People always ask me the same few questions in my hoop classes.
“What did you just do?!”
“Aren’t you dizzy?”
“How do I spin like that?”
While hooping, I LOVE adding lots of spins into my dance flow. Turning and twirling adds so much dimension to hoop dance.
It takes a move from “That’s cool!” to “Whoa, what was that!?”
Think of your basic orbit / smear move; if you spin and do the orbit quickly, it looks like an amazingly complex trick! Even a simple passing or floating around the body with a hoop can become really dynamic when you turn quickly. It can look like the hoop is pulling you.
But what if you find yourself getting too dizzy or can’t find balance?
Check in with your body
Before you start spinning and turning quickly in your hoop, make sure you are well hydrated and not hungry. Avoid intense spins on a day when you’ve had alcohol (or had too much alcohol the day prior), and don’t do it if you’re congested or think you might have a cold. The inner ear needs to be clear because that’s where the sense of balance comes from. If you are otherwise healthy, eat fresh ginger or strong ginger candy before class or a hoop dance session in order to avoid nausea, or drink peppermint tea or having some peppermints like Altoids.
Sometimes ‘spotting’ can be a good technique. Spotting is where your head and your body rotate at different rates. It’s great for static poses with your hoop such as a body lock, or simply holding the hoop in one or both hands. To try spotting, keep your body spinning at a regular speed, but keep your head & gaze focused on a specific spot in front of you until you must turn your head in order to keep it! When you turn your head, quickly turn it as fast as you can back to the starting position & look at the specific spot you chose. Repeat.
Try not to look up or down while making the turn, and keep your eyes looking straight ahead with your chin level. This helps provide a focal point for the eyes and helps you, the dancer, control balance. It helps your brain to know where you are in the room and keep you oriented. Practice this slowly until you feel comfortable enough to go faster. Start small too! Take a few spins and stop before you try taking eight. And don’t stop suddenly either – take your last spin a little bit slower to avoid falling. Think of it like driving. Hitting the brakes hard isn’t a pleasant sensation.
If you are moving to a type of music where spotting would interrupt the style of dance, then building a tolerance is the best way to go. The intense head turn might not look right with the floaty, swirly vortexes of a hoop dance. I still incorporate a less proper version of spotting where I simply try to look at the same point or object each time I make a full rotation. Let your vision go blurry except when looking at your spot. When I record practice videos, I often make my camera/iPhone my ‘spot’. If you focus on things spinning around you and look at pictures on the walls, dizziness increases. So, pick a point, take a whirl and don’t look at anything in particular until you see your object of choice.
Connect with your hoop
Another variation to help build dizziness tolerance would be to try to focus on a specific point or connection with the hoop. For example, when I’m working on sustained spinning with the hoop overhead, I focus on my hand or on the anti-point of my hoop (the exact opposite point on the circle to where my hand or connection point is). Your brain will get used to what you’re doing if you do it regularly and try to rely more on your other senses. Spinning regularly literally rewires your brain so you’re more ready to spin the next time. It’s amazing how adaptable we are.
Some extra tips…
For some final tips, make sure you take breaks and get fresh air! Spinning is especially difficult if you are hot and sweaty, or tired and dehydrated. If the dizziness gets really bad, take a few slower turns in the opposite direction the dizziness was caused in. Then jump up and down a couple times and clap your hands in front of your face. This can help snap you out of it a bit by rebalancing the fluids in the inner ear. Sitting down will help you get grounded again. And it’s never too late for a ginger candy either!