These are a few things that I have learned while crafting performances for cabarets, stage shows and circus shows. Now, these are my own tips for my own personal style - these won't be
everyone's cup of tea, and there are so many styles of performance out there. But I hope there is something here that is of help to somebody. These are written with a circus show, dare I say even cheesy crowd pleasing show in mind, with a family audience. Using the extension elements such as dialogue with the crowd, props, even use of space all help turn a 5 minute one song hoop act into something a bit longer.
Use of space
It is all too easy to stand there rooted to one spot when performing. When you are concentrating so hard it is difficult for that freedom of movement to come out. But make sure in your practice you use all the space that is available to you - travel across the floor or stage, performing in different spots, allowing all the audience to see you rather than the people directly in front of your starting spot. use moves which are effective on different places if possible, and allow yourself to use side views, floor work and tosses to add depth and range.
Delaying transition between moves
While a super fast performance is dazzling to look at, an effective performance technique is to allow the audience to digest what they have seen and react. Intersperse your flow sequences with some wow tricks - the ones that have always had a fantastic reaction from crowds for me are escalators, nose hooping, head/neck spins, twin chest roll, splitting multiples, and arm multiples (any multiple moves!). I use wow moves almost as punctuation, and engage with hand gestures and eye contact afterwards and sometimes before the wow move, to cue the audience that they are about to see something special.
Dialogue with audience
Do you ever engage with the crowd during your performance? For some events, where you have the chance to talk before or after the act with a microphone, you could address them at the start, give them a teaser of what they are about to enjoy? It can be a great addition to a show. Have you ever tried using a fake finale, with your final showstopping move, only to engage with the audience and talk up one more even more wow move that you have never tried before and probably wont be able to do, e.g GIANT stack of hoops or one giant hoop? Non-hoopers always think big (I mean 5ft+ diameter) hoops are so much harder than regular hoops so it is a real wow factor move if you have space.
As you are separated from your audience, by distance or height, much of the usual non verbal communication that we use while talking is not effective. To communicate effectively, exaggerate your tone of voice and use a mike, vocalise from your belly rather than your throat, and make sure you use big facial expressions and exaggerated body language to engage the audience.
It can be difficult to find an maintain eye contact from a stage or a distance, but everyone is going to be looking right at you, and we all know how it feels when you are sure that the performer you are watching is looking at you, yes you! Eeek! Keep the direction of your gaze towards the audience, even if you are not actually looking at any one person individually. Be aware of the inevitable cameras and give them a big smile and a wink. Don't avoid people's gaze and stare at the floor as it creates an invisible barrier between you and your audience.
Use of props/audience
Have a sit down and have a (pretend) cup of tea and hoop around your foot as you do it. Get a volunteer - or plant in the audience - up to have a go and learn a trick. Using people and things to change up your act can transform a regular hula hoop act.
Costume & make up
Although hooping in your flow clothes and bare feet is just heaven, when you are being paid to put on a good show a lot of bookers expect a shiny, sparkly, circus style costume. This doesn't always have to cost a fortune, but the money you have to spend on costumes can be reflected in the price you charge. A useful and cost effective dressing up box will contain mix and match items that you can use for circus/disco/festival themes, sequinned things such as shorts and playsuits, boob tubes put with shorts and a bra top look like an all in one, catsuits, and Samba leotards are daring and incredible. Check out this blog about how hula hooper extraordinaire Helen Orford made a showstopping costume for a few pounds!
I don't like wearing a lot of makeup normally, but for performance I slap loads of it on, as it is excellent for enhancing facial expressions and features so you can be seen from a distance.
Demonstrating your enthusiasm
Enthusiasm is infectious! If you want your audience to feel as enthusiastic about hula hooping as you, they will take their cue from you. When I watch Emma Kenna performing, for example, I can't help but smile along with her, as her enthusiasm and personality shine through. Even if she drops a hoop, it doesn't make any difference as you are right there with her rooting for her as she gets it back. To communicate this to an audience from a distance, use exaggerated body language and facial expressions, and plaster on that smile!
Creating a stage persona
Who are you going to be on stage? Are you a powerhouse of enthusiasm? Are you unleashing your inner goddess? Are you a clown at heart? Are you an aloof ice queen? You may find you gravitate towards a particular style, that could bear no relation to your own personality. I am terribly shy and introverted in real life, but when I'm performing I am bursting with a desire to show off and I can't stop smiling.
Always having a recovery plan/Plan B
No matter how experienced you are, there will be times when you drop you hoops. It's not the end of the world. Always have a plan for picking the hoops up with style. Make a joke out of dropping them, with jazz hands or a silly dance to retrieve them.
And have a Plan B to be able to continue your act from the pick up point, so that you don't get flustered if you miss any cues in the music. I use sets of interchangeable sequences rather than having a second by second plan to the music, with certain moves within the sequences that fit to certain points in the music so that it always looks choreographed even when going off plan!
These are just a few things that I have learned at the beginning of my performance career. I hope that some of these are useful, and would love to hear any other tips, please share below if you can add anything not on here.