by Tiff “Let The Music Play” Michele

Like any die hard music lover, I don’t just hear music. I feel it on a cellular level. I taste it. I breathe it. Sometimes I get so wrapped up and cocooned in it I swear I enter stasis and stop breathing until the song is over. Worse than leaving a whiskey and coke half drunk is exiting a car or room before an unexpectedly played favorite song is over.

The frustrating thing about loving music this much is that I had no outlet for it. No physical expression to amplify it. I tried taking all kinds of dance classes…tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop, etc. They went over as well as all my sports endeavors. Meaning…I got no skillz. No moves. No coordination. No flow. So the music would jump and trip its way into my soul and then circle there, getting more and more bouncy, and all I could do was a little hop up and down. Maybe a slight shift side to side accompanied by random jerky out of tempo movements with my hands. I knew it was a lame offering to the gods of music, but the more I tried to sway to the beat, the more self aware I became. Dancing didn’t take me outside of myself, it shined a spotlight on all the parts of me that I’d rather keep hidden.

I did have a few people try to help me out. My sister’s boyfriend at the time, when I was a shy 14 year old, took pity on my wallflower self and asked me to dance one night. So we did and I remember him saying, “Wow. I mean, it’s dancing, not standing. Move a little!” So I tried to move a little. “Are you moving? I can’t tell! Move it! Move your hips!” I blushed and retreated back to the shadows. Then, as a shy 22 year old I found myself in the middle of a fiesta high in the Venezuelan Andes. Local Andean farmers all wanted a turn to dance with the American girl. I didn’t speak spanish, and they didn’t speak english, but it became clear that they were all trying to give me tips on how to dance. When words failed, then they would physically try to make me dance better…putting their hands on my hips and then rocking them vigorously in the universal sign for “Move your hips, woman!”

In this photo you can clearly see my dance partner is thinking that his yak would make a better dance partner. And the woman beside me laughing. As well as the group of people in the back. I’m afraid I’ve become part of a legend in that tiny Andean town where few Americans visit. I’m pretty sure they say something like, “Those Americans. They do a lot. They have a lot. Much more than we do. But they can’t move like us. Isn’t that sad?! I would rather live in the middle of nowhere with only one pan to cook in than live in a place where I didn’t know how to dance!”

And then, one day, I drove Route 66 in a Jeep with my little shih tzu Frito Bandito (RIP!). My friend met me in Flagstaff with a present. A red and black striped hula hoop. She said it would be perfect for stretching and moving on pit stops. I did with it what you would expect. I hooped like a 6 year old.

And then, after talking more about it with her and googling people like Lisa Lottie, Anah Reichenbach, Baxter, and Nick Guzzardo I fell hard under the spell of hooping. By the time I watched Beth Lavinder dancing with her hoop, I was hooked. Obsessed!

I started dancing with my hoop. Which basically is just dancing with myself. The hoop turned out to be the best dance teacher I’ve ever had, simply because if you don’t move then it falls down. The only trick to hooping is to move with it. As long as you dance, the hoop stays up. And for the first time in my life, I had an outward expression for the inward feeling that music gives me. Not only that, but it replaced running and swimming as my favorite kind of exercise, and yoga as my favorite way to meditate.

It hasn’t been a year yet, but my hoop and I have been on some excellent adventures already. I’m so obsessed with it, I take it everywhere I go…Costa Rica</a>, SXSW (where I ended up hooping on stage with Mumford and Sons, fuck yeah!), and to concerts of all kinds. Most recently to one of my favorite bands, The Henry Clay People.

I love to hoop for lots of reasons, least of all for entertainment for other people (because I’m still shy, and it creates a lot of attention!). But one time I overheard someone saying “look at her! She’s quite a dancer!” and I felt a small thrill. Who would have thought?! Awkward, uncoordinated me, confused for a dancer!

I’m no dancer, though.

I’m a hooper.

Pick up a hoop…not one from Target, those are crap. Buy a good one and join me!



Post a comment
  1. bethanypetrik #
    June 21, 2012

    So I have followed you on Instagram for a while now, and while I think your hooping is totally rad, I always thought of it like some unique talent. Like juggling, or being double jointed. You know, like for a limited group of talent and coordinated people. But this post actually makes me want to put on some awesome music give it a go!

  2. June 21, 2012

    Damn Girl! Look at you shake that booty!!! WooHoo!

  3. June 21, 2012

    Love hooping. Love you!
    and I’m SOOO pumped to get my moodhoop next week!

  4. June 21, 2012

    Thanks for posting that video of you as a mediocre hooper. It makes me feel better. I’ve been trying to get better at it but let my inner “negative nelly” gets in the way. I really suck. But obvs, it just takes time and commitment. Bring your hoops in October. That’ll motivate me to get my hips moving.

  5. June 21, 2012

    You explanation of how hooping is easier than dancing is so well worded! Just a few hours ago I was at lunch with someone who asked why I loved hooping so much, I told him it’s because I love dancing, and hooping is like dancing but I’m doing so many other things that people pay attention to those instead of how epically uncordinated I am. 🙂

  6. June 21, 2012

    Whenever you start hooping, I can’t stop watching. I think I’ll be able to and then I just can’t quit. Your hooping is like my crack. Or the other guy in Broke Back. You pick.

  7. joelynnej #
    June 21, 2012

    I want to!!!!! 😀

  8. Caz #
    June 28, 2012

    Been following you a couple of months on instagram too and your Blog. Your an inspiration! I took the plunge and chopped my hair short like I’d wanted to for years and I just got my first hoop to take on holiday with me! Can’t wait to give it a try 🙂

  9. July 4, 2012

    I once hula hooped for 52 minutes straight. I know it’s not a world record, but my feet were becoming numb and then the stinking hoop fell on the ground.

  10. July 4, 2012

    Wow, this brings back memories! My dad made me my very first hoop out of the plastic pipe he was using to build the heating system in our new house. Makes me want to go find a hoop and see if I can still do it…thanks for the inspiring post!

  11. July 5, 2012

    Woah woah woah. So, not only did you get to go to SXSW (one of my life time dreams, I’m not evern kidding), but you got to “hoop” on stage with Mumford?! Words can’t express how jealous I am right now!!!! Great blog though, and you’re very talented! 🙂

  12. July 5, 2012

    OK – my body doesn’t move. I used to roller skate at a rink growing up, but I didn’t even have dancing at my almost 25 yrs ago. BUT I did almost win a hool a hoop contest about 8 yrs ago against another mom. I had NEVER done the hoop before. My husband says I’m gaining a little weight again. I am not big by the way – I have a couple of pics on my blog from our trip to Glenwood Springs, but I am starting to get a bigger pooch again. 1) Where do you suggest to buy one, 2) So you don’t just use it on your waist – you hoop with your arms? Tell me more! Maybe post a video and let me know if you do!

  13. July 9, 2012

    Wow! I just followed this form your FP post (well done by the way!) and I must say that it looks like great fun. I have one lying around at home somewhere (where did you get the one with lights!), but I’m not sure how I’ll pass it off as ‘a work-out’ to the wife unless I label it as a ‘cross-fit’ exercise? 🙂

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. 5 Reasons Why Summer Kicks All Other Season’s Asses. | Overexposed + Underdeveloped
  2. “DANCE FIRST. HOOP SECOND” : Hulajdusza!

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