I spent yesterday immersed in the lovely community of Fire Drums in Wilseyville, CA. Approaching the venue the roads shifted from pavement to gravel, then dirt, then I was creekside in a tent city. The tents were piled closeby one another with their doors mere feet from the babbling brook. The participants were colorful, sunkissed, and smiling. There was a dome with a dozen hammocks  for spinners to rest their heads, several shaded relaxation spaces to be still between workshops, and individuals greeted eachother with props and hugs when words weren’t enough. I meandered between the tents and encountered dense flow jams where artists were dancing and sharing their motion –  and all had something to contribute. Even though not everyone there was a fire spinner, you could tell we all had the twinkle in our eyes that a fire was within us. In a word, this place felt ALIVE.

My first stop was Kassandra Morrison’s class. Its refreshing to have calm people teach hoopdance. Its like watching a still lake yet with the awe of a waterfall. I’m around children all the time so having someone speak in a low voice was refreshing.  I’ve heard her discipline of hoop drills called “soulful” and couldn’t agree more. She was also a great teacher. I find the placement of a teacher among students to be of stronger importance than its given credit.

For Kassondra’s class we were facing toward the meadow and she would teach moves while walking through the group. When I hoop near someone it is like making an invisible link with that person. You are now free to engage in eye contact and accidental hoop kisses which often trigger little conversations. I think it would be an interesting practice to have students change locations and “neighbors” when hooping. It would also inspire people to try different moves since many hoopers are often inspired by their neighbors to try moves they forgot or perhaps do not usually try. That is why hoop jams are so excellent for increasing one’s rotational trick grab bag. My favorite move of Ms. Morrison’s was the bent elbow to body roll. She has tutorials listed on her  Youtube channel.

After hoops I wanted to explore my fans further. I didn’t have a map or schedule on me, but there was no need. When you stare out at the workshops at FireDrums you see groupings of about 10-50 people every few hundred feet  –  All spinning the same prop relative to their workshop. I looked around and saw the fans with wicks covered in colorful felt or shiny fabrics by a huge oak tree right in the center of the meadow. I recognized a few wonderful local friends. I was too shy to interrupt the teacher just to say hello to them – so I decided to just carry the stillness from Kassondra’s class and be receptive as possible for my next lesson. I stopped by Doodle (Dood Le)’s fan grip class. My fans are from The Spinsterz and have a dominate thumb grip. The fans that they were using weren’t very conducive to middle/index finger tech fan gripping, but I managed to wing it – and still learned a few things. One move I learned I heard was called the washing machine. I would love to see some of the tricks I learned transition to hooping/mini tech.

Another of my favorite flow-fest feels is encountering the overlap of prop manipulation and bridging two or three styles to one another. I’d be a fan of contact hooping (Contact staff/hooping) !

For my lunch break I wandered through the sea of colorful smiles and found a shaded area to eat a sandwich and drink some of the herbal tea and a zoom ball from the food vendor. I felt the ginseng ball give me a wave of energy and I was ready to start up my next hoop session with Tiana  Zoumer’s balance class. First there was time for a short break by the Drum Village – a cool space where the menfolk were beating their drums. My brain thought a second on how weird it was that these ape people are banging on tree and animal materials to make rhythms that may or may not match the beat of their hearts. And  how does their presented rhythm coincide with their personalities. What is the sound of your drum? Tom-like? Bass? Do you use a mallet or our hands? (Mine is a djembe with a heart and a strong bass if I hit the center punctually) — then I remembered  I was thinking too much about it and should be on my merry way – and so I went!

I showed up 15 minutes early to the area where her class would be and saw her writing in a notepad. Starstruck. I basically retreated behind a tree to drill hoop moves until more outgoing hoopers arrived and filled the silence. I was playing with ideas I learned earlier and noticed as the group of spinners around me dispersed just as I began. I really hate with that happens! My timing was starting to feel off again and a little anxiety was creeping in. Please, anxiety, not now. Not for Tiana! My sunglasses became an invisibility cloak and I couldn’t dare make eye contact with anyone. I was feeling very very shy for some reason. I am not a fan of being in this state when all I want to do is be a bubble of light. But sometimes it takes humble silence to foster that sort of behavior in me.

The class  began. I felt like a spectator instead of a part of the class. I had lost my “spot” toward the middle/front  when I left to get a drink of water by my hoop pile. So when I got a new spot it meant I was the equivalent in baseball to the right field. What does that area mean? Is it where the shy people situate themselves?  Just now I’m exploring the relevance of this zone in teaching. Is this always how it is or was it just my interpretation? Nevertheless, that’s where I was standing and I noticed the pitcher (front middle) and the umpire (rear of Tiana) were the most loquacious of the bunch! Could be a coincidence  – maybe not. They appeared to be more engaged in general. Silly how a small thing like that could’ve made a difference. I will have to make a note of student placement when I make my classes so that all will feel inside the circle instead of a few point people. Then again I felt most comfortable in the secondary area I chose – so now I’m back to being confused about the relevance. Piscean ramblings again!

Anyhow perhaps it felt more like a performance because of my inability to execute the moves by will alone. In Kassandra’s class the tricks were approachable. Tiana is a hooping alien so its  no wonder I felt a million miles away. Her small and precise movements were almost robotic. No one could look away.

Everything Tiana was doing I was unable to do as good as her. But almost everyone was in the same boat as me it seems. Her ability to balance a hoop on a single finger and turn or lay down – it was hypnotic. It was like she was the first person to point at the heavens or that her crown chakra had been pushed out far above and exploded her aura to twice its size. Once I started to admit to myself that I wasn’t going to get to that level today, I was then able to relax the anxious mind that I was unable to do the moves. Being a student from time to time and feeling the vulnerable challenge state was a great practice for me. It was humbling and helped me connect with that receptive state and understand how exposed I felt. This is another lesson in teaching hooping that I will carry with me always. 

Those little barriers we set up for ourselves can be like releasing floodgates for flow.  I was still too slow to do sustained spinning stalls, but I did some decent index balancing when I was able to focus on the top of my hoop with clearer concentration. Her advice on preparing for the counterbalance  before it was needed made a prominent improvement. I look forward to seeing all the places that hoops will be balancing soon! I would love to see a hoop hackey sack sort of play between Tiana and some other talented hoop balancer! That would be an epic balance battle!

I then decided to head home since I had been away from the baby for 10 hours and it was my longest baby break (He is 11 months old.) My adventures away help me recognize how much I depend on my children to fill the silence and give me purpose. I will have to try and practice doing this more on my own. I still battle with being  very shy when I meet a large amount of people in a short time frame.  Getting out of my headspace is difficult sometimes but hooping never fails to be my portal into the now. I can dismantle those insecurities and let the joy of being alive and existing in the present reveal itself.

Flow on family <3