Becky’s Barbie Puts the ‘B’ in Bravery.

I managed to catch one of the hula hoop shows of International Busking performer currently based in Montreal, Becky Hoops. She performs two different shows at the Halifax International Buskers Festival, and the one I saw was entitled the Barbie Parody. At first the feminist in me held my breath and sought to steady myself, as Becky’s Barbie paraded about the space in her frilly pink outfit, teaching a young pre-teen named Cassie (who would be her DJ for the show), how to make an entrance (skipping blithely) so that the public would clap for her. Yet, it quickly became clear that this Barbie show is in fact a commentary on our society’s obsession with feminine beauty and charms. This is the description from the website, “The completely over-the-top parody of Barbie brings the absurdity of modern-day vanity into the spotlight. This character struts between clown and buffoon, leaving her public laughing in awe. From her excessive need for big hair, boobs and “perfect” lipstick, to her constant need for appreciation, Barbie leaves both families and late night cabarets in stitches.”
Why is this important? Well, being a female busker is still a rare feat. Judging from the website, it seems as though only four out of the seventeen busking acts at the Halifax International Buskers Festival feature women, and only two acts feature women only. One would hope that with such minimal female representation, that the female buskers that have been chosen for this festival prove that all the charm, wit, talent, and skill required to be a Busker are not only feats accomplished by men.
Although Becky’s Barbie has all the exuberance of Kristin Chenoweth, combined with Jane Krakowski’s flighty, capricious persona, upon further examination, she is actually one of the bravest Buskers in the festival. It’s true, she doesn’t juggle knives, or fire, or climb all over a bicycle fourteen feet in the air— but Becky Hoops is rare in a different way. Most of the Buskers who grace the stages around the Halifax waterfront work in groups, usually duos, but sometimes troupes, and these performers have practiced and perfected their skills and their act together. There is always the chance of a mistake, always the possibility that something will go wrong, but together these Buskers have worked out their kinks, and built a sense of trust and familiarity with one another which is paramount to the safety of the show.
Yet, Becky Hoops does not have a busking partner, she relies on a member of the audience to perform this role for her. Here, Becky invites a whole new realm of dangerous possibility into her show, as she is working with an amateur. Granted, he will not be throwing fire or knives around, but she does do a bridge on his lap and a headstand in between his knees, which requires an extreme amount of blind faith. The show I saw went extremely smoothly, but I couldn’t help but wonder what sorts of craziness she has encountered in the past with her various volunteers around the world. Her willingness to invite such uncertainty into her show reflects the confidence she has in her abilities in her acrobatic and hula hooping skills, as well as her talents as a performer dedicated to creating a safe space for her audience to enjoy the show.
In her grand finale she allowed three men to throw hula hoops at her, which she caught around her waist and kept hula hooping throughout, until finally her male partner volunteer threw a pile of at least four hula hoops at the same time at her, which meant that by the end she was hula hooping with at least twelve giant hula hoops, never popping the two balloons that were under her bright pink shirt. It was impressive, and like Becky’s entire show, it has an element of subtly to it, that although you may not fear for her (or your) life as you might in other Busking shows, the more you think about what she is doing, the more impressive it becomes.
I would also recommend this show to families with young girls because I think that they would appreciate Becky Hoops’ talents and penchant for pink and 80s music the most.

The Halifax International Buskers Festival runs until tomorrow at the Halifax Waterfront. Go enjoy the marvelous weather and take in a show. All shows are presented in a “pass the hat” fashion.

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