Philo Hagen is the Editor of Hooping.org and when he mentioned to me recently that the Hooper of the Week interviews were starting back up again, I told him it was time to turn the spotlight on him for a change. Sure he’s been making Hooping.org happen since 2003 and putting the rest of us in the public eye, but I couldn’t recall ever seeing anything about him here – so it was time to turn the tables. I took the questions he’s always asking us, came up with a list of my own curiosities about him and Hooping.org, and away we go. And even though I knew he was also the co-founder of Bay Area Hoopers, I didn’t know that the hoop group started out as something of a joke. How did it all begin? Find out in my interview with Philo Hagen, our Hooper of the Week!
Lara: When did you first meet your hoop and how did Bay Area Hoopers and Hooping.org begin?
Philo: It’s all the same story actually. I was very involved in the blogging community and I went to this big blogger party at Min Jung Kim’s house in the Oakland hills a bunch of bloggers were there – Ariel Meadow Stallings, Vera Fleischer and it was there that Jason Strauss handed me a hoop and told me try it. It was April 26, 2003, a night that changed my life. I’d just had a breakup actually and didn’t feel like even being at a party, but the hoop had this incredible way of getting me out of my head and back into my body. I fell in love with it right then and there. There was a meteor shower going on for us to watch and a DJ spinning some great trance music and the hoop was very meditative and I met Vera for the first time and the two of us hooped and talked for hours. Just before sunrise Jason gifted Vera and I a hoop on the condition that we’d make good use of them. So I said, making it up as I went along, “Well of course we will make good use of them. Don’t you know Vera and I are the co-founders of, uhm, Bay Area Hoopers?” Vera immediately joined in acting quite serious, adding, “Yes, don’t you know that we meet in the park every week for hooping?” And Amy LeBlanc overheard this and asked if we were serious. We replied that we were and the next day half a dozen of us met for the first time in Dolores Park. And much to my surprise it’s now more than six years later and the group has several hundred members and still meets every Sunday.
Lara: That’s crazy! How does Hooping.org fit into that story?
Philo: Well, we were all bloggers and at that first hoop jam I said we should start a blog about hooping. I went home and bought the domain for Hooping.org and invited Ariel, Amy, Jason and Vera to join me and they all did. Over the years they’ve all gone on to other things and I don’t think a lot of people know that Hooping.org is just me now – it’s been just me here for the past two-and-a-half years.
Lara: So whence the name, Philo?
Philo: Yeah, Philo is a rather unique name these days, but I’m not the only one. It’s Greek and it means brotherly love and friendship and there are others like Philo T. Farnsworth – the inventor of television. I’ve yet to actually meet another Philo though personally.
Lara: What is the funniest and/or strangest question/request you’ve ever received as moderator of Hooping.org, and what are your most – and least – favorite duties in keeping Hooping.org up and running?
Philo: Probably the funniest/strangest is when this family offered to pay for me and my travel to come to their big mansion of a home and talk about hula hooping at their six-year-old’s birthday party. Their daughter was obsessed with the website. As for what I like the most about doing Hooping.org the answer is simple, the hooping! I really do love to hoop and getting to do something in my life on a daily basis that’s about something I love so much makes me an incredibly lucky man. And the things I like the least aren’t things I don’t like doing, but I have a hard time staying on top of the tasky tasks, like deleting all the comment spam none of you ever see, updating the names and group directories, staying on top of all of the email. It’s rare that I feel like I’m completely on top of everything this site requires.
Lara: How does it feel being the Hooping.org top-dog?
Philo: (laughs) Even though I’m the top-dog on the Hooping.org masthead as you put it, I tend to put myself at the bottom of an upside down triangle with the community at the top. It’s not about me here, it’s never been about me, and I love being the community witness to flow and energy and sharing that with others on Hooping.org’s pages.
Lara: You have seen a lot of changes in hoops and hoopers over the years. What changes are you most excited about? And what do you miss about hooping’s earlier years?
Philo: I’m excited to see that hooping is growing around the world. It has been for quite awhile, but I think we’re really starting to see it now. Our community is becoming more and more international and that is incredibly exciting, especially with World Hoop Day coming up. What do I miss? Well, I think hoopdance in a larger hoop is a different experience than it is in a small hoop. There is a lot more room in your hoop to dance. Over the years it seems the hoops have been getting smaller and smaller, which is fine, but sometimes I feel like there’s a lot less dancing going on and a lot more worrying about looking good and being precise. Like I got a letter telling me that I should start asking people who have tutorials of the week on Hooping.org what size and weight their hoop is prior to posting them so that they could know exactly what size hoop was necessary for that specific trick. Even if I did ask though the answers wouldn’t matter. Every body is physically different and what rocks my world may be too big for someone else and too small for another. We never had those kinds of questions in the earlier years. I think we were all a lot more free back then and I’ve been recommitting myself to that – to what gives me hoop bliss, pure and simple.
Lara: How often do you hoop and do you have a favorite hoop? I try and hoop a little every day, preferably for about thirty minutes or more. I also hoop on Sundays with Bay Area Hoopers religiously from 2 to 4pm. My favorite hoop right now is a signature Cherry Hoop that Nicole Wong gifted me. You know how you can just try a hoop and instantly know you’ve found it? That happened with this hoop.
Lara: You’ve been hooping for quite a while – what hoop move(s) are you working on mastering right now?
Philo: Honestly Lara, I’m not working on mastering anything to tell you the truth. I’m working on non-mastering these days, just getting back to hooping for the sheer love of it. I’ve done some work here and there on isolations over the years and I’ve recently come to the conclusion that they just don’t do anything for me, so why am I doing them? I love watching other people do them, they’re great, but they’ve never felt like they were a part of my body’s internal flow vocabulary. Reversals are fantastic for others and I have the utmost respect for them, but for me doing them has always felt like my joy is being interrupted. So lately I’ve just been hooping like I used to hoop, doing the moves I love to do, focusing on the music and the moment and getting back into the joy of hooping.
Lara: How would you describe your hooping style?
Philo: My style is definitely hoop dance, I dance with the hoop. Anah and I were talking at the Northwest Hoop Gathering about all the different tangents that have sprung up in the hooping community in recent years – like twins for example and we concluded that when it comes right down to it we’re both bodyrockers. We like the hoop on our body with the music up loud so we can rock it out. If it comes off my body, it’s right back on pretty quickly. So I’m a bodyrocker. The other key thing that makes my style different from most people these days is that I do a lot of leg work. It kept going down there early on, something about gravity, and I decided that if it was going to go down there let’s make it count.
Lara: How has hooping influenced your thoughts and philosophy about life?
Philo: In order to answer that I think you need to know a little about my thinking. My head has way too much to share most of the time and a lot of it isn’t helpful – stuff like “Why are you wearing that, you look fat?” Hooping has done wonders for quieting my thoughts and helping me be present, right here, right now. When I’m hooping and the music is playing it can become all about the hoop and the beat and after awhile the head chatter grows quiet and I can start to really hear my inner voice, ‘my gut’ if you prefer, that internal guidance that doesn’t steer me wrong. If the answers can be found within I have to be present enough to hear them and hooping does that for me. I’ve gone to my hoop angry and upset, sad and lonely, and finished a few songs later often unable to remember what was bothering me when I started.
Lara: Lastly, how can we as the hooping community best support you and the efforts of Hooping.org?
Philo: Don’t just spectate, participate! And by that I mean make a video tutorial. Send in a great photo. Start a discussion topic. Comment on a video. One of the best tools for learning is teaching someone else – and we all have our own experience to share. You might be the person with the explanation that finally makes that move make sense to a whole crew of people who couldn’t get it previously. Hooping alone is fun, but it’s so much better when you have friends to share it with. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of my best friends being a part of the hooping community and have people in my life now that I can truly call friends all over the world – all just because of a plastic circle. When the internet arrived people talked about the power it would have to bring people together, but I never really saw that in action like I get to see it in our community and what an amazing community we have! So join us, participate. It is an experience you must not miss!