Repetition, Alternation, and Exploring Phrases in Hoopdance

June 1, 2015 Caroleeena Dancehoopdance

Interesting dances are an alchemy of variation and repetition connected by transitions. I find many hoopdances have a lot of variation when it comes to moves, especially tricks, but they often lack repetition. Repetition and/or its sister Alternation allow us to really explore either a phrase in the music or an aspect of dance. For example, people will often rush through an interesting sustained spin, stopping before the musical phrase is complete. This can be jarring both visually and to the dancer. We have all thought, “I wish they had done that just a second longer!” or “I wish I had stayed there just a moment longer.” It’s like the dance veered away before the part of the music was done. Hoopdancers may do this because they begin to feel self-conscious but it could also be because they don’t understand “phrases” in music. We are going to address both in this blog.

phraseA phrase is a series of notes that sounds complete even when played apart from the main song. Most songs are made up of a series of smaller songs. These are phrases. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end before transitioning to the next phrase. Start to listen for them. Then give yourself permission to do a single movement or series of movements for an entire phrase.

Sustained spinning is a concept that is easy to get your mind around–once people start to get into sustained spinning, they tend to do it longer and longer until they are naturally filling phrases. This doesn’t mean that the dancer is doing the exact same sustained spin for the whole song. The sustained spin could be the larger repeating movement but perhaps the dancer holds the hoop high for four counts within that phrase, then chest level for four counts, then hip level for four counts, then floor level for four counts. That’s 16 counts, or 1/2 of a 32-beat phrase. If they repeat the pattern going back up, they have filled the whole phrase.

For people who have not studied music or dance, I know this talk of phrases sounds confusing. The following video breaks down the 32-count phrasing of a variety of popular songs that you probably know. It will help you recognize phrasing and realize you already know it! This video could also prove an excellent training tool if you chose to do a single move to each of these phrases. I encourage you to do that. Treat it like a movement meditation. When you find yourself wanting to go from thing to thing to thing…breathe….and return to the movement you are choosing to either repeat or alternate.

Repetition: To do the same thing over and over
Alternation: To alternate between one thing and the other

An example of repetition would be allowing a spiral fold (spiral staircase or escalator) to fall from top to bottom, then reverse and send it from bottom to top (reversals, breaks, and stalls are often parts of repetition), then repeat the same fold down and up again. Together the down and up are a combo and each time you do the combo is a repetition.

An example of alternation would be allowing the spiral fold to come down on the right and send it back up on the right, then pass the hoop to the left and let the hoop drop on the left and then come back up on the left. You can repeat this alternating combo as many times as you choose.

At 4:57 in this tutorial for the very move described above, I demonstrate how to do an alternating drill! I highly recommend you add both this move and this concept to your bag of tricks! Know that repetition and alternation is also how we create drills. They are wonderful for gaining deep understandings of moves.

Know that the dance move(s) you choose could be any move or combination of moves and that it is not limited to hoop moves. You could make your “move” footwork and concentrate on footwork for a whole phrase while doing lassos or even just holding your hoop. The next phrase could be waist hooping but exploring a piece of handwork. The next could be breaks and paddles.

The other reason dancers sometimes cut phrases short is self-consciousness. No matter what moves you choose, I encourage you to play with doing it for a whole phrase. Don’t psych yourself out. That little voice of doubt in your head that says, “This is boring” or “This is too long” is almost always wrong, at least for hoopdancers. It’s self-consciousness. Reassure that inner voice but keep repeating or alternating your move! If there is one place most hoopdancers could stand to explore and settle into, it is exploring repetition and alternation within a phrase. It is fun, and it is beautiful and it is a movement meditation…but sometimes you have to give yourself permission to do it.

So breathe and give yourself permission to dally, to hang out in a place and play.

Give yourself permission to settle into it, to not rush, to explore — to dance the song within the song.

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