Embellishing Hoop Moves

May 26, 2015 Caroleeena DancehoopdanceHoopingUncategorized


Any hoop move can be improved by adding a decorative detail. The detail can be as simple as adjusting the posture, holding the head a certain way, directing the gaze, a turn of the hand, articulating the fingers, positioning a foot or a leg, or it can be as complicated and layered as integrating a piece of footwork or handwork. Adding a bold or extravagant element adds flourish, attracts attention, and makes old moves look new. Different embellishments can soften or harden the move and create entirely different effects. They can make it beautiful, clean, interesting, quirky, ugly, or awkward. The embellishment choices we make are based on the song and the effect we hope to achieve and convey in our dance.

Embellishing moves requires:
– a basic understanding of the move,
– a critical eye,
– a willingness to experiment,
– and the use of feedback methods such as mirrors, film, or coaching.

If you only choose two ways to dress up a move, think of these — handwork and footwork.

Ask yourself, “What can I do with my hands to make this more interesting?” and “What can I do with my feet to make this more interesting?” Remember that ‘handwork’ is composed of fingers, hands, arms, elbows, and shoulders. An embellishment can be about creating a line with the arm or a curve with the elbow and wrist. It could be about articulating the fingers or striking a certain finger pose with the free hand. It could be about leading the movement from the shoulder or from the elbow or the wrist or the heel of the hand. Footwork is composed of stationary footwork where you move the foot or feet but do not travel, traveling steps, turns and spins, and poses. Sometimes simply directing a knee in or out or straightening a knee and pointing a toe can completely change how a move looks. Experiment! Take notes of what you like but also note what doesn’t look good so you consciously choose not to let yourself fall into that position.

In this video, I play a bit with elbow rolls. Then I begin to experiment with armwork, fingerwork, and footwork to find ways to make the elbow rolls look different. It’s a good example of exploring a single move to unlock the many variations within it.

Embellishment is great for already pretty moves (floating the free arm up as you float the hoop up in a lift from the back is lovely) but it’s even more important with moves that look awkward or ugly. Some moves that could usually use some dressing up include shoulder duck-outs, wedgies, and vertical hooping facing the earth or facing the sky. I challenge you to pick your ugliest move and figure out how to dress it up!

Keeping a hoop journal with a space for embellishments will help you remember them and encourage you to do them in the first place. I keep a simple move inventory of moves I am working on. For each move, I leave a space for handwork, footwork, flourish (which includes anything such as expression, directed gaze or anything else that is not handwork or footwork), and transitions (because knowing what flows into and out of a move in pretty ways is also helpful for creating combos and dances).

Below is an example of what that looks like:


Working with video is my favorite way to explore embellishments. Using a mirror is great but requires you to look straight on, which can mess up your posture or gaze. Using a camera allows you to experiment with a lot of different things, then watch the video with a critical eye and note not only what works but what didn’t work. Having a friend who is a good at coaching offer suggestions during your exploration is also very helpful.

No matter your feedback method, embellishments require a willingness to explore the move, even in ways that might feel awkward or ugly. As one of my favorite hoop teachers Malcolm Stuart once told me, “Give yourself permission to flail.” I have flailed into some perfectly lovely embellishments…but they required being okay with feeling awkward, ugly and uncoordinated sometimes.

Give yourself permission to flail. It may just lead to a thing of beauty!



embellishembellishing hoop moves

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