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!