What Kind of Hooper Do You Want To Be?

Question [This week Hooping.org columnist Lara Eastburn wants you to go deeper into the Hooposophy of who you really are.]

by Lara Eastburn

Nine years ago, I stumbled upon a big, ugly, black hoop laying in the grass. I hooped for nearly two years in Atlanta, GA before I saw another hooper. And I am so grateful it went down that way for me. If I happened upon the hooping world for the first time today, well, I just can’t be sure my own process would have evolved as organically as it did. Hell, I’m not absolutely certain that I would have the wherewithal to pursue it. Why? Well, sometimes I try to imagine what it’s like for a beginning hooper today.  I conjure up the image of sitting down at the computer after seeing some rad hooper, typing in “hooping,” and being completely … utterly, and wholly overwhelmed. “Flow,” lifts, minis, fire, LED, core, style, clothes, tutorials, tubing & tape (how many kinds ARE there?), hoop-stars, off-body, bruises, certifications, the endless technical vocabulary …. oh my! While some are fortunate to be led through the wilderness by their hooping buddies or local classes, I wonder how others get a handle on it all. And yet … there’s still something so incredibly welcoming and warm about hooping and the community it’s creating. And I’m not one who subscribes to the belief that hoopers are nicer than other folk. Oh no, not at all. It’s that no matter how big and intense hooping becomes, there’s still somehow always room for what you are going to bring to it and what happens when you do.

I’m not sure that comes across the first time someone sits down to google “really big hula hoop.” If I were coming to the hoop today, I reckon I’d look around online, pick a handful of hoopers whose styles I really dug, and begin by trying to learn their every move. And I have no idea how much of my own budding, nascent style I might miss by doing that. The use of a blindfold in some classes is a lovely, charged, and contemporary metaphor for me in this way. Back in the day … yes, when we had to walk barefoot through the snow and over mountains, both ways, in search of hoopmaking materials … we were all blindfolded in a way. Every move was a new and thrilling discovery. It IS still that way, even if the new hooper has to look harder (or maybe not look so hard?) to see it.

The first time I saw a video of Brecken Rivara, it felt like the first time I heard Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in high school. I was yanked out of my complacent hooping rhythm. There was no denying it. “Well that’s new,” I said to myself. And what blew me away about Brecken is that I also knew her sublimely sick, freak-nasty, jaw-dropping groove hadn’t come from watching YouTube. Nope. Brecken was old-school inventing in a hoopworld where folks were still shaking off their fur legwarmers and trying to decide on a name for the “beam-me-up.”

I’m clearly using Brecken as a well-known example (among many) of the kind of self-reliant and self-expressive hooping I admire. The kind I want to offer as an alternative to new hoopers who might feel like they’d have to embark upon PhD level study in order to ever hoop like some of the accomplished hoopers they see. That kind of genius comes from inside. And it doesn’t have to look like anything you’ve ever seen. I’d bet money that the word “cool” never, ever entered Brecken’s mind.

So, where’s a beginning hooper to start? How do you go about locating, exploring, and founding your hoopdance on what is uniquely you? What, you thought I was just going to leave with a pithy “Believe in yourself!?” I hope you know ol’ Lara better than that by now. Not everyone finds it so easy to just go-with-the-flow. For many, on any given day of the week, it’s hard enough to lay aside our own expectations long enough to hoop for half an hour. As help, I offer a simple exercise totally borrowed from an article in an Oprah magazine that my mother-in-law left at my house last week.

When thinking about the kind of hooper you want to be, try thinking in adjectives, not nouns and verbs. So, instead of saying to yourself, ‘I want to be a ‘badass,’ or ‘I want to hoop like so-and-so,’ or ‘I just want to master breaks,’ or ‘keep it up’ you would opt for focusing on words that describe how you want, or would like to, feel in the hoop. Trade in the visions of what you want to accomplish, or how you want to look while hooping, for words that will help you understand and orient yourself toward what you want to exude, express, and free inside your hoop. Choose three phenomenal adjectives, perfect for you.

The first step is loads of fun. Martha Beck suggests you go about choosing these adjectives by fully indulging in your wildest, most fabulous fantasy. Envision yourself hooping exactly as you’ve always wanted to. Go ahead. Dress yourself, insert an adoring and enthusiastic audience or a quiet beach, set the soundtrack. Rip or ride your hoop. Populate your ideal hooping vision/experience to your heart’s content. When you’re satisfied, think about what and how you’re feeling in that fantasy. And write those three honest adjectives down.

The idea, of course, is that how you want to feel in the hoop will be much more revealing to you about your unique style than how you envision yourself looking and moving in your vision. In your fantasy, you might be covered in gold glitter and circus lingerie on a huge stage, but the adjectives that describe how you feel are “comfortable, reserved, smooth.”  You may be dressed in khakis, a t-shirt, and ponytails, but feel “flirty, contagious, innovative.”  Clearly, I don’t mean these descriptions to be opposites. I simply mean that how you want to feel in your hoop, and what of yourself you want to express there, may not exactly correspond to what you imagine you have to master or look like.

Finding the three magic adjectives for the kind of hooping you want to create leaves room for how it will, in the end, be expressed by your body. You can allow yourself to let go of what you think it should look like because you’re focused on how you want it to feel. It’s just one place to start, but I think it’s a mighty helpful one. My words? OK … Curious, Playful, Childlike.

I close with the words that have been on the front page of my website through all of its many incarnations, the one belief that for me has remained a constant: “You’re already a natural … hooping is the fun and sensual dance you were born to do.” So, what are your adjectives?

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Lara Eastburn Lara Eastburn has been dancing in meadows and singing with the moon while spinning in circles for eons at Superhooper.org. Beyond commenting here, you can also discuss this and other topics related to the Hooposophy for living in Hooping.org’s Hooposophy Group and Gorum. Lara is also the planting and gardening force behind discovering our hooping community roots: The Hooping Family Tree Project.

40 thoughts on “What Kind of Hooper Do You Want To Be?

  1. I picked up a hoop about 3 weeks ago and can’t put it down. It’s an amazing new feeling and I love exploring the new methods out there..and you’re right, it can be overwhelming. Thank yo so much for this article.. I will try to stay in the moment and find my inner hooper!

  2. I love your articles Lara! Thanks so much for this. It is so true… sometimes with all the videos I watch and input from the sites I get all wrapped up in what I want to be instead of focusing on who I am… and my own uniqueness and potential. My three words? Strong, connected, and FREE.

  3. Thanks Lara! It is kind of intimidating as new hooper, now that i have gotten to the point I can start moving around and dancing I’m starting to find my way! Here is my three words: sexy, strong, beautiful. I’m teetering on that border of being obese and overweight now, hooping is helping me feel more sexy after feeling lik epoo for so long lol!

  4. Fantastic article! I may have to ask this of my students tomorrow…I have been exploring this idea too and this sounds like a great tool to figure out your inner hooper.
    I feel i get close to it. Every time my body opens up new ways to move and express it gets really exciting! i think exploratory, graceful and energetic would be mine…but I’ll ponder this some more first before I commit 😉

  5. Love your posts, as always :). As a newbie hooper ( 1 year) I agree that it can be overwhelming. When I started it was hard to envision that there could be anything new to create as there is already so much!! Yet people keep breaking out any prior mold. I must say it saddens me to see people have a great grove as a newbie, then go to a workshop and see they all are trying to look more the same. It is great to look to others to learn foundations and tricks, but critical to keep your own style. Just weave those others into your current brilliant tapestry that is uniquely you. My greatest joy is seeing everyone move in their own way. Now, lemme see……my three “magic adjectives” for how I envision feeling in my hoop….maybe whimsical, yielding, and connected. I think I will try these out while hooping and see if they “feel” right. Thanks!

  6. The most frustrating aspect of my hoop-practice is that I suspect I’ll never be the kind of hooper I want to be, as I simply started this hobby too late in my life.

    And before anyone protests that I have think more positively: I certainly have enough ability to be a damn good hooper; however, the odds that a 40-year old with zero acrobatic training can ever be half as good as, say, Nick Guzzardo – is slim at best.

    – pvh

  7. loved this- I could relate to more than just hooping with this, like every time I check out something new (the internet is overwhelming with “information”). But if i had to pick adjectives right this second- I’d say the one word the hoop makes me feel the most…happy.

  8. Hey Lara. I love reading your articles. Your writing style is excellent, your topic picks are on-point and your perspective is powerful, feminine & funny. Thanks for the work you’re doing here. And thanks for the continuing inspiration! 🙂

    As a fairly new hooper, I’ve found that using musical cues from the masterful hoopers I see online, but not watching the videos more than once is a nice balance of seeing what’s out there and feeling what’s inside me too. Will work on that vision, and my words. Yay!

  9. @ Paul V: I totally feel you man. I’m 42 now and started with all this madness at 35. I feel like we’re in a similar position to early breakdancers who were all popping and locking and doing the robot when suddenly the young ‘uns started getting on the floor and spinning around on their heads. I’ve ruled out acrobatics from what I do: it’s just not a physical possibility. But we can still innovate. There’s more to what we do than flips. You know that though. Don’t let it get you down! Age is just a number!!

  10. I’m with Paul and Khan on this…but I’m hoping that us older folks will be an inspiration to the “young ‘uns” on here in a different way. When they are our age, I hope they’ll all have the courage and the curiosity to take on new and exciting challenges–things they never could have envisioned themselves participating in before– regardless of society’s perception or the numbers on their driver’s license! As I’m starting to discover, being fearless at any age is soooooo worth it!

  11. Love this article. I always know for my sensual movement. That’s is just part of my personality. So I’m always incoporating and assentuating alot of curvy moves ushing my hip, thighs and butt…lol. I’m learning about body dynamics ane how to correlate your different body parts for better coordination. When you learn those principle it makes it easier to variant your moves. I’m insprired by bellydancing, african dancing anything they swings your hips. That’s why I’m facsinated by the mini’s now because it allow the freedom to move my body without constriction.

  12. @laraeastburn This resonates well with me since I’m less than a month into hooping. My biggest obstacle is my space…I need more of it to explore what I will evolve into! 🙂 Supposed to be an early Spring ’round my parts, so I’m looking for the first patch of ice-free earth I can find.

    @sweetback I saw the awesome vid you posted to the Curvy thread. I can tell that you practice what you preach! I’ve been loving watching folks using the minis too. It fascinates me, but I need to handle one thing at a time. You look like you’ve been hooping for a while, so I say GO FOR IT!

  13. I may not be an “older hooper” but at 25, I sure feel old compared to the people starting out at 16. I have a tendancy to think “Man, if I knew how to do this THEN, I would be great by now” I also don’t have gymnastic history, but I have a lot of dance history. I’m actively working on rekindling dance training, as well as improving my flexibility and agility. My adjectives would be: free, funky, and elegant lol I’m a Pisces hehe

  14. Great article! sometimes i get lost with all the fabulousness that abounds these days in the hooping world. Thinking about adjectives to describe what i want my hoop dance to be is a fantastic idea! love it, creating my vision (or since i’m scattered perhaps visions…).

    Paul V. I encourage you to let go of what you think you can and can not do at your age. Yea, I’m older too and though I’d be stoked to be doing spinning back flips, but I can’t quite see that happening (at least not without re-breaking my nose and falling on my skull). But there is NO reason that you can’t be as good as someone like Nick with your own ‘flavor’. I can think of several ‘older’ hoopers that rule the school, names not necessary. 🙂

  15. About to years ago at Grassroots festival of music and dance in Siler City, NC I saw Hoopdrum and a plethora of other hoopers of all ages and skill levels. It completely blew my mind and though I kept up with the hooping world and was dead set on getting /making my own, it wasn;t until 6 months or so ago that I actually sat down and made a few and started a personal revolution in my back yard! I rarely have space to do it and i’m not one for hooping in the snow so I dont get the practice I really want. I don’t really know anyone in my area who hoops and the hoop and yoga classes I have been dying to take for years are not in my budget. As a baby in the hoop world with no one but net tutorials to guide me, it has certainly been an overwhelming experience for better and for..well frustrated! I am so happy I found this site, I come here everyday for a little support and encouragement and it never fails to make my day 😀 Love the article, it really hits home.

  16. LOVE the article! I can definitely relate. Saving my adjectives for the last day of the 30/30 hoop challenge 🙂 LOVE your description of Brecken’s hooping! I have never been able to find the words to properly describe Brecken’s hooping. You found them for me… “sublimely sick, freak-nasty, jaw-dropping groove”. Thanks!

  17. Love This. As someone who has felt pulled in a lot of different directions creatively over my lifetime, I can attest that finding your “voice” is the most important part of any creative journey. I really like the exercise of adjectives – I only have one so far, though I’ve been mulling it over all day during my ten-minute hooping breaks.

    I would only add to Laura’s astute insights that , while I think the way hooping has taken off in the last decade CAN be a hindrance to finding your own style, sometimes it’s the “trying on” of other peoples’ styles that helps you find your own. I spent years writing poetry that emulated styles I liked, and singing other peoples’ music before I realized one day, out of the blue, I HAD a style. And I think that part of finding it was trying out other writers or singers rhythmic devices, especially ones that I didn’t like very much at first, that finally helped me expand into something of my own.

  18. This concept is something I think of a lot. The overwhelming amount of footage of brilliant hoopers is enough to scare delicate newbies off. But still they come. So I assume that just because we had to search quite hard to find inspiration when we started, they are still searching hard to sift the things that inspire them from the material that doesn’t. And like we didn’t give up because we couldn’t find things, they don’t give up because they find too much.

    Love your writing Lara. Love the hoop and what it has done for me. Absolutely resonate with Paul V and Khan (one of my very first hoop crushes with his delicate, precise and ubber flow hoop moves). If only I had started younger, when I was still flexible and daring. But I didn’t so I just shut my eyes to the evidence of age and keep going.

    There is no dance, athletics or gymnastics in my history. The hoop opened up a new world. I don’t have 3 words to describe what I want to feel in the hoop. But I do have 2. Safe and Happy. That will do for me.

  19. six months since my stroke, what i long to feel in the hoop is the happiness, comfort & motivation i felt in the days before the stroke occurred. i miss that happy place. thanks for this post, i haven’t had many opportunities to talk about my feelings concerning what happened to me.

  20. Wow, this is great! Just two days ago I was getting stuck working on a trick and I just kept thinking how effortless all the people in the youtube videos made it look. And then I read this and it made me feel so much better. ^.^

    Thank you.

  21. @Paul -V- , @Khan, @all the rest of us who started hooping at ANY age – I’ve probably got most of you beat age-wise, having picked up a hoop for -as far as I remember- the first time in my life at the age of 67! No, I’ll never be a “great” hooper – but it’s lovely finding out what I can do. Sometimes I even find I can do things I was SURE I couldn’t! – across-the-back rolls, fire hooping…. Now I’m working for smoother. More control, knowing that will give me more freedom in my movements. I still have to worry too much about where the hoop will end up and whether I can catch it, or whether it will fly away from me. I’m not good at picking those three adjectives, but off the top of my head I’d try – oh – smooth, sure, versatile… and – FUN!

  22. And – @funky_hoopster – I wish you all sorts of opportunities to talk about what’s been happening with you – can you just “love” your hoop? Let it tell you what you can do, instead of demanding that it do something in particular?

  23. Lovely article, I wanted to give it some thought so I found my three words tonight during the last day of the 30/30 challenge when I just went for it and lost myself in the hoop and the music, so here’s me: Passionate, Expressive, Blissful.

  24. Magical. Uplifting. Fulfilled. These are the three words that best describe how I want to feel and what I begin to feel in the hoop when I really let go and do whatever comes naturally. When I watch hoopers who are in real flow the seamless transitions and fluid movement look like magic. I like the idea of focusing on the feelings rather than the moves.

  25. Thank you so much. This article has recharged my hoop confidence batteries. My adjectives are; gentle, captivating and relaxed. I just started my hoop journey in October so watching videos is discouraging but I feel something so artistic as hoop dance will forever involve from one generation to another. Brecken, yes, THE Brecken is my new hoop instructor/mentor so I’m sure my style will somewhat mimic her unique style. But I just need to find my own hoop flow. Just dance and let the hoop follow!!

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