October 2010 Archives

Afternoon Snapshot


I wrestled a triplet of hoops from the pile in my room and hightailed it to the park today. I needed to bust out and spin without fear of lamps and plants and scuff marks. I've been indoors too long. My movement craving wasn't being satisfied by yoga and safe indoor activities.

The lunch crowd was thinning as I plopped my bag down on the pavement at the top of the park and gave the fluoro green hoop a try. Within sixty seconds I was stripping off my hoodie and grabbing another hoop. It felt so good to let go.

Hane-san was doing his sets of qi gong and walking. We nodded amicably each time he passed by my station. I worked on kick-ups and level changes. I drilled moves I've been playing with and generally got myself well warmed up in the breezy, blue sky afternoon.

Jack came along after a while and we talked. He's been getting offers of money in the mail. Suspicious stuff. His wife signed him up for a karaoke club so he can keep his mind sharp by learning new songs. I can't imagine his mind ever going dull.

Just as I was beginning to cool down, we agreed to focus on our sports. I moved my gear out of his way so he could swing his practice sword. I hooped lower in the park in a patch of sunshine. Put on some music and let myself dance and match the rhythms with the hoop.

In an unusual move, Jack came down from his practice to compliment me on my strength and grace, so that was the end of hooping for a bit. I think he was bored with kendo today. We assessed the new playground equipment - not as good as the old stuff and more dangerous too boot - then wandered over to test it out.

Earlier a young man had been doing admirable handstands and backflips for a small crowd of kids and moms. When he saw us playing on the rings he came over to chat. He is a 22-year old gymnast, cook, and architect, but I never did get his name. The conversation dynamic was strange. Jack's bilingual, I struggle in Japanese, and the young man speaks no English. It was an awkward triangle at times, but fun getting to know someone new at odd angles.

I eventually excused myself to squeeze in a few more minutes of spinning and they flew by too quickly. I flailed my way through some three hoop splits, danced just a tiny bit more and then reached my mark. I'd set a two hour limit on my excursion and sure enough, the sun was falling behind the buildings and it was getting cold when 3 pm arrived. I said my goodbyes and headed up the hill to home.

I hope its sunny again soon.

Haunted Tokyo

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Hokusai's grave is specially protected with a roof.

Earlier this week, Tracey invited me to join her on a walking tour with a special theme - Haunted Tokyo. Just the right season for it and a lovely grey day to add to the atmosphere.

Lilly Fields, our tour guide, has lived in Tokyo for 25 years and knows her spooky back streets and alleys of shitamachi, those lower lying areas on the east side of town where the working folks traditionally live. Shitamachi is full of spirits and weird energy - ancient and new. We started the tour at Inaricho station and meandered through the blocks visiting temples and shrines and hearing legends and scary stories all the way up through to Asakusa.

I think my favorite bit of the afternoon was visiting the grave of Hokusai, one of Japan's most famous artists. It is tucked away down a narrow stone path in a postage stamp graveyard behind the side building of a really boring concrete temple. In addition to the famous wave woodblock print, Hokusai drew a lot of scary ghosts and demons. He believed that if he lived to 110, all of the lines and dots he drew would come alive. Fortunately for us, his demons live only on paper - he died at age 99.

The Good that Comes of Community Hooping

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Over on Hoop City this week, Leah Shoemaker asked for some ways that hooping is beneficial to a community. She's writing a grant.

Though I've considered how hooping is good for individuals, I'd not really thought about the ways it can strengthen a community. So I came up with a list that I shared on Hoop City. Then I thought some more, and the list morphed into something longer and and a little deeper.

  1. Hooping allows a diverse group of people to participate:
    • suits all ages. Children, parents and grandparents can hoop and play together.
    • sees no biases in gender, race, religion, or politics.
    • practiced by people of different physical, emotional, and mental abilities.
    • needs no common language, or any language at all.
    • crosses cultural boundaries. Hula hoops are loved around the world.
  2. Hooping grows with the hoopers:
    • provides continuation - there's no end point, graduation or conclusion.
    • enjoyed equally as a casual pastime, an alternative lifestyle, or a serious profession.
    • allows expression from fitness to lyrical dance to clowning.
    • can be done at any level of intensity from gentle rehabilitation to challenging workout.
    • expands easily to fit new joiners.
  3. Hooping increases individuals' happiness:
    • opens and increases personal boundaries.
    • buoys spirits with play and laughter.
    • increases physical activity and health.
    • generates self-confidence through accomplishment and skill-building.
  4. Hooping increases community harmony:
    • adds to the number of happy, cooperative people.
    • encourages all members to participate.
    • creates face-to-face connections with neighbors.
    • realises shared goals, such as performances.
  5. Hooping builds ties with people outside the community:
    • connects hoopers worldwide through online and offline gatherings.
    • welcomes participants from other arts, education, and sports interest groups.

I am sure there are lots of other benefits a community might see. What can you think of that might apply to your community?

Nigouhan Zaka

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Yesterday afternoon, Tod & I were enjoying one of our Sunday rambles through local but unfamiliar territory when we encountered Nigouhan Zaka δΊŒεˆεŠε‚, which translates to Two and a Half Measure Hill. Funny name. What could it mean? A historical marker gave us the answer.

Back in the day when Tokyo's buildings were a lot shorter, you could see the upper half of Mt. Nikko from the top of the hill. The "measure" in the name is of mountains. Japan's tallest mountain, Mt. Fuji, is divided into ten gou from the base to the summit. Since Mt. Nikko is half the height of Mt Fuji, it is 5 gou tall, and you could see only half of it from Two and a Half Measure Hill.

The sign gave an alternate explanation, as well. The hill is purportedly so steep that if you drink one measure of sake and walk up the slope, by the time you reach the top it feels as though you've drunk 2 and a half measures. The hill didn't seem that steep to me and I had no sake to experiment. Maybe next time.

Hoop Camp Themes

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To the Water Stage

I took sixteen workshops during Hoop Camp. Each of them was an amazing experience and even though the topics were varied, I noticed several themes creeping through them. I want to write about these themes because they are powerful ideas that will give me new things to explore as we head into the reflective season of winter hooping.

Grounded Energy
Imagine the power of our planet coursing up from your feet through your legs and into the hoop. Hooping with grounded energy allows your body to move more freely and expressively since the hoop is turning itself through your feet.
Teachers who shared this: Baxter, Luna Breeze, Brecken, Becca, Ann

Fearless Flailing
What happens if you jump, reverse, spin, or drop the hoop in mid-trick? Could be something amazing. Experiment. Flail. Fail. Don't care who is watching. Have fun. Unlock. Figure out how to make your failures look pretty and consistent.
Teachers who shared this: Malcolm, Brecken, SaFire, David, Baxter

Sharp Contrast
Explore the extremes. Find opposites and use them. For every fast move, use a slow one. For every graceful move, add a sharp one. Contrasts create drama and excitement for the audience. Play with speed, rhythm, height, mood.
Teachers who shared this: Malcolm, David, Rich, Spiral, Stefan

Creating Character
Performing with the hoop is often more about creating a character than it is about tricks. Whether you are a seductive hoopstress or an angry clown, your character needs to shine bright and bold. Be brave and discover your character and how she interacts with the audience.
Teachers who shared this: Stefan, SaFire, Kit, Revolva

Hoop Camp People


The people of Hoop Camp - where to begin? There were 250 people at Hoop Camp this year - five times as many as 2008. Maybe an outline of the group attending.

We were a diverse crowd. Our ages skewed towards the middle thirties judging from visible crows' feet. I expected the crowd to be more youthful and was delighted to learn that Marjorie, one of the instructors, celebrated her 60th birthday during camp. Most of the hoopers were women, but there was a good handful of men, too. Sexual, political, and religious preferences covered the spectrum, as did skin tone.

Hair color, too, was widely varied. Natural and bleached ponytails, chocolate hued dreadlocks, black pixie cuts, and more than one brightly colored head. Let's not even start talking about the hoop fashions...frock watching galore!

Our skills and experience dotted the map. Mixed together were A-list hoopers, second tier spinners, hobbyists, the foreign component, people who came alone and unknown, those who arrived with a posse. There were buskers, go-go hoopers, circus trained spinners, festival hoopers, hoopdance legends, innovators, theorists, and and at least one person who wasn't a hooper at all.

There were several opportunities for all of us to hoop together and I took a few moments to step out of the flow and just watch the motion of so many people doing their thing with dance. It was amazing and mesmerizing.

250 was too many people to get to know in a weekend and I barely scratched the surface. I think, thanks to my pink hair and World Hoop Day dance performance, many more people knew me than vice versa. Still, I have a handful of lovely new hooping friends and next year, I'll make more.

In the meantime, Facebook.

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