On a recent Sunday afternoon, an eclectic group of hoopers assembled at a Pilates studio on a side street in Bar Harbor, eager for the opportunity to Hoop The World™ in a special workshop led by nationally acclaimed dance adventurer Jaycee Gossett.
Over the years Jaycee has studied the roots of movement and how it makes us who we are. Her studies and travels have taken her through North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean and the South Pacific. In each new environment she has researched native dances to understand how they reflect the cultural values and incorporate societal traditions. Chapters from Jaycee’s “Dance The World” anthology that aired on the Travel Channel can still be seen on her YouTube page
Hoop The World™ is based on the same premise as Dance The World, and on this particular occasion, we were transported during the afternoon’s activities to Cuba, Spain and Jamaica. (A previous HTW™ workshop focused on rhythms from the Dominican Republic, Africa and the Middle East.)
Before embarking on our “journey”, however, Jaycee invited us to start by exploring basic movements and kin-esthetic awareness, literally from the ground up. She suggested we envision our body as an orchestra, where each section, joint or limb plays a distinct role. Beginning with our feet (the percussion section of our orchestra), she encouraged us to try moving in all directions, creating patterns and concentrating on our how feet interact with the ground below and how they support the rest of our body, as we continually varied our steps in every possible way: large, small, high, low, rhythmic, syncopated, smooth, staccato, gliding, abrupt, straight, curving, etc. (you get the idea!)
“Now transfer 10% of your attention to your knees. How can they move? How do they help the feet in their role? What do they add to the orchestra?” Jaycee asked - and our bodies responded. On we went, through the hips, spine, chest, shoulders, arms, hands and head, each time adding a new “instrument” to the “orchestra” and feeling the nuances and complexities of movement that ensued.
“What’s your ‘home base’? Your ‘go-to’ move, the one you always rely on and return to? Whatever it is, when you find yourself getting stuck there, move on. Try something different – change what you are doing!” That was Jaycee’s advice as we continued to warm up and to open up our bodies to the full range of our inherent kin-esthetic possibilities.
Jaycee’s passion is to make dance accessible to everyone. With her vibrant personality, engaging teaching style and positive energy, she encourages and guides us toward this goal from the very first moments of the workshop. Following her lead, we soon start to sense that YES, we all really can be dancers (as well as hoopers)!
First stop on the afternoon’s Hoop The World ™ excursion was Cuba, homeland of the cha cha rhythm. Working initially without our hoops, we learned some basic foot patterns of this dance (front-, side-, cross-, and travel steps). Then we added sass and flair with fun, flirty hip and hand motions, mindful that our hoops would eventually limit where our hands and arms could move in any expressive gestures. We worked on the basics at several tempos and soon had the chance to apply the ballroom moves to hooping. As “Love is Strange” played on Jaycee’s iPod, we gradually developed ways to incorporate these newly gained cha cha skills into our hooping routines, whether on-body, off-body, or a combination of both.
Flamenco was the next rhythm Jaycee introduced, again teaching us a bit about the overall dance style, including typical wrist/hand/arm and foot/traveling patterns. We practiced these movements without the hoop at first and later with the familiar flamenco melody “Volare” urging us on. Posture is key in flamenco and much of the flavor comes from actions above the waist, but I think most of us found the elements of this dance a bit harder than the cha cha to execute while hooping. So Jaycee suggested that we focus instead on just adding bits and pieces of flamenco flair, and eventually everyone found some element of this classic Spanish dance that could be used to embellish our future hoop dance freestyling.
The third leg of our itinerary took us to Jamaica and the reggae origins of Dutty Wine, a/k/a Dirty Wind – pronounced “w-eye-nd” with a long “I”, meaning to coil, circle, rotate, or spiral – how completely appropriate for hoopers! This sensual, free-flowing club dance is a whirlwind of hips, legs and torso, a definite contrast to the upright, stylized movements of the ballroom genre. In Dutty Wine the entire “orchestra” pulsates to a strong West Indian drumbeat, making it really fun (and challenging) to keep the hoop spinning with the whole body gyrating so continuously!
As a wrap-up, Jaycee set us loose hooping to music by Bole 2 Harlem, a true African-American fusion sound easily adaptable to many styles of movement. It was the perfect opportunity to practice whatever we wanted from the class and to integrate it into our own basic hoop dance repertoire. After a very full two-hour workshop, I left exhausted but exhilarated, feeling I’d traveled very far from Maine for the afternoon – and I’m hoping the high will last until Jaycee returns to lead us on another Hoop The World™ adventure later this year!
For additional information about Jaycee Gossett as well as Hoop The World™ classes and workshops, you may visit the following pages on Facebook and the web:
Marlene Hubbard is a Hoopnotica Certified Instructor from Bar Harbor, Maine. She stays active in the Hoop Community by teaching hula hooping as a total body, full fitness workout. A big thanks from Hippy Go Lucky Hoops to Marlene for this wonderful write up about Hoop The World!
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