We had the good fortune of connecting with Morgan Jenkins and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Morgan, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. I studied filmmaking with a BFA in cinematography at the North Carolina School of the Arts and graduated in 2005. Immediately after graduation, I moved to Los Angeles to start my life as a California Girl and pursue my dream of working in film and television. I had always pictured myself as being a “behind the scenes” type person. Never would I have imagined that I would become the performer and creative director that I am today!
I was never the type of kid who loved sports or could complete the mile run because I had zero confidence in my athletic ability. It still shocks my dad that now I perform with fire and hula hoops on stages for thousands of people. I was a shy kid, and preferred to spend my time creating things for myself. I loved to draw, sculpt things out of clay, create dance routines and mini plays with my sister and silly home movies on my parents hi-8 video camera. I had dreamed of being an animator for Disney and I studied how characters moved and the structure of storytelling. In 8th grade, our family got cable for the first time and that’s when I discovered MTV. I became infatuated with music videos and I was at the age where pop culture made a big impact on my identity. Britney Spears and The Backstreet Boys had me learning dance moves in my bedroom and dressing in low rise jeans. I suddenly was imagining myself, both in a spotlight as a dancer and as a creative director, in charge of performances for film and live audiences.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I almost immediately got a job working on the set of the TV show, “E.R ” as a camera PA. While learning the ins and outs of the film/tv industry, I was spending my weekends taking dance classes and exploring all of the L.A. nightlife. Years later, I found a second home at a bi-monthly dance party called “Bootie LA” and it was there, that I first saw a hula hoop dancer. She was on stage, she was hooping to Britney Spears, and as I watched her I thought to myself “I can’t die until I learn how to do that!” And so…..I did learn. And as it turned out – hula hooping was the gateway to all of my performer & director dreams coming true!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a creative director who creates experiences and tells stories though digital and live productions that feature the flow arts. What are the flow arts you ask? Flow arts are a movement based art form that combine dance with prop manipulation. Examples you might have seen are juggling, poi spinning, fire dancing and of course – hula hoop dance.
For me, hooping was the gateway to flow arts and remains to this day, my most loved prop. When I first experienced hooping, I felt that I finally had found something that made me feel so comfortable in my own body, so joyous in my mind, and the ultimate inspiration for creative endeavors. After I began hooping in 2012, I could no longer hear a song without picturing a hoop-infused music video to it, and I couldn’t watch a movie without wondering if I could fuse the movie concept and hoop dance into an act for the stage. Hooping was my muse, and 10 years later, I still pull almost all of my inspiration from the power of these plastic circles.
Because of my background in filmmaking, I was easily able to conceptualize and create high quality hoop videos as a way to express myself. These videos focused on hoop artistry and storytelling more than hoop tricks, and because of their unique nature I made a name for myself in the hoop dance community. Originality is extremely important to me, and so over the years I have strived to constantly make each creative project something that has never been done before. This has lead to creating one of the first well known hoop performance groups “Hooptown Hotties”, directing many music videos featuring hooping, coining the term “Hoopography” and teaching hoop choreo globally, creating my own touring event “Hoop X’ and most recently – directing the first flow arts live Nutcracker Production for Lumia Dance Company and co-directing the first flow arts documentary for Oculus TV with Daily Planet Productions.
One of the biggest challenges I have faced is finding the balance between my personal practice and the grander scale of creating with a focus on elevating the community. Sometimes I am so wrapped up in a large scale project, that I forget the simple joy of just putting on a song that I love and letting myself get lost in my own dance and flow. What I have ultimately learned through this balancing act is that seeing others flourish because of opportunities I’ve created and being a leader fills my cup and in turn, when I feel fulfilled, I allow myself the time for my own practice.
I want the world to know that the expression of who you are is limitless, and the outlets in which you can express yourself can be found in the most unlikely of places. I never would have dreamed that a hula hoop would actually be a portal to my most creative, most fulfilled self. Following your heart and your passion can only lead you on the path to discovering your own magic. And….. if you happen to see a hula hoop on the way…pick it up. You never know where it might take you.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
No trip to Los Angeles is complete without a hike in Griffith Park. There is something so magical about standing at the peak and looking out over the vastness of the city with the beach and snow covered mountains book ending your view. If you are a hooper, it’s also a great spot to hoop and flow high above the city of angels. You can end your hike with a trip to the Griffith observatory and marvel at how small we are in this massive universe. Just down the hill, explore all of the delicious restaurants and coffee shops on Hillhurst Ave. in the trendy neighborhood of Los Feliz.
If you are more of a beach person, The Coral Canyon Hike in Malibu is an easy hike with stunning ocean views. Drive to the top of coral canyon and park in the trailhead parking. The hike is flat, along the mountain ridgeline and has stunning rock formations and small caves to explore along the way!
As someone who works in the film business, I would also recommend a fun and touristy tour of one of the movie studios. Warner Brothers and Universal are the best!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to shout out the worldwide flow community, and specifically the hula hoop community. I was first introduced to this community in 2012, and I owe so much of my success to this amazing, global group of people. From the community members who were trailblazers in teaching hoop dance and exploring hoop tech, to event organizers who invited me around the world to teach for them, to members who strive to keep the community inclusive and growing while honoring it’s roots and traditions, and to the best friends I’ve made who share my same passion for movement and creation. The hoop community is grounded in play, creativity, and the celebration of everyone’s unique movement style. This community gave me an outlet to express myself through dance and a platform to share my projects as a director and choreographer. It also taught me that there is room for everyone’s success, and that comparison is the killer of creativity. Just as a plastic circle has taught me about myself, this circle of people has shaped who I am as an artist and a person.
Other: affiliate companies on instagram: @lumiadanceco @thefiremingos @hooptownhotties
Amy Marie Photography Jimmy Bazan Photography Lizzie Rose Media Adam Tsang, Curious Ox Productions Raul Manuel Photography Diana Ragland Photography Grant Palmer Photography