The Winter Jamboree: You Can and Should Meet Your Idols
The weekend before last, I just about missed my opportunity to experience the Jam Hoops Winter Jamboree due to a nasty cold that stuck around for a full two weeks. I wanted to be devastated and stomp around about how much I looked forward to the weekend. The Jamboree events are twice-yearly flow arts workshop events that span Friday-Saturday-Sunday and entail jamming, partying, learning, teaching, growing, and connecting with the flow arts’ world. Mainly focused on hoops, the Jamboree events are almost single-handedly created and organized by miss Maggie Brown. I don’t know how she does what she does – but for years, I’ve watched this woman build her Jam Hoops’ business and organize Jamboree events out of a truly authentic love she has for hooping. All I can say is: Fuck Yes, Maggie.
I tried my best not to cry over the money spent on the weekend ticket and all the workshops and parties I was missing while in bed trying to remember what breathing through my nose felt like. We’ve all been there, right? I wonder how other people have learned to treat themselves when they get sick. Me, I’ve been attempting to enhance my perspective, find abundance instead of absence, seek kindness toward myself and remain centered even when external forces seem to overwhelm me. Somewhere along the way in my life I realized I was responsible for caring for myself, and dammit, I had to put myself to bed and miss two-thirds of an event I’ve had my sights on for months. Because…guess what? Getting better is more important than getting to have an experience. Uggghhhh, I think I might be an adult now, hi.
Since I’m still pretty new at this, I accept any and all reinforcements for my good behavior. When I awoke Sunday with the ability to get out of the house and make it to Melissa Daly’s “tipper tech” hoop workshop, I tossed a confetti pile of thank you’s over every inch of myself until all I knew was gratitude instead of the understandable bitterness about what I had missed. Who cares? I’m here now and I’m going to enjoy every minute I can.
Better known in the hoop’sphere as albinoplant, Melissa began as a poi flow artist before sinking into some serious technical genius with single and double hoops. In my early days of hooping, I would hit her up on Instagram for help on a trick and she would respond by making a tutorial just for me. I think there’s still one out there where she references my old Insta-handle. Am I fan-girling a bit? Later that day, as we stood together watching Taylor Duffrin teach her breaks workshop, Melissa told me about how she likes to learn and grow from teachers and how anxious she feels every time she has to perform. She is an unassuming, sweet as pie, tiny little being in her little red hoodie. You wouldn’t know she was famous and she wouldn’t demand you know it either. I showed her a double hoop trick I learned from her that made me fall in love with double hooping, and I can only hope I expressed to her how much it means to me that, in the face of her inner demons, she shares herself with the world anyway.
After finally learning how to make it appear as though the hoop magically tips over my arm, I moved out to the hallway of the Ramada hotel to hoop with a few of my friends. They showed me their recording of yesterday’s workshop taught by Josh Philippi, a part one of a two-part series he was doing at the Jamboree. As I practiced some of his infamous “duck-in” moves, he passed by and noticed. I told him about how I missed almost the entire weekend to being sick and how happy I felt knowing I would get to attend at least one of his workshops. He basically re-taught me everything from Saturday, right there in the hallway. He wasn’t too good to spend his time sharing his knowledge. And, this meant a lot to me: It’s easy to adore your hoop crush (which he is) on the internet, but it’s not easy to connect with what is essentially a complete stranger when you meet them in real life. I mean, what was I supposed to say to Josh? “Hey, hi, I watch your hoop videos and drool over the grace and ease at which you perform extremely complex movements on your chest, shoulders, nose, and head? There’s no one like you, ahhhh!”
Yeah, it qualifies as awkward to fall in love with someone you only know on the internet. In flow arts as with most performance arts, you can idolize someone’s skill but know nothing about who they are and how they behave as human beings. And in flow arts especially, most participants were already battling with some version of mental affliction before they found out that manipulating a prop could give them a respite from themselves if not completely resurrect their identify (as is the case with me). I’ve met a handful of my hoop idols over the years only to be disappointed by their “standoffishness” (that stems from their own anxiety). It may just be a lot to ask of someone that they somehow overcome their deepest struggles in life the second they become famous.
But, Josh did not disappoint me. I couldn’t have enough gratitude for making it out to part two of his workshop, “duck-outs”. And not because I needed to learn those skills, but because he is such an incomprehensibly beautiful human being in real life that I’m finally taking a deep breath and realizing, yes, I can meet my hoop idols.
During his workshop, Josh had us sit down in a circle around him as he spoke with ease (a first for him) about how teaching his passions makes him feel. He described watching us try to solve our hoop problems during his classes as an opportunity for him to learn, and he admitted to finding himself at the edge of tears every time he flies out to a Jamboree. He explained about the first two-and-a-half years of his hoop journey, how he avoided body hooping and proclaimed, with great fervor, that dreaded moves like the kick-up, shoulder hooping, and duck-outs are advanced moves no matter what anyone tells you.
Josh might as well be the king of body hooping, y’all, and he is seriously ecstatic to have accomplished and grown into this role. He wanted it so badly, and wow, now he’s able to teach others a skill he struggled so hard to nail. He shared compassion about learning things like duck-outs, that cause the hoop to go flying, assuring us that he knows “it’s defeating to chase the hoop”. He advised us to “view failure as part of the process” and to be kind to ourselves. I stopped feeling like I wasted a bunch of money on my weekend pass Jamboree ticket: Pretty sure therapy costs more than $165 anyway.
I snuck away for a bit to check out Anna Goodwin’s “Balancing” workshop and learned a plethora of hoop balancing tricks to practice. I was sorry I didn’t get to see Anna perform earlier in the weekend as I’ve spent the last year and a half falling deeply in love with the meditation of balancing props.
Later, I attempted to attend Nicki Cacciato’s dance workshop “out of the box”, but to be honest, it was a little over my head. Nicki really knows how to dazzle with her stage presence, and I still get chills remembering her performance at the last Jamboree. She urges those of us without formal dance training not to let that be an excuse to ignore the dance in hoop dance. With her intense eye contact, head whips, and to-the-beat attitude-heavy moves, she focuses on instructing her students on their stage presence rather than worrying so much about the many technicalities of formal dance. Her motto could be be: yes, you can look like a professional dancer with a hoop even if you never knew how to dance in the first place. Nicki serves as an inspiration to a plethora of hoopers who feel like their two left feet will never find a right.
Nicki had some great wisdom to share that I will pass along: “The best thing you can do for your body is dance”. And, if you want to elevate your performance art, you need to know yourself or what you have to say because that’s what makes you stand out in your dance. I’m still working on both knowing myself and figuring out what I want to say, and I think she’s right that no amount of technical dance experience will make you shine on stage quite like embracing your identify and purpose in this world.
I enjoyed a little time with Taylor Druffin (i.e. @taylorflows) and learned a few combos from her. I’ve also been watching her on Instagram for years – she’s exactly as beautiful in person – and I find her to be very true to form: authentic, sweet, at peace with herself. I think I all but gave up on connecting with these famous internet hoopers after years of let-downs. It’s just the way of things sometimes that when you let go of whatever expectations you had, you find yourself just hanging out with the cool kids at the party.