WHD Dance 2015 – tutorials and notes

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This year marks the 6th annual WHD Dance, a worldwide hoop choreography project to celebrate World Hoop Day. I never imagined it would go on this long – in fact last year, I swore to myself it would be my last one. But here we are, with the 2015 tutorials published and ready to learn.

Each year the choreo gets a little more dance-y. This year we’ve got a Bollywood-inspired dance complete with sultry hip rotations, jaunty touch steps and stompy squats. The hoop moves focus on beginner-intermediate tricks that should be accessible to hoopers with a few months experience and who are willing to learn a few new things.

(Be sure to check out the page with all the tutorials and materials, too!)

Extra Notes

I want to share some ideas on how to customise the dance for your troupe, your space, and your hooping level.

  1. The beginning section can be done standing (as filmed) or seated, rising to standing during the gestures.
  2. Weave Variations are any sort of weave you like – plain, jump-thru, weave isolations, extensions, etc. Keep them all the same for your troupe or let each dancer choose for themselves.
  3. The Mandala Variations section is filmed as a mandala turn, but this can be done with a regular b-t-b mandala or mandala isolation, or for people uncertain about behind-the-back moves, Big Circles in front will work, too.
  4. Tighten up the dance moves by focussing on the angle of your elbows, the distance of your vine steps, and so on. My dancing in the tutorials is pretty loosey-goosey, which is OK for a soloist but ugly in a group. Practice, practice, practice and get everyone consistent.
  5. LED hoops look great with this choreo. I included a few moves especially for glow hoopers.
  6. Fire? Yes! Light the hoop during the head roll to keep the static burn to a minimum & watch out for the fold/flip.
  7. Counting is optional if you listen to the beat of the music. Hit those beats and keep everyone in sync.
  8. Fun is not optional. Add your smiles and buoyant energy to make the dance really shine on stage.

About the Song

This year’s song is an edited version of Chaiyya Chaiyya from the movie Dil Se. It’s a love song inspired by a poem in Urdu that starts “He who walks in the shadow of love has heaven under his feet” and the repeated lyric Chaiyya Chaiyya means “Walk in the shade of love”. You can find the whole translation here.

One Month to World Hoop Day – what are your plans?

World Hoop Day is just around the corner. Are you planning to celebrate?It’s not too late to put something together with your friends or hoop troupe. You can become a World Hoop Day ambassador and bring happiness to the world! Get your local hoop community together to make hoops, host a hoop disco at a senior center, school, or other facility, or give hoop lessons to kids (and adults) who need some fun in their lives. It is so satisfying to share the hoop love, and World Hoop Day is the best day to start.

Of course, I hope you’ll be incorporating the WHD Dance as part of your World Hoop Day celebrations.

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Multiple Intelligences in the Social Circus

Here’s an article that I wrote for Spark Circus last month about how circus activities for kids and adults touch on many of the learning modes that are overlooks in traditional school settings.

By taking circus classes and workshops, you and your kids, students, or employees benefit with expanded ability in interpersonal teamwork, intrapersonal (self-reflection) awareness, and a slew of other skills from rhythm to logic!

Who knew you could get all of that just from a hula hoop or some juggling balls?

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How I got started hooping

Seven years ago today, I was an unwilling participant in a hoop dance class. Tracey, the keitaigoddess and my dear friend, dragged me along. “It’s fun, you should try!”

I could not get behind that idea. At the time, I was doing freelance video editing, writing, and spending lots of time in front of a computer. I did not dance. And I definitely did not hula hoop.

But Tracey is persistent and was trying to help her friend, Deanne, who’d just started teaching classes in Tokyo. So after a few times saying no, I capitulated even though I didn’t want to. It was easier to say yes and get it over with.

I especially didn’t want to go to Deanne’s class because on 8/8/8 there was a World Hoop Day event at Yoyogi Park. Tracey encouraged me to attend – we’d meet there after work and it would be a fun evening together. Except that I got there before her and spied people moving and laughing through the trees. They looked much more graceful/energetic/cool/young/interesting than me. From a safe spot out of their sight, I called Tracey to see when she’d arrive and found out she was running an hour late. I left the park. My shy, low self-esteem persona could not approach the beautiful people alone.

Needless to say, I was terrified to take that first hoop dance class.

My fears were unfounded. Not only was Deanne encouraging and friendly, but I could hoop! It was such a surprise. So much fun; Tracey was right. I bought two hoops from Deanne the next day – her last two from Bunny Hoop Star in Sydney –  and regularly attended her classes and workshops. I spent a delightful half year of intensive learning and experimenting with fellow Hooplovers students, Amanda and Stina.

Hoop dance set off a cascade of new experiences. I took dance classes and started doing yoga. I performed, taught, & made hoop videos.  I tried my hand at hoop choreography with the WHD Dance. Deanne and I started Spin Matsuri Retreat as a Japan-based hoop camp experience in 2009. I attended overseas hoop & juggling events in the US, Australia, and Europe. I did a “world tour” with my own classes in 2012. Ran away with the circus in 2013 and now I am about to launch new projects in social circus.

So take it from me, if someone suggests you go to a hoop dance class your best answer is “yes!”

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15 Tips for Teaching Outdoors

It’s summertime and the parks and beaches are calling. Let’s go outside to teach! Here are a few practical pointers:

The Space

  1. Circles are great structures for the class space and keep onlookers from randomly joining the group. If you are all lined up in rows or scattered randomly in a space people tend to wander over and join. That’s not an issue if you’re doing a free class, but if your students paid to be there then you want to keep it exclusive.
  2. If you are getting down on the ground, whether it’s in the warmup or specific move training, be sure you have enough yoga mats or picnic blankets. Ask people bring their own and have a few spare. Most urban folks aren’t too keen on rolling around directly on grass and dirt.
  3. Check your park for a shady spot or time your session in the cooler part of the day. Activity in full sun is unpleasant.
  4. Be aware of the condition of the ground. Try to avoid uneven ground, loose dirt or soft sand. Groom the area before class by picking up trash, removing large stones, etc.
  5. Not all outdoor spaces are suited to music; try leading your outdoor classes without tunes. If you do choose music, make sure it is loud enough for your students to hear but not blasting nearby picnickers.
  6. Create a secure space for bags. A tarp in the center of the circle works and helps to keep the circle from drifting, too. Encourage students to leave valuables at home.

The Onlookers

  1. What you’re doing is fun to watch, so expect photographers and gawkers. Bystanders may interrupt your class with questions. Practice gestures that clearly indicate wait a moment, no, and yes. Be careful not to let interruptions disturb the flow or focus of your students.
  2. Deliver all communication to strangers with a smile, even the no. Nobody wants their instructor to seem angry. I’ve failed on this a few times and it’s done bad things for my reputation.
  3. Wear a t-shirt with your brand/name/logo, city, and contact info on it. The location and contact info help people to see that you are local and they can get in touch with you. Also, have your flyers or business cards out and ready share.
  4. If you normally end your class with a group routine or review of the tricks you’ve taught, you may have a built-in audience in the park. Make use of it and put on a show for them.

The Class

  1. Start with a warmup to get everyone focussed. An outdoor classroom has a lot of distractions and sometimes students can be shy when they know people might be watching.
  2. Outdoor classes allow you to teach big moves, high tosses and other things that need lost of vertical space. Take advantage of that.
  3. Offer more breaks than you would normally, especially on very hot or sunny days. Five minute water breaks also give you a chance to speak with people trying to interrupt your class.
  4. Get a group shot after class. You’re in a beautiful setting. Capture the moment.

The Rules

  1. Check with your city parks/rec department to find out about permits. Some places require them for large groups or events that charge a fee. It is embarrassing and upsetting if your class is broken up by park police, believe me.
  2. Decide on a rain policy. If the weather is inclement, will you refund, reschedule, or relocate the class?
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Corporate Circus Play

(photos by Saifi Khan)

I recently conducted circus workshops and stretching sessions at a tech conference in Bangalore. You can read all about it on my personal website.

One of the most under-served populations I work with are grown-ups. Everyone expects kids to love circus classes, and they do, but they don’t need them like grown-ups do. I find that adults with high-pressure jobs and busy lives don’t often let themselves play and be silly. I love to give them a moment to try something new, step outside their usual routine and even laugh their failure to perform a trick.

If you’re interested in bringing a light-hearted team building or skill development session to your next corporate event, get in touch via e-mail and let’s talk. The fees I collect from my corporate work fund programs for people in economic distress around the world. Hire me and you’re helping not only your event participants but also orphans, refugees and other people in need.

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Social Circus with Special Needs Children

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Last week we made a connection with Ramaa SK, a special educator who runs Flow Special School in Tamil Nadu, India. We were invited to come down for the day to do some circus activities with their 17 students.

All kids need play and most children in special needs classes work extra hard with therapy, academics and other training to achieve their goals. Circus games introduce practice with gross and fine motor control, bilateral movement, rhythm, spatial awareness – all in a way that doesn’t seem like skill building but play.

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We received a warm welcome – the classroom was beautifully decorated with streamers, balloons, rangoli, and flowers. The children presented us with bouquets. When the parents and children sang to us, I cried a little bit. Wow. Tod & I did a short 10 minute performance using the props we’d bring out for the kids later – spinning and juggling scarves, hoops for dancing and we even did two songs.

And then we had a tour of the whole school and returned to the classroom for a feast of local dishes cooked by the moms of the school. There was so much food and it was all delicious! When I asked if I they would let me come home with them and teach me to cook, there was pleased laughter all around.

After our incredible welcome, we worked with three classes in separate groups.

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The first class of younger students had multiple physical disabilities as well as cognitive issues. We kept things simple and lighthearted. We waved colored scarves and danced together, rolled and tossed balls (with assisted catching) around a circle, and played a simple game of putting our hands and feet into and out of the hoop.

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The second group which comprised four boys with Down’s Syndrome and autism were really energetic. I was told that posture was a physical issue they all shared, so we started with some stretching and large movements, then played hoop games, and did more stretching by making dynamic patterns with scarves and our bodies: up, down, left, right, front, back.

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The final group was the most physically functional, so we jumped right in with some hula hooping. They tried half a dozen hoop tricks, especially loving the hoop rolling, before we closed the session with a jalebi hoop hooray.

Even the simplest circus activities can bring a sense of accomplishment and the reward of smiles. There was much laughter and giggling as everyone tried these new things. The parents and teachers joined in, too, helping the students and also trying the skills themselves – who doesn’t love to hula hoop?

Thank you to Ramaa and Flow School for hosting us. We look forward to coming back next time we’re in Tamil Nadu.

Hoop Class in Bangalore

Here’s a peek at the culmination of a 90 minute hoop class at Cubbon Park in Bangalore on July 11th. We learned over 20 tricks, explored dance movement and transitions and then put our lessons together into a simple sequence. This was a fun class with great people and I hope to come back to Bangalore to teach again soon.