Filming "Stars" on Niijima

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Here is the latest video with the Frolicaholics. We filmed it on Niijima during Guru-Guru Camp and it was such fun that I want to share the behind the scenes bits. 

The Recording
We sat in our campsite early in morning - there were no other campers in residence yet - and tried perhaps ten takes, adjusting our position relative to the Xoom recorder. Tod's toy xylophone is a lot louder than my voice and ukulele, so he had to sit back on the bench while I cozied up to the table. We'd brought lots of recording gear, including an extra mic and a stick-on pickup for the uke; we even considered going into town to record in the karaoke room, but...too much trouble. The sun was warm and we didn't want to move.

Rob also filmed the recording session, so there are some clips from it in the video. Look for the ones where my lips sync up perfectly. We'd planned to play back the recording through my amp and sing along to it, but that was just too much work. I am pretty sure we never sang the song at the same tempo twice as we continued filming. The fact that my lips sync at all is Rob's editing magic.

The birds singing in the background at the beginning are the real birds at camp. Our dawn chorus.


The Filming
Rob wanted to make this video to play with some new gear he's gotten since last year's camp - a very long lens and a star tracker. He'd planned to capture some of us hoopers in front of the moon, but the moon was only a crescent while we were there. So we switched to sunrise and sunset shots. 

Rob & I became adept at waking up before dawn to walk over to the beach. My favorite camp memory is waking at 4 and climbing up to the top the stone monument on the hill between camp and the shore. It was windy up there and a long way down. The koga stone is very grippy, fortunately, as the top of the monument is slanted like a roof. Rob got the shots he wanted of me hooping with the sun rising behind.  First I sat and did poses, then when the sun was up far enough, I stood up to hoop. That waist hooping, which you'll see in the video, is rather wonky and tenuous thanks to the gusty wind and my fear of falling. I didn't topple but it seemed so likely. Pushing my boundaries was a very good experience - and it happened before morning coffee.

Most of the shots of me and Tod playing our instruments were filmed at camp or in the "stone animal zoo" next door. We filmed for two days while camp was relatively empty, and then again as the flood of campers left on the last day. I think I sang Stars about 60 times. 

The kissing bits were taken on the other side of the island at the port ferry terminal - we sneaked up onto the balcony after the building closed to catch the sunset. So naughty. That same afternoon we also filmed on the beach and rocks near the ferry to the general entertainment of passersby.

Actually, I was not feeling well that day and napped in the tent while Tod & Rob went location scouting. They called me two hours before sunset and asked me to come because they had a plan. I put on my costume, shoved our instruments, Tod's costume, and everything else we'd need into my bike basket and pedalled out of camp to a chorus of "Yabai!" from the next camp over. Hmph.

The LED hooping happened on the hill in Habushiura Park one night after dinner. I love the shot of the hoops coming at the camera. Rob was great at directing motions that seemed strange at the time, then look so amazing on screen. Tod, Alice and Harusa did the trippy stuff, Sareh executed a lovely solo even though she was falling asleep, and we all did the impromptu group choreo.

One evening we had a sunset hoop jam on the beach near Yu no Hama Onsen. After some freestyle hooping, we lined up for group movements and Rob got us to frame the sun, then pull our hoops away. The shot is reversed in the video so that it looks like we move into perfect alignment with the sun. Yay for editing.

For Camper
The mysterious dedication, "This video is for camper" is a Niijima in-joke. Our friend, Takashi Miyagawa, spends his free time making tables, benches, and other things from scrap lumber. He's even made barbecues from old gas canisters he saw sin half by hand. He brings them to camp labelled キャンプ用 FOR CAMPER. There is a huge collection of Takashi's practical furniture and we are always grateful for him and his creativity. So this video is for camper.

Me, the Sea, and the Sunrise

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One of the quiet delights of camping on Niijima is a morning walk to the beach. This year, I saw several sunrises emerging blood red from the ocean. For some of them I was busy hooping while Rob filmed me for our video project.

Sunrise. I am sitting atop a 4 meter high koga stone monument. Rob is about 100 meters away with his long lens.

Niijima before camp

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You know I love Niijima, don't you? We have been there so many times to enjoy living a slow life in nature. I've lost count. 10? 12? There is something magical about the island that brings us back again and again. 

Guru-guru Camp, our annual 2 week camping/hooping trip, is coming up again during Golden Week and we are scheduled to depart for Niijima on April 24th laden with tents and hula hoops.

So of course, in the midst of preparations for that event, I snuck down to Niijima with one of my dearest friends and her family visiting from Australia. We toured around on bicycles (and I didn't hate it), soaked in the onsen, watched the waves, picnicked at camp, made glasses, and generally enjoyed ourselves enormously. 

It was hard to return to the city, even knowing that in a week, I'll be back! Between now and then, I have several days of tasks to catch up on, including all the camp packing, launching this year's WHD Dance tutorials and preparing a new project with Heather. I'll be frantic. It was worth it.

Spring Sketching

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I took my watercolors to the park today and although the output isn't anything special, it was glorious to be out in the fresh air focussing my attention on the environment for a few minutes. I am reminded how much I enjoy this form of meditation. More drawing...

Roller Coaster Weather

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Almost every day last week, I discussed the weather forecast with Heather. 

It was making unpleasant predictions for her hanami party on Sunday. It declared High: 11 - too chilly for infants to enjoy a picnic - and each day brought new doomsaying of rain with varying percentages of chance. At one point it told her it would snow and the low was going to be 1. In the end, the forecast was too wild for babies under blossoms and she cancelled the party. 

We went to visit anyway, walking through the park and riding a roller coaster, playing a private concert on the ferris wheel. Then the wind blew, clouds rolled in, and we took shelter from the HAIL and SNOW in an arcade. We played whack-a-mole and Tod bought us popcorn and found me a cotton candy machine and I made a fluffy ball of sugar that we all nibbled as we walked back through the park after the crazy storm had passed.

Hanami 2014

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Rob & I get together for a hanami lunch in the Ayoama Bochi every year. Today was the day. It was beautifully mild and our hilltop picnic spot was eye-level with the blossoms. We were showered with petal snow as the winds blew clouds in. The rains begin tonight, so I think Tokyo's hanami season is about to end.

It was Primal vs Vegetarian this year and I must say that Rob's homemade pork coconut curry and fresh salad beat my peanut butter sandwich and carrot sticks by a mile.

The Frolicaholics Play Hoop Lounge

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Memorable birthday! Instead of going out to dinner or pigging out on cake, Tod & I played a show at Hoop Lounge. We were in a terrific line-up of acts that included a diablo player, a performance artist, and a Cirque du Soleil dancer/clown. Backstage was warm and chatty as we got to know one another.

I performed on my birthday because I wanted to promote our upcoming Guru-guru Camp activities. We sang the song that we'll use in the video Rob is making at camp. Stars is one of my favorite Sophie Madeleine songs. I love the delicate sound of Tod's toy xylophone in this one.

My horrible stage fright wasn't so horrible this time, though you will note a look of relief on my face after we finish. At least there is no terror on my face while we are playing. I am feeling more confident about making music and that helps keep the worst of the jitters at bay.

A Hoop Lounge performance isn't right without a little hooping in the act, so I combined skills to sing, play and hoop all at once. It is not as easy as walking and chewing gum at the same time; I've been trying and failing at this for months. It felt triumphant to get it working here. This Roger Miller song was perfect for some new Tokyo-specific lyrics, too. And an elephant reference...

My friends, Nina and Zio

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This is Zio, who I helped welcome to the world in December.  He is growing big and healthy. I just got to feed him a bottle for the first time yesterday. Hard to believe he is already three months old. He smiles when he sees me; I wonder if he remembers my voice from the delivery room?

This is Nina. She starts first grade in a couple of weeks. I've know her about half her life. She is a skilled hooper and led her mother and I through some fun hoop combos in the back yard. I see a future hoop teacher...

Happy Equinox

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We celebrated the equinox with a party featuring way too much food, just enough drink, so many friends, and a musical theme.

After creating our own handmade musical instruments from odds and ends, Huw conducted us in an improvised concert. Paul made an amazing tuned instrument from rubber bands and a tea tin. Shinji's beer can bell was a rattly delight. We lost a salad server to the drum. Tod filled the emptied wine bottles with water for a harp. There were attempts at guitars and an abundance of percussive blocks, shakers and Yuka's most versatile "ball bearings in a can topped with copper sheeting."

I think we must all be ageing. The party broke up by ten...might be a first. 

Butterfly: Country Roads

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Here's the video that Swinky, Jesse, and the Frolicaholics made earlier this week in our living room for The Butterfly Project.

Swinky will be appearing on a popular Japanese tv show later this month and John Denver's "Country Roads," which is probably the most famous English language song in Japan, is her way of saying hello to all her new fans. Be sure to visit Butterfly Swinky to watch more Butterflies or get info on her upcoming gigs. 

The Zous were thrilled to stand in frame with Swinky. They think she is very beautiful. They are right and I am sure all her fans will agree.

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