Making Shapes in Hoopdance – Circles

June 15, 2015 Caroleeena hoopdanceHoopingUncategorized

flamenco armsCircular shapes and movements are perfect for hoopdance. A bent arm is easier to take in and out of the hoop, moving a single hand in a circle from a still arm is a beautiful semi-resting piece of armwork that doesn’t take much effort and is a wonderful use of the free hand, traveling in circles is a natural part of hooping, and circles within circles simply fit the natural flow of the hoop’s movement.

This week in the Putting The Dance In Hoopdance group on Facebook,, we focus on making circles with the arms, letting the arms travel in circles, letting the hands move in circles, and letting the feet travel in both circles and half circles.


Pretend like you are holding a big basket in front of your chest. Keep the elbows high and your hands and wrists lower than your elbows.When you lift these arms, lift from the elbow. When the hands are above the head, make sure the elbows are open and wide, beside the ears and not closed in front of the face. Keep the shoulders relaxed and low.

Arms can form a circle when the arms are both above the head, held out in front or held down low. They can form an “S”, which is two half circles, when one arm is up and one arm is down. (The down arm, still in a half circle, can be in front of the body OR behind the body.)

Arms can form an closed circle by crossing the wrists, a less closed (but still closed) circles by keeping the fingertips very close to each other, or an open circle by keeping the hands far apart, elbows wide and lifted.

The hands can close together palm facing palm, finger tip facing finger tip, or back of the hand to back of the hand. They can also cross at the wrists.

Arm Movement:

When the hands are above the head (at 12:00 on a clock face), the hands can fall to the inside so that the arm crosses the body on the way down (toward 9:00 to an onlooker) or to the outside in an outside circle (toward 3:00 to an onlooker). In flamenco dance, this movement generates from the elbow and the hand stays below the elbow as the arm circles so the elbow does not collapse in front of the body.

Circles Graphic

Hand Movements:

Hands can also move in inside and outside circles. It can be helpful to make a fist and practice turning it in and out. Then practice doing hand circles with one and/or both hands at waist level closed, at waist level opened, above the head closed, above the head crossed at the wrists, above the head opened, below the waist closed, crossed, and open, and with one arm up and one arm down.

Hands can move in full circles (back of the hand forward, then pinky edge, then palm, then palm edge), the thumb, then back of the hand again … or in half circles (right/left, right/left) like the tide coming in and going out.

Finger Movements:

It is easy to hold a stationary pose like the Rooster while doing hand and/or arm circles:

However it is possible to add circular finger movements to hand movement by doing things like finger rolls — close the pinky, ring, middle, pointer and then thumb, turn the hand over, open from the pinky, ring, middle, pointer, thumb, then turn the hand back over and repeat. (Leading with the pinky when opening feels weird at first but soon it will feel normal.) This fanning of the fingers is beautiful and makes the fingers look even more alive at the end of a beautiful arm or while the arm is moving. Finger rolls add both polish and energy to arms.


Repetition is a wonderful way to use hands and arms. For example, you can rest one hand on the waist while hip or leg hooping, let the other rise forward from the elbow in a half basket, then do four inside circles with the hand from a stationary position. You can then lift the arm to above the head and do four more. This is a nice 8-count that requires nothing more than moving the wrist.

Or you can lift one hand to above the head and do four outside circles with the fist as you also slowly lower the arm in an inside or an outside circle. 1-2-3-4 circles on the way down.


Moving first one arm in an inside circle, then the other arm in an inside circle, in a repeating and alternating series is gorgeous. You can do this while waist, leg, or hip hooping. It’s also really pretty while traveling with your hoop. If you are holding the hoop in one hand, this is a very pretty movement for the free arm.


Taking one arm down as the other arm goes up is also beautiful. Aim for making an “S” every time so that the upper hand is directly above the lower hand.

This tutorial touches on all these concepts and allows you to see them in action:

This tutorial also goes into detail about moving your arms and hands in circles:


Swinging your leg from the hip can also be done in circles. You can do outside circles by swinging forward, out, back, and then through the center. You can do inside circles by swinging to the back, then the side, then forward, then back through the center. In ballet, these circles are called Ronde de Jambes or circles with the legs. These can be done a variety of ways:

– Dragging the toe:

 rond de jambe a terre

– With the foot in the air:


– From the knee:

ronde de jambe

Circles with the legs power moves, especially turns and spins, but they also make very pretty traveling steps. Right now, I am all about not letting my big toe lose contact with the ground, both in stationary circles and while traveling.

In this short video, Martin Ramirez rocks some circles with the legs. Pay special attention to :06 seconds for a beautiful circular turn. Also :15, :31, :37 and :42 (You have to be in the Putting the Dance in Hoopdance group to see this because that’s where Martin shared it. You may have to cut and paste the information that follows:

In this video, I talk a bit about making circles with the legs and feet as well as turning in circles:

Turns and Spins:

Turns and spins are also about making circles but for the sake of this exercise, I encourage you to focus on my making circles with the extremities — legs, arms, hands, fingers, even head! For more on turns and spins, I refer you to this past blog:

The video above (Some Pretty Turns I Love) talks about some of the footwork to turn and spin.

Circles in circles — going the same direction, going opposite directions, circles while traveling in lines, circle while traveling in circles… There are no limits to the ways we can execute or combine circles.

Life is a Circle
By Black Elk ~ Oglala Sioux ~1863-1950

Everything the power of the world does,
is done in a circle.

The sky is round
and I have heard that the earth
is round like a ball,
and so are all the stars.

The wind in its’ greatest power whirls.
Birds make their nests in circles;
for their’s is the same religion as ours.

The sun comes forth and
goes down again in a circle.
The moon does the same
and both are round.

Even the seasons form a great circle
in their changing
and always come back
to where they were.

The life of a man is a circle,
from childhood to childhood.
and so it is with everything
where power moves.

arm workcirclesfootworkshapes in hoopdance

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