Summer Institute ’14 alum Jennifer Dennehy knows her way around a hoop. A long-time dancer, she first saw hooping while at a beach drum circle in 2010 and was mesmerized. Since then she has become renowned throughout Pennsylvania for her hoop artistry, and has developed unique choreographic and teaching methods in this still emerging art form.
As an Erie-based dance educator, Jennifer has most recently focused on accessibility by expanding the populations that she teaches, and increasing her number of collaborating organizations that can help her reach more people. In particular, sharing dance with underserved communities through free programming has brought her deep joy. Jennifer brings both creative and creative hoop dance to schools as a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Rostered Teaching Artist, and to young children by partnering with St. Martin Early Learning Center. A long-standing affiliation with Erie Homes for Children and Adults allows her to teach individuals with developmental and physical disabilities, and she is launching new projects providing dance for seniors, those with Parkinson’s, and a dance and storytelling program for individuals with dementia. Sought after in Pennsylvania as an educator – she performs and teaches at over 50 community events each year! – Jennifer is also exploring international teaching. She has taught hooping in Peru, and will travel to India in 2019 to lead workshops at Neetis Dance Studio, New Delhi. Her new role as a mentor to an aspiring hula hoop dance teacher will offer an opportunity to further reflect upon and articulate her own teaching methods.
Even with her extensive teaching, Jennifer is committed to performing and connecting to her own choreographic voice. She honored to dance with Dafna Rathouse Baier, the founder and artistic director of Dafmark Dance Theater, saying, “this woman is a creative genius and it is a privilege to experience her process, I continue to learn so much from her and know she has made me a better dancer and creator.” Jennifer’s own Lake Effect Hoop Troop gathers a collective of hoop artists together to collaborate creatively, increasing each other’s skills, and choreographing and performing as an ensemble throughout Pennsylvania. She is curious about balancing hooping’s value as entertainment and as art, acknowledging the circus-like spectacle draw of impressive hoop tricks that audiences love, alongside her own choreographic desires to develop pieces that say something more. “I guess the challenge is finding more venues to share the pieces I truly want to create, or having the courage to challenge my community and myself to shift what they expect to see from a hoop performance,” she explains.
Over the years while developing her creative hoop dance teaching, Jennifer has witnessed the power of this seemingly simple prop, and shares this story: I’m am just constantly amazing at how hoop dance pulls individuals in who have struggled with depression, anxiety, bullying, abuse, addiction and how the practice of hoop dance seems to have this healing quality for them. A few years back I met a shy 13 year old girl on the beach at a Sunset Music Series concert, where I teach a hoop dance playshop each Wednesday for 6 weeks in the summer. During the third week this girl came up and participated in the playshop and continued to attend each week and learn. After the last week her mother had shared how for the first two weeks she had wanted to come up and try but was to shy. She expressed interest in continuing to learn hoop dance after the summer so I recommended she join my class at Dafmark Dance. About halfway through the year (November 2015) I received this email from her mother: “Her dyslexia affects her reading, writing and directionality. . . She has worked exceptionally hard to overcome it. . . Unfortunately, kids can be cruel at times and she doesn’t see what an amazing person she is. Learning to hoop has really helped her silence some of those voices. She has begun attending some of her school’s football games and hopping while they play. The first time she came home after doing this she told me, “Mom, people think I’m cool!” Over the last couple months she has gained so many friends. Hooping has done more than any amount of counseling ever could.” This student has stuck with hooping and now assists me in teaching the Partners in Dance Program to individuals with developmental and physical disabilities. She has become a confident young lady whom I am so proud of. This is just one of many stories like it and is the continual motivation for me to spread the love of hooping.
In 25 years, Luna has worked with hundreds of teachers who we’re now proud to say are teaching all around the globe.
From Emily Blossom to Jakey Toor, our past Professional Learning colleagues are collectively and cumulatively teaching tens of thousands of children. We’re sharing their stories, about how they continue to positively impact the dance education field, the future, the world.