Raleigh Hoop Jam and Drum Circle Etiquette

November 28, 2011 Caroleeena Uncategorized

Over the last three years our jam has really grown. Each week we have new hoopers and new drummers and I thought it might benefit us all if I shared a gentle reminder about drum circle etiquette and group consciousness. We’re very blessed that we’ve never really had any issues and I recognize and value your contributions and responsibility. I just want to articulate a few things for all of us and for future reference for new members. Here are some of the things I think contribute to a gathering that is fun, safe and happy for everyone. I’d appreciate it if you would read this and also help educate others. It takes a village…

Drums and Drumming:

Tony and Melissa are kind enough to bring a lot of percussion instruments for everyone to share. Please help them set up. It’s a lot of work. More than I think people realize.

The drums and percussion instruments they bring for sharing are on a blanket in the center of the circle. If there is an unattended drum that is not in this area, look around and see if it belongs to someone. Ask before you borrow it. It’s considerate but, also, some drums have special considerations that only the owner may know or special meaning to their companion human. I have one friend who has a drum that he loves and he is the only person who has ever used it. They have a special relationship. Others may have that too. Let’s honor those.

If you bring instruments to share, place them on the sharing blanket. Then people will know it’s okay to use them.

Never wear rings while playing hand drums. It can ruin them and injure you. Also, do not use sticks on hand drums. It can break the heads. They’re called hand drums for a reason.

Drums and percussion instruments need to stay in the drum circle. Children have been known to wander away with things and those things are sometimes never seen again. (I’m thinking particularly of a pair of castanets.)

Listen! I love you but I gotta say, it ain’t all about you. Listen to the drummers beside you. If you can’t hear them, you are playing too loud. A drum circle is a rhythm structure built by many people. One person playing too loud, especially if they lose the rhythm, can throw off the entire circle (which, in turn, throws off the dancers). Plus, if one person plays loud, then others have to play loud to hear themselves. This makes things exponentially louder. Learn to play quietly. It’s simple. Don’t strike as hard and make sure that you can make out the rhythm of the percussionists farthest from you. If you can’t hear them, take it down a notch. Drumming with others is a dance of call and response. It requires listening. It also requires leaving spaces of silence. Make an effort to not fill every single space with a bang. The silences are notes also.

There is such a thing as too much cow bell. Cymbals too. These things are incredibly loud and are heard over everything else. They are not ideal for kids. Tamborines either. They are for accents, not constant play. If you pick up one of these instruments, be conscious and considerate. Remember, you are one part of the rhythm, not the totality of it.

We are very, very lucky to have some amazing musicians who play other instruments who come to our jams. Tonight I am speaking specifically of Larry. Larry is an incredible professional artist who plays a variety of cool instruments including wind instruments. If he picks up one of his flutes, that is a cue for all of our drummers who are consciously listening and being considerate, to tone down the drumming a bit. Djembes are loud. They are made to be heard for miles. A flute, on the other hand, is beautiful as it wafts across a meadow but it is not going to be heard over even one djembe unless people are being conscious of its presence. Listen. Pay attention. Notice. Play softly. Share the rhythm. We all benefit from this.

Drumming and hooping both allow us to enter a flow state. Please do not talk to drummers while they’re drumming. (I know I can’t drum at all when someone is trying to talk to me.) And resist the impulse to interrupt hoopers, poi spinners, unicyclists, jugglers or dancers during their flow states also. There is plenty of time between rhythms for chatting.

Do not smoke near the drummers! They can’t get up and move away. It’s a wide open park. There are plenty of places to smoke. Be conscious of how your actions affect others, especially under the covered areas.

Measure yourself. It can be easy to go faster and faster and faster. Try to stay in the tempo. Speed changes affect the whole drum circle and they wear out the dancers also. Drumming is not a race. If you find yourself getting faster, regulate your breathing. Breathe deep and slow and you will be able to play deep and slow.

Listen for the call that the rhythm is about to end. This allows the circle to end together. It also shows that you are, indeed, listening.

Please help Tony and Melissa gather the drums and chairs and what not at the end of the evening. It’s dark and it’s a lot of work. Many hands make light work.

Hoops and Hooping:

Each week I bring about 30 hoops and a few sets of poi for anyone to use. I place the hoops to the right of the drummers in piles that are separated by size. These hoops are for everyone to use. Please use them! But not every hoop at the jam belongs to me. Other people bring hoops too. So it is important if you are using hoop jam hoops that you not only get them from these piles but that you return them to where you got them. When they are left in the grass, I often lose them once the sun goes down. Plus, then people don’t know which ones they can use and sometimes they end up using someone else’s special hoop. The hoops have a place. Get them from the borrow pile and return them when you’re done. If you loan it to someone else, instruct them where to return it.

Hoops thrive when used on grass. Asphalt and cement destroy hoops. Please use them on the grass.

Hoops are never to be used to hit anyone! If I see you hit someone with a hoop, I will come take it. Period. I’m not much of a hardass but I am a hardass about that. I’m also a hardass about namecalling. The only name you should ever call anyone is an endearment.

Hoops and poi are not to be thrown in trees! Last spring I had to climb a tree to rescue one of my poi. I was not happy.

Hoops are also not for pulling between two people or leaning on. Both these things will break a hoop.

Finally, it can be fun to roll a hoop but only, only, only do this on grass. Gravel, cement (unless it is very smooth), asphalt — these things are very bad for hoops. They destroy them and I can’t afford to replace them. Plus, a hoop with torn metal tape can cut someone.

Be aware of the space you take up, especially behind you.

If you see a by-stander, invite them to play. Show them where the hoops are and help them get started if they seem lost or shy. We were there once too. It’s an easy way to change someone’s life for the better and make a new friend.

Hoopers also enter flow states. Allow them to bliss out. Be aware that their personal space is large. Give them room. Give each other room. A hoop held in the hand can take up to 10 feet all the way around. We’re lucky to have this great big park. Let’s use it and give each hooper a lot of space.

If you see a hooper has their eyes closed, this is not the time to talk to them. It’s like interrupting someone who is meditating.

Children. Kids come to our hoop jam. Be conscious of them. Sometimes they run right into your hoop bubble. It’s up to the hooper to not hit them. When kids are around, keep a gentle focus on the ground at all times.

We also have a few blind kids who come from time to time. Be aware of them. Help them find the hoops that have bb’s in them. Then, if they lose their hoop, they can hear where it goes. Also, look out for them. Don’t let them walk into another hooper as they chase their hoop. And if the hoop circles around behind them, call, “I got it!” and help them out by giving it back to them before they go looking for it in the completely wrong direction.

Express gratitude. We are very blessed to have these amazing drummers come drum for us each week. Many of these folks are professionals. That’s why we have a drum circle that is not dissonant and chaotic like most drum circles. A lot of people work hard for us also, especially the people who set up the circle. They deserve our love and gratitude. When a rhythm ends, give them a round of applause, a shout out, a hoot or a holler. In short, show them some love. That’s what they’re doing for us.

The Park

We are very lucky to be able to meet in Pullen Park. It is super important to respect the space. It is a public park so drinking and drugs are not allowed. Plus, a sober drum circle is a more rhythmic drum circle. There. I said it.

There are trashcans for trash and recycling bins for recycling. Make sure that you pick up all your belongings at the end of the evening. Leave No Trace! And if you see trash, even micro-trash, heck, especially micro-trash (balloon bits and pieces, etc.), please pick them up and throw them away. You could save an animal’s life.

Sharing is good. I encourage you to bring food and snacks and beverages to share. It builds community and keeps everyone’s blood sugar up. Also, share your toys! It creates new playmates. (Did ya’ll check out the guy who brought unicycles to share tonight!?! He plans to come back every week. Wheee!)

Children. All children must be supervised. It is a big park with a lot of strangers and places to get lost. I am not your baby sitter and I can’t keep up with your kids. Keep them within sight and supervise their use of the percussion instruments especially.

Dogs. I love dogs and you’re welcome to bring them but if you do, clean up after them! There is nothing worse than stepping in dog poo, especially if you’re barefoot. Ewwww! Bring a bag and dispose of waste in the trashcan. Also, keep them on a leash if they’re a runner. There are a lot of distractions in the park, including a large colony of feral cats.

Be respectful. Realize that the jam is family environment, even when kids are not there. Refrain from profanity, vulgarity or sexual talk or behaviors. Also, don’t hit on people. I know there are a lot of hotties but it’s not a singles bar. We want everyone to feel comfortable and safe at our gathering and it’s not really the place for that.

Fire Spinning – I know we have a lot of great fire spinners in our group. We do not have permission from the park to spin fire though. I believe it may be okay occasionally and in moderation (they do have grills there) but I must insist that anyone who does so clears it with me first, has a trained safety who is paying attention and fully present, has a fire blanket and an extinguisher and also has a license to burn, which is a license that shows you have completed a fire safety course. If you want to know more about this, talk to me.

Respect that the jam is people’s playtime. It’s not a teaching environment even though I and others are often happy to show you a few things but understand that this is our time to play also. There is a happy medium. Don’t “not” ask for help but be conscious and respectful and grateful when you do.

Gratitude makes the world better. Live it, express it and sing praises. I, for one, am grateful for each and every one of you. The Hoop Jam would not be the amazing experience it is without your input. And it is amazing. I think we have the best hoop jam in North Carolina, possibly the whole country. I could not be more grateful for that! Thank you.

I love you all,

p.s. Thank you also for my birthday gift two weeks ago. You are so sweet and it really meant a lot to me. I adore you all. You are my family of friends. I look forward to playing together each week.Thank you for your kindess, generosity and for being who you are. You make me so happy.

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