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Creating a Character, for Hoopers and Hoop Performers

Festivale Photo, Saskatoon SK

Hey Hula Hoopers and Hoop Performers! Recently I've been asked by hoopers for advice on creating and performing a successful hoop show. I think it's great so many of us hoopers are this enthusiastic to share our hoop love with the world. So I've created a list of suggestions on the topic of becoming a hoop performer.

The most valued influence on my shows is to first create a relate-able character that an audience will enjoy.

Why create a character? For one, it's fun to play dress up and play pretend! I've found that creating a character to experiment with inspires creativity when building the show, it also allows me to "think outside of the box" and step outside of my comfort zone. The characters we create breath new life into our hula hoop flow, and personally I've found new confidence in myself with these characters.

Below are some of my suggestions on the topic of "Creating a Hoop Character".

1. Find your Character

From performing your act, to selling your shows, one thing that will set you apart is the character you play. This is your chance to embody an alter persona of your own. An important tool to creating confidence in your character, is committing to them (don't worry, there is no limit to the number of characters you may play!), you may also name your character, play dress up, and experiment with angles of your characters personality. That being said, there is nothing more confusing than a show that doesn’t know its niche. If you’re silly, BE silly. If you’re full of emotion, BE that emotion. Whatever it is, commit.

This representation is often a version of ourselves we want to share, born from a story we’ve always wanted to tell. Over time you will get to know your character and who they are as the individual parts of yourself, what makes them tick, what makes them happy. These are important foundations to being comfortable on stage. Know yourself and all the different parts of you will follow.

For example take my inspirations: Lisa Lotti - Circus and Multi Hooper, Rachel Lust - Breaks Master and Ninja Warrior, and SaFire - Teacher and Role model. These hoopers found their niches and played upon them. Find yours, and run with it!

2. Know your Crowd

Performing the right character for the right crowd can make or break your show. Take into consideration the crowds you will be performing for and ask yourself "Where is my medium ground?"

A number of my own shows have been lost in translation because I performed an ill-judged character for an audience that didn't understand her. It surprised me that some of the most difficult tricks I know, were not the best performed for certain crowds. For example, a children's character requires color, comedy, and a shining personality (but not the world's most difficult hoop tricks), while a corporate booking may require more artsy skill than bubbly personality.

Last but not least, really get to know your crowd. I have two exercises I perform with, the first I pick out two or three people and continue to acknowledge them throughout the show. The second, make eye contact!

3. Play

Performers and artists alike, play is an essential learning tool in bringing new life to your work. Young children’s play allows children to explore, identify, take risks and create meaning. The very same applies to us as grown up's, and thank goodness! Almost all of my bits and characters (bits being the fun comical banter you may hear during a show) have been discovered through "play dates" with my circus friends.

Playing creates a moment for our authentic characters to speak, on top of that it's fun and at the end of the day your "job" as a hoop performer SHOULD be FUN!

I have a story I'd love to share. It is about a comedy character that I perform, her name is "Kate the Lifeguard". My lifeguard character is only a year old, and she has MC'd two circus festivals, performed at numerous festivals as a roving character and inspired thousands of people to PLAY. She is the essence of "being yourself, not giving a damn, and having a good time". I discovered her completely by accident. It was on the third day of rain at a music festival when I decided I was going to have a good time, I was done with the rain, raining on my parade, I was going to play. I threw on this costume pictured below, and picked up a floaty toy, and swam in a mud puddle for six hours.

Alas, "Kate the Lifeguard" was born. This character is so much more than a funny bit I do, she is the happiest parts of myself, she is the fun part of my job, she keeps me grounded in a world so focused on what our successes "look like". She is muddy, dirty, and authentically me.

Be amazed by parts of yourself that you will discover through the simple act of being silly. If you aren't sure where to start, tell silly jokes, dress up fabulously, do something entirely out of your comfort zone (grocery shopping in a princess dress?), make people laugh, and have fun with your art! Before you know it you'll have a fun new character to share in your act! It's yours to create!

............................................................................................................................................. Remember, none of these character you create have to be over the top! A character could simply be yourself, and that is more than enough to put on an awesome hoop show! These are only my suggestions from personal experience.

Share your thoughts and experiences with me in the comments section below. Do you have any exercises you love to use when writing a new character? Suggestions for other hula hoop performers?

Kate Ryan

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