" If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams
and you will always look lovely"
I first met Casey when I signed up for one of her Hoop Dance Workshops here on the Sunshine Coast. I had no doubt seen Casey around as we run in similar circles ( no pun intended) and it seemed we also had mutual friends. I was immediately put at ease by her personality which exudes kindness and and open heart. This is a wonderful quality to have when leading workshops doing something that requires you to let go of your inhibitions in public and learn something that may be completely foreign for you to do.
I met Casey at her home for a chat where they were busy packing up to move. After hearing about Casey having had a bit of a nomadic lifestyle since a teenager and having just returned from a trip to Bali where they were for a month, it was then no surprise to hear that they were moving to live in a boat! Since Casey has been quite a gypsy it made more sense to photograph her in and around her van as well as her performing.
Casey kindly made us smoothies ( so yummy by the way) and we had a chat about everything from how she grew up to why she is now focusing more and more on her workshops.
When you think of using a hula hoop you may have some preconceived ideas of what using one would be. Perhaps it may be an image from the 50s of simply hooping around the waist. But hoop dancing is a lot more than that and it has been evolving for some time now. The hoop becomes an instrument of dance. Using it to hoop in the traditional sense but also incorporating the circle in other ways so that it 'flows' all together to become a type of dance. To let go and see where it takes you in a meditative sense as well. In Caseys workshops she shows you different techniques you can practice so then you can put all these together.
Anyone who knows or meets Casey could easily assume she must never have a bad day with challenges. She is full of positivity and glows with happiness. But as we talk I discover how her being this way has been a process, that it has taken time and something that she works on every day. At only 23 I find her mature beyond her years and we both agree age is just a number.
I ask Casey what she sees her purpose is and she thinks for a moment before replying "I want to continue to work with women, to bring back a sense of community. I want to help people see it's about working together and not alone. As women we are so oppressed with being able to move our bodies. I want women to feel beautiful, to dance without judgement or feeling like they are being too sexual. We are so confined and that is not a nice thing. So I really want to remind women of their power as I am being reminded everyday. It's powerful, it brings people to life and I want to see that glow in peoples eyes. It's contagious so I want to share that. I feel a strong purpose to bring people together and this hoop is just a tool to help that. It's just a plastic circle but it helped me break free of my insecurities. It helped me break free of judgement ( not just from others but also myself). I want to encourage people to have the ultimate freedom. Whether it's through the hoop dance or not. But it's a beautiful way to kick start that feeling and a safe space to start."
Casey didn't always have this sense of purpose. Living out of home from the young age of 14 and living in various places, always moving and then finding herself in alot of debt very young meant she started to wonder if things were ever going to change. Her father was working in the mines out west in Queensland and suggested she move there to get a job and get ahead financially. So she moved there and started working in the drive through of a bottleshop in town. A position came up in one of the mines for an apprentice chef and she applied and was successful. This started her four years working as a chef, out in a remote country mine. It was challenging for a young woman in many ways, but it taught her to stand up for herself and be assertive. It also gave her a lot of time alone to reflect. Something she says that was both a blessing and a curse. She would work one week on and then have one week off so she spent the week off exploring in her SUV ( and then later a van), sleeping in the back and cooking from a camping stove. It allowed her some freedom and to pay off her debts.
A visit to a festival in late 2013 was when she was properly introduced to a hula hoop. A friend had left it at the campsite and gone overseas so Casey took it home with her intending to give it to her friend when she returned back to Australia. It sat in her garage for months, neglected. Until one day Casey decided to give it a go. 'I thought, I can do this!' she says and then explains her initial frustration at not being able to keep the hoop up on her waist. ' I would pick it up, give up and then leave it then after a while go in there and try again' she says. It took a few months before she started to feel a connection with it, 6 months before it really had an impact on her and the meditative aspect started to kick in. The significant moment came out of frustration when she realised she was trying to force it to happen rather than let it happen naturally. That's when it changed and she says " I feel in love with a circle" she laughs.
I ask her if she is a different person to the one that was in the mines and she nods and says "I'm a different person to who I was last year and even one month ago. Five years ago I was depressed, feeling sorry for myself and blaming everyone else. I was in that space for a long time. Feeling abandoned in a sense. But then I started to get sick of feeling like that. I also had a pivotal moment that started to help me get out of that mindset". She explains how when she was in primary school there was a boy that was a bit of a loner and that she always made an effort to acknowledge him and say hello. Years later by chance she was in a shopping centre and he was there and came up to her to and said he wanted to thank her. She was surprised and asked him why. He told her that one day when they were both young he had decided he was going home to kill himself however as he was leaving school she looked at him and smiled. He said that was a turning point for him and reminded him there was still love in the world. Casey was surprised. At this point in her own life she was severely depressed and had no idea the impact she had been on someone else. She went home and cried and cried but then tears turned to laughter. "I realised we take things so seriously. All it took was for me to smile at someone to help them. How simple everything really is. And how we really do have the power to change things".
"I started to stalk my own thoughts. To work on changing negative thoughts to positive ones. Slowly things changed. I started to feel alive again. I noticed I was manifesting things in my life. I changed it. We are the creators of our life and that we have to be responsible for ourselves. I used to say these things but then I started to experience it for myself. I became more aware of where I put my energy and time and I found my happiness. I'm in a good place now. I'm excited for life. I'm a living breathing example of it and if I can do it, you can too. It's discipline, you have to commit to yourself."
Casey is now continuing to expand her work in performing in groups for others as well as her workshops. Currently she is one of the performers in Carnivale at Movie World using fire, hooping and even stilt walking ( hooping isn't her only talent!) and is often employed at various events through an agency. She is living her truth and working towards her life and work intertwining giving her freedom to travel. Something I think we can all appreciate and would love to have. Well, as Casey will tell you we all have the power to live our truth. We just need to make the choice :)