Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What Did I Learn From Malcolm Stuart?

Malcolm Stuart's hoop class was about learning how to find your own way to innovate. It wasn't about learning moves or copying a style - but rather a tutorial in how to find your own style by using warm-up and in practice techniques that make your body and mind more open to new ideas.

We warmed up by flailing our bodies every which way to explore 'forgotten spaces.' The area between the shoulder blades and behind the back are easily forgotten when you have a big hoop spinning around, and by intentionally asking our bodies to acknowledge and explore these spaces we had a way to 'bookmark' and interesting spot for later use. It was like saying "hey, this is a good new spot to explore once you pick up the hoop - try and check it out." Intentionally, music was left off so that we would not fall into the pattern of rhythm.  The aim was not to look pretty or polished but to simply get the mind churning about what areas are not normally explored and how to incorporate them.  The first step of learning how to innovate was taking away that which you normally fall back on and then seeing what else you can use.

Simply jumping around isn't enough, though; it takes a calm mind to use the tools that the body gives.  Malcolm suggested keeping the mind as still and calm as a 'river of glass' despite what may be going on around it. Visualizing this image during practice is a great way to get there. This allows you to attend to what is happening as an observer instead of creator, allowing your body to do what it wants. This paired with the bookmarked spots to explore can lead to some new and interesting patterns that are outside the familiar hoop repertoire. I didn't worry about what I was going to do next and just let it happen. Stop telling your body what to do and listen to what it is telling you and you are more likely to experience moves that you haven't before.

This is a picture of the inner workings of my mind.
After these helpful tools were explained we put them into action with unstructured hooping to music for awhile. Though it was easy to slip out of 'river of glass' mode into 'what the crap should I do now' mode, just having the idea to visualize lead to much calmer practice in general. An easy remedy for not knowing what to do next was to stick with the same thing again and again. I used to think of repetition as boring - but Malcolm recommended sticking with just one move again and again so that you mind could start thinking - what can I add to this? Where can I go next? Adding spins, turns, alternate hand grips and reverse direction are all basic ideas that can really transform a trick.

In no time everyone was panting and sweating with the effort. it was the perfect time to slow things down and be treated to a couple of Malcolm's own choreography and moves. His combinations turned simple things like weaving into 3 and 4 step processes that we certainly advanced, but worth it. Innovation and inspiration go hand-in-hand, and learning moves that are new to you can be just as inspiring as creating ones for yourself. I finally realized that it is okay to "copy" someone's moves because it can be a tool for learning. From there you can take those moves and become comfortable with them and then transform them for yourself.

In the end I walked away a better hooper, teacher and performer. This is the perfect workshop for those looking for something a little less tangible than "new tricks" to add in to their work. It was truly a lesson in how to listen to yourself and understand that there are preliminary steps to innovation. In the days that have passed I've noticed that I am being much more adventurous in what I am trying to add into my practice and not nearly as controlling of my own body and mind. Simply put, I am having more fun and it looks better. Now that is money well spent!


Anonymous said...

I would love to attend a workshop with him! Especially after hearing you describe... I think it'd be something very beneficial. Sounds like you got so much out of it!

KymSpins said...

I really did! Definitely worth the money if he rolls into town. I have noticed myself having much more fun with my hooping in the days that have passed after the workshop. :)