The idea of Malcolm Stuart’s “Movement Exploration” workshop at HoopFest New England intrigued and intimidated me. Both of the actions in that name trigger feelings of anxiety and insecurity – especially when I’m expected to do them publicly.
But when I saw Malcolm’s name on the instructor list for the retreat I remembered watching one of his videos on Hooping.org. His moves looked surreal and I was blown away by his attitude of abandon. I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to be captivated in person.
So I walked over to the tent where a man with an impossibly thin yet chiseled frame was creating shapes with his body by moving in and around a hoop in entirely unexpected ways.
“Your body has more range than you even allow it,” he assured us. “You should be moving every muscle … If you’re getting tired, then you know you’re doing it right.”
Hoopiphany #2: If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying anything new. (And that’s bad).
Hooping in general, and Malcolm’s workshop in particular, forced me to reach outside my comfort zone and risk being a total mess. As a result, I’m starting to recognize and slowly coming to accept that chaos is always the first step in the creative process.
Malcolm advocated extreme exploration. This requires allowing yourself to experiment without moving towards a predetermined outcome.
“Straddle the worlds of control and out of control.”
Malcolm explained his process as two phases:
- “Conscious Flailing”
- “The Scientist”
“Conscious Flailing” is basically cutting loose with frenetic movement – jumping, kicking, swinging arms, tossing your hoop, anything goes. BUT the whole time you are flailing you are also fully present and aware of your body. You’re not trying to perform fancy tricks or think about choreography. And you may very well look absolutely ridiculous.
Malcolm insisted: Every movement is good and everything is interesting. When you stumble upon something cool, “The Scientist” comes alive to repeat it, break it down, and memorize it. And now you’ve invented a new move.
“At any given time you should know that you inhabit these two extremes – the flailing explorer and the scientist collecting data,”Malcolm said.
If you have 3 minutes, you can watch Malcolm demonstrate and expand on this concept in the promotional video below.
One striking realization I had during Malcolm’s workshop was that I have literally stopped myself several times in the past when a hooping move felt uncomfortable because I assumed I’d reached the end of my flexibility or because I couldn’t imagine where else to take it. During class Malcolm broke down a few of his signature moves and I had viable examples of how to take the foundation for moves I already knew to the next level. And then to the next level after that.
I started to wonder whether I might be holding myself back in other areas of my life.
And this is how you “push the move” …
During the class, Malcolm introduced the technique of “pushing the move.” Take something you know how to do that has some potential and keep doing it and experimenting. You can add to it and create a circuit by connecting the move in the opposite direction.
He told us all to spend a few minutes experimenting, starting with a basic move and exploring. He encouraged us to add spins or tosses to force us out of our comfort zone. People were dropping their hoops, hitting themselves, bumping into each other. They were flailing.
One hooper did a backspin toss on the ground and her foot hit the bottom of the hoop as it came rolling back to her. This gave her the idea to kick it and after a few tries and finding the right angle the hoop shot straight up and she caught it in her hand. What started as a mistake ended up being a legit new move to teach the rest of the class.
I find it takes me a while to loosen up even when I’m hooping alone. It’s not easy for me to let go and cut loose. To welcome accidents and allow mistakes to breed original expression. But when I get overwhelmed and too wrapped up in figuring things out, I try to remember Malcolm’s advice to “push the move.”
When I go back to the basics and get in a rhythm I start naturally upping the ante to keep myself challenged. The trick, I think, is in the layering. It’s having the patience with yourself to build on the foundations you’ve established.
The times I’m successful letting go of expectations and honestly experimenting are when I feel the most energized and excited. Most of the breakthroughs I’ve had happened when I allowed myself to spend time messing around and making mistakes.
I have to fight the voice in my head chastising me for wasting time, telling me I’m not accomplishing anything if I’m just going with the flow. I guess, in a way, it comes down to trusting that if you keep pushing progress will come at its own pace. But it WILL come. And you the mistakes you make along the way could be what lead you to the next great thing.
I tell myself I can be perfect and boring by sticking with what I already know how to do OR I can be imperfect and interesting by trying something new.
The people I’m most inspired by have the courage to live imperfectly. With that, I leave you with the first video I saw of Malcolm performing. It’s fun, unexpected, and original.
Hoopiphanies are what I am calling deeper understandings that I am working to apply to my hooping and to all other aspects of my life. This series is an attempt to explore how my hooping and non-hooping influences can feed each other and, hopefully, expand my community in the process.