!)
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And now, I hereby return to the world of accepting gigs. If anyone wants to come support my reemergence, this is where I’ll be:

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SATURDAY, FEB. 20 – MIZ KITTY’S PARLOR, MISSION THEATER, PORTLAND, OR: (Doors 6 p.m., Show 7, tix $12, 21+) Taking the 21st century audience into the realm of the Alaskan Gold Rush, genuine Vaudeville acts and Music in the spirit of true Americana, Lisa Marsicek aka Miz Kitty will again be your seasoned and spirited guide for a night you will never forget. This month’s show features:

BRIDGETOWN SEXTET
Sweet, Swingin’ Old Time Jazz!

REVOLVA
Stunning Mistress of the Hoop!

GIDEON FREUDMANN
Psychedelic Cello from Portland’s Cello Hero!

RHYS THOMAS
Thrill to the Nimble Fingers of the Juggler!!

LAUREN SHEEHAN
Skillful Guitar Picking and Delightful Singing!

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TUESDAY, FEB. 22 – SEVEN FEATHERS CASINO, CANYONVILLE, OR:

MARDI GRAS PARTY!
Revolva
Kyoko Uchida
Daniella Steiner
Heather Pearl
The Bellini Twins
… and more!

KELSO THEATER

FRIDAY, MARCH 19 – KELSO THEATER, KELSO, WA (8:30, tix $10):

“MAGIC & MAYHEM VAUDEVILLE REVUE”
(a.k.a. Revolva and her boyfriends)
Featuring:
Adam the Great
Amazing Mathias
Michael O’Neill
… and yours truly
(Kidding about the boyfriends; it’s Adam’s show. But I will be the token woman, and look how cute they all are! I think they just hired me to tone down the sex appeal.)

The 2009 Revolvies

In 2008, based on campaigning that rivaled the intensity with which terminally ill hospital patients would beg family and friends for a new liver, I felt that some great artists had slipped right through hooping.org’s “The Hoopies.” That’s not to discredit the 2008 winners. I wanted to celebrate them. I also wanted to acknowledge a bevy of talented hoopers who didn’t even break through the nomination round. And so I created The 2008 Revolvies.

Now, here we are, a year later. Hooping.org did a smashing job of weeding out suspicious ballots and discouraging campaigning. The 2009 Hoopies were so well-rounded that I hardly had a reason to create an alternative awards show. Except that I already bought this fabulous gown, a podium and some “wrap it up” music to help me know when it was time to start typing the next award. So without further ado, I present to you — with expanded categories (to address the many uses of hoops), male and female winners in many places, and no disqualification based on Hoopie nomination (if I thought you were the sh*t, you got an award) — the 2009 Revolvies: For Excellence in Revolution!

HOOP PERFORMER OF THE YEAR (SOLO) – FEMALE

Spiral – After pioneering sustained spinning and lightning fast moves with smaller hoops, Spiral spun off to circus school in 2008/2009. The result? A stronger bridge between the “hoopdance” world and the “circus-style” hoop world. (Oh, and some even stronger arm muscles on this woman. Facebook status update of the year: Rich Porter’s “Spiral just opened a jar for me.”) It’s refreshing to see a performer who’s not satisfied unless she’s constantly pushing beyond the edge of what she already knows. For excellence in everything from flow to flexibility on stage, a 2009 Revolvie goes to Spiral.

HOOP PERFORMER OF THE YEAR (SOLO) – MALE

Matt “Poki” McCorkle – If Michael Moschen and Buster Keaton had a baby, it would be Poki. This fancy lad has the rare ability to make audiences gasp (with his mind-boggling isolations) and the immediately burst into laughter (with the raise of an eyebrow). What most impressed me in 2009, however, was seeing Poki expand his emotional range into more experimental work. Props to a male hoop performer who spent this past year taking some chances.

FIRE HOOPER OF THE YEAR – FEMALE

Shakti Sunfire Grace. That’s the word I think of when I imagine Shakti manipulating fire hoops. She has the ability to execute tight technical moves (pizza toss from the knees, super fast plane changes) – but all those moves are like stars in the constellation of her yoga, dance and aerial training. In the following video, I was equally impressed by what she was doing with the parts of her body that were touching the hoop – as I was by how engaged her fingertips were when the hoop was way down at her knees. Shakti rocked 2009 with full-body excellence.

FIRE HOOPER OF THE YEAR – MALE
Rich Porter – Has anyone ever rewound a youtube video of Rich a thousand times, trying to absorb the intricacies of his style? Well, break out your Kevlar sleeves and try to do that shit on fire. Rich channels some kind of ninja force that enables him to accomplish plane changes, tempo changes and all kinds of brilliance on FIRE with BARE NAKED ARMS. I still think this man is a robot because his moves are humanly impossible. But I’ll give him a Revolvie anyway.

HOOP PERFORMANCE GROUP OF THE YEAR

Code Red Circus Conspiracy I have to admit that I am totally addicted to attending juggling clubs. Especially Portland’s. And I cannot tell you how many times this year that I heard the master PDX jugglers, people who have spent years performing all over the world, gushing about these “two new, young guys.” Poki and Brian Thompson are those two new, young guys. Their work as Code Red Circus Conspiracy apparently wows even old-school object manipulators who have seen it all. Props on appealing not just to the masses, but to the elite, CRCC.

ALL-AROUND BADASS OF THE YEAR – FEMALE

Brecken Rivara – I have noticed, in 2009, a rapid increase in exploration of space between planes. That’s because everyone’s trying to be Brecken Rivara. It just kind of goes without saying that this woman is a hoop wizard. But I also respect her no-nonsense tank top and shorts. If I ever see Brecken in hair extensions and furry boots, I will know the world is ending. She lets the precision of her movement speak for itself, and she’s so comfortably her own person, I don’t really know whether to hug her, high five her, build a statue in her honor – or just award her the All-Around Female Badass of the Year.



ALL-AROUND BADASS OF THE YEAR – MALE

Malcolm Stuart– Back before there was youtube (when I had to ride my hoop to school 100 miles in the snow), Kara Spencer and Rob Singer hosted the very first “Hooping.org Film Festival.” The paltry online collection of the five hoop videos on earth included Groove Hoops old demo reel – and there was Malcolm Stuart, boggling my mind with his fantastic moves and eye-popping outfits. He seemed so far beyond our simple world. After that initial “wow!” I never had the opportunity to meet Malcolm in person until 2009. What a treat! From his shoulder/breakdance fire hooping, to his straight-man-rocking-plastic-barrettes-confidence, he still somehow exists in the now while simultaneously heralding the future.

NEWBIE HOOPER OF THE YEAR – FEMALE:

Jaguar Mary – Who is this incredible woman traveling to hoop conferences and becoming so ignited that she launches a website coupling the best of hip design with insightful thoughts on hoop spirituality? She is Jaguar Mary. Filmer extraordinaire. Putter-onner of a hoop retreat in Bali. Mover and shaker for just having started hooping this year. (Catch her at the end of this video she filmed, featuring Baxter).




NEWBIE HOOPER OF THE YEAR – MALE:

Michael Boyer – Hoop men of the world. I throw a challenge your way: Let us see you DANCE!!!!! You have strong arms. You do impressive moves with your strong arms. Now what can the rest of your body can do? This is Michael Boyer, of Eugene, OR, who was already a talented dancer when he threw a hoop into his fabulous footwork. I dig his liquid style, and I think he got off to a unique start on a hoop journey in 2009. Looking forward to seeing what he cooks up as he continues to DANCE with the circle in 2010.

ADVANCEMENT IN HOOPING AS A HEALING ART / SPIRITUAL PRACTICE – FEMALE

Kara Spencer – Kara has been a licensed massage therapist, birth doula, postpartum doula, childbirth educator, doula trainer, and bodywork teacher for 12 years, and it really informs her work with the circle. From workshops incorporating sacred geometry and yoga to articles on the hoop’s benefit to the lymphatic system, this woman’s on the forefront of hoop healing/spirituality. The national hoop world certainly benefited form her workshops at Hoop Convergence and Hoop Camp in 2009.

ADVANCEMENT IN HOOPING AS A HEALING ART / SPIRITUAL PRACTICE – MALE

Rainbow Michael Haynes – In his tight turquoise shorts, with his beautiful smile, Rainbow Michael brings joy to the world just by existing. But beyond that, it has been incredible to see him delve into the world of sacred geometry and come out manipulating hoops in complex, holy patterns. The male “Performer of the Year” category was so hard for me to decide this year, but Rainbow is right up there, whipping out 4-hoop isolation moves that I never see anyone else do. I absolutely believe he is opening a door into a higher realm – for us all – through his work with the hoop, with yoga and with sacred geometry.

HOOP INSTRUCTOR OF THE YEAR

Malcolm Stuart – Please know how hard it is to come up with a hoop class that is beneficial to everyone from an absolute beginner to a Zen master. And then imagine that Malcolm has worked his way around that by explaining how to open up a doorway, inside yourself, where you will be surprised to find your very own, personal jar of awesome sauce. If you took his class at Hoop Convergence this year, then you already earned your “License to Flail.” If you haven’t taken his class, buy a ticket to New York and get on that.





OUTSTANDING HOOP COMMUNITY

DC Hoop Collective – Some of the most down-to-earth hoopers I met this year turned out to be from DC (Jaguar Mary, Jocelyn Gordon, Noelle Powers, etc). My non-hooper friend also recently got back from the capitol and said, “I saw a flyer about hooping when I was there!” It made me confident that the hoop crew was holding it down, in close proximity to the White House. Keep inciting a revolution, DC Hoop Collective! I know I’m gonna’ see y’all on the lawn with Michelle in 2010.





OUTSTANDING EVENT THAT PROMOTED HOOPING TO A WIDER AUDIENCE

Michelle Obama hoops at the White House. – And I fully expect Barack to be rocking some fuzzy legwarmers and a blindfold by the end of 2010. Get on that, DC hoopers. Check it out.



OUTSTANDING HOOP TRACK OF THE YEAR

In For the Kill (Skream’s Let’s Get Ravey Mix), La Roux – This fall, I was awake at some ungodly hour, crying, because my newly broken foot (see “Extreme Hooper of the Year”) hurt so badly. I opened my laptop and realized that Rich Porter was also up ass-early and had sent me an email. The message contained this song. I don’t know if it’s THE ENTIRE HOOP COMMUNITY’S track of the year, but I can say that it was a song that I also listened over and over and over, while I was kneeling on a chair, trying to find a way to hoop through physical and emotional pain. There’s something about this song that’s so cathartic, and it offers the opportunity to do both ballet-like, liquid moves (to the vocals) and punctuated breaks (to the constantly increasing tempo). Big thanks to Rich for giving me a musical raft on which to float away.





HOOP THEORY VIDEO OF THE YEAR

Pacman Style – Nicolas Longuechaud, will you please come to America immediately and father my children? Thanks.





HOOP PERFORMANCE VIDEO OF THE YEAR

Vessica Sister at Rothbury – If a hoop video is more than 3 minutes long, I nod off. If it’s more than 4 minutes long, seriously – my face is on the keyboard. This video is 8 friggin’ minutes long, and I COULD NOT LOOK AWAY. Shakti Sunfire and Luna Breeze did one of the most otherworldly, creative performances of 2009, so very nearly capturing my performance group of the year. Because I felt that Code Red Circus Conspiracy was more constantly committed to performing together in 2009, they slightly won out – but Vessica Sister gets mad, mad, mad applause for this routine.





HOOP HEALING VIDEO OF THE YEAR

Lissa Angeline – I’m so glad this video exists. Lissa, thank you for putting yourself out there and telling your story in such an honest and beautiful way.

Keep Breathing – Finding Healing In The Hoop from Lissa Angeline on Vimeo.





ONLINE HOOP TUTORIAL OF THE YEAR

Sharna Rose – I am constantly blown away by everything that Sharna does – and also by her willingness to post videos, breaking down her hard-won skills. To be honest, though, I don’t know how to narrow down which tutorial is “best.” Depends on where you’re at with your practice. So I direct you to Sharna’s youtube channel, where you can pick your own favorites of 2009. Check out Sharna’s vids. (Example below.)





HOOP PHOTO OF THE YEAR (tie)

Brilliant hooper Michelle Clark, photo taken by equally brilliant hooper Rebecca Halls and photoshopped by Jeff Calafato2009 was the year of the gold bikini. Gorgeous!

Michelle

* NOTE 2/10: I hate to tweak this post after the fact. Voting closed inside my head back in January. But I have to admit that I feel remiss in saying, “brilliant hoopers” and “2009 was the year of the gold bikini” and not including this effing video! I must have been drinking behind my podium, as I neared the end of the awards. Anyway, I met Michele at Hoop Convergence 2008. I could not *believe* how BADASS her double fire hoop, regular off-body doubles and acro hoop skillz had become by 2009. Like she found a door into a better universe and left us all behind. Beka only just entered my radar in 2009. She quickly became a fave with her flipping, foot hooping, headstand, acrobatic, “I majored in choroegraphy and it shows” style. And good lord: The gold bikinis! This is just such an unapologetically beautiful video. So, ahem — and this is the last thing that will ever be added to the 2009 Revolvies, even if you buy me that new car I requested — please hold onto your eyeballs, as I present “The Goddess Award” to Michele Clark and Beka Halls.

Okay. Back to the pictures.

Rich and Spiral by Barry J. Holmes – It’s everywhere. It’s on Facebook. It’s at Hoop Camp. It’s featured on hooping.org. You pull back your covers at night, and it’s there – in your bed! Ahhhhhh! Still, no matter how many times you see this photo, it never quite loses its wow.
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HOOP CONFERENCE OF THE YEAR – HOOP CONVERGENCE
I just recently had a performer (badass at other forms of object manipulation and launching an interesting hoop duo project) call me up to ask me questions about the various available hoop conferences. And now that we have more than one (can you believe it? Remember 2007, when we didn’t have ANY?), I was starting to think about which one might have been my top experience of the year. In 2009, I attended the NW Flow Gathering, Hoop Convergence, Hoop Camp and also camped at Spin Cycle at Burning Man (a defacto conference). I’d say out of all of them, based on homey vibe, hilariousness in the Falcoln Lodge, comfort – but not too many unnecessary frills, good meals and just downright fun and charm, I had the best time at Hoop Convergence. Thanks Julia Hartsell, Scott Crews and all the Carrboro hoopers for putting on such a fun event.

Hoop Convergence 2009 from Hoop Convergence on Vimeo.




… and finally,

EXTREME HOOPER OF THE YEAR

Revolva – Okay, I created a category for myself. Only because I did my part to make hooping an extreme sport this year. On October 2, while rehearsing for an all-women’s circus project in Portland, I landed a jump … in the hospital. I snapped the fifth metatarsal on my right foot. For two months, while hobbling around on crutches, in my hot pink cast, I got to answer the question, “How’d you break your foot?” with the reply “Hula hooping.” And so I leave you with two words, my friends: X-GAMES 2010!

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