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Washington Voices

Passion lights her way

Stefani Sellers demonstrates her fire dancing with a hula hoop she made out of PVC pipe. She also teaches hula hoop and dance lessons to children  and adults. (Colin Mulvany)
Stefani Sellers demonstrates her fire dancing with a hula hoop she made out of PVC pipe. She also teaches hula hoop and dance lessons to children and adults. (Colin Mulvany)

At a barter fair in the summer of 2001, Stefani Sellers found her “ah ha” moment. As a woman danced gracefully with a baton on fire at each end, Sellers’ eyes widened and she said to herself, “I want to do that.”

After the dance, Sellers approached the woman and proclaimed her desire to learn. The woman had heard that many times before and she told Sellers to come back the next day. Sellers did and the woman said, “Find a stage with music and dance with a baton.” So, Sellers danced.

She taught herself to twirl, throw and catch the baton and soon the tool became another appendage, a natural dancing partner. One month later, the woman who had served as a catalyst for Sellers’ form of art lit the ends of Sellers’ baton igniting her artistic expressions as a fire dancer and more recently, a hula hooper.

She picked up the hula hoop about a year ago. She had seen it at yet another barter fair. “My outlook and attitude have changed dramatically since learning to fire dance nine years ago, but to an even higher degree with the hoop in the past year,” she said, “I have an inner joy, radiance, an unblinded vision of the world when I dance. I feel that I see things as they really are when I’m dancing regularly, performing, teaching, sharing this art form, I am whole.”

The hula hoops Sellers uses are not the kind you think of, not the small light plastic ones you see at toy stores. These are bigger, heavier and adorned with colorful fabric and vinyl tape which covers the curved black PVC pipe. Sellers makes them herself and she has about 50. One is lit with LED lights and another has small holes that wicks are screwed into to be lit.

Sellers, 26, grew up in Harrington, Wash., and moved to the Spokane area her freshman year. She attended Lewis and Clark High School and was involved in theater. Sellers, youngest of eight children, struggled to find forms of expression.

“I have always been a person of artistic desire, with no means of channeling,” she said. “I tried to make clothes, be a gardener, a needle worker, all the things that I wanted so desperately to find a flow in, some skill, or even just self approval but would never be satisfied.” After high school, she worked odd jobs including time in naturopathy. Currently she works at an Indian restaurant while performing any chance she gets. She has danced at more than a dozen venues including weddings, parties, carnivals and fairs. She teaches dance to third-graders through the Silver Spurs Folk Dancers, hosts a hoop jam Wednesday evenings at the West Central Community Center, does children’s parties where the kids learn to make hoops, and plans to teach hoop fitness classes at the YMCA in the near future.

Sellers said she has found her groove.

“I look forward to a future of possibility, challenge and growth, and know that more than anything this is the art form that will take me places that I have dreamt about, and am beginning to believe can be reality,” she said. “I feel so blessed to have found my passion, to have the opportunity to share it with others.”

The Verve is a weekly feature celebrating the arts. If you know an artist, dancer, actor, musician, photographer, band or singer, contact correspondent Jennifer LaRue by e-mail


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