I have been fascinated by the idea of a family tree for hoopers since Hooping.org columnist Lara Eastburn (pictured) first posted her request for information on one’s ‘hoop parents’ on Superhooper.org last summer. Though I’ve never been interested in my ancestral genealogy, I was intrigued by the idea of someone gathering and mapping information about where, how and from whom one’s hoop life was sparked into being. Since then my curiosity about who would initiate this potentially massive project prompted me to become online friends with her. One day I signed in to Facebook and saw her status that said simply, “I wish someone would interview me about The Hooping Family Tree Project” and I sent her an email saying that I’d love to do just that.
Lara has spent countless hours organizing the information she has received from hoopers around the world and putting it into a colorful, searchable online map. The Hooping Family Tree Project is rapidly growing and making it possible to track the history of hooping from it’s humble beginnings to the centerpiece around which an international community of hoopers has developed and continues to flourish. It has been my pleasure to get to know Lara through our conversations and glean just a little of what she has learned since she started the project.
Jodi: What inspired you to start The Hooping Family Tree?
Lara: For some time, I had become acutely aware of how incredibly large the hooping community was becoming. As I watched the hooping world grow across oceans and fill up the lives of cities large and small, I began to wonder about the form our sense of history and legacy would take. And I began to think about how the exponentially increasing number of “new” hoopers might come to find a sense of belonging in such a large landscape. On a more immediate level, I was traveling the country with my family last year teaching free hoop classes. Everywhere we went, we encountered vibrant and active communities in the most unexpected places. One of these was in Pennsylvania, where we found ourselves teaching a fire hooping workshop in the backyard of Lindsey Rodrian. As we were all introducing ourselves, a couple of the participants jokingly referred to our host as their “hoop mamma.” It immediately struck me that this charming idea could lend itself quite well to feeling a sense of belonging within the larger hoop world.
Jodi: How many hoopers are currently listed on the tree?
Lara: Since August of 2010, when I first wrote about The Hooping Family Tree Project in a Hooposophy article, responses have been streaming in. Just SIX MONTHS later, there are over 600 hoopers on the Tree. I’ve received information from hundreds more that are awaiting the participation of their hooping “parents.”
Jodi: How has working on The Hooping Family Tree enlightened you about the hoop community through time?
Lara: There is no denying the personal, “real-life,” grassroots dimension of hooping’s steady expansion. What moves new hoopers to begin their own journey seems to be a two-fold experience. The first time they see it, they are deeply moved AND it occurs to them that they could do it, too. I think that has a lot to do with seeing “real” people hoop — an anonymous festival hooper, someone on the college campus, a coworker on break. Our hoop-stars are grand inspirations to so many, but so far the Tree suggests that hooping largely owes its growth from the passing of a hoop from one hand to another through a direct encounter, coupled with an explicit or implied ‘You can do this’. I believe the tree tells a moving, dynamic story. It honors and recognizes the concerted and far-reaching contributions of our “founding” hoopers too. It offers a sense of inheritance and belonging to our newbies. And it demonstrates the immense importance of each individual hooper as someone who truly gifted another with an incredible dimension in their lives. That’s huge tear-inducing stuff.
Jodi: What has surprised you about The Hooping Family Tree?
Lara: The number of hoopers that began hooping in 2011! Right now, most of the tree is 4 generations deep. But at this rate, we’ll be 6 generations deep in just over a year. Can you imagine what it will look like just a short five years from now? It seems so important to me to begin recording the human element of the spread of hooping right now, before the moment when the idea of beginning such a fast-moving project would be unfathomable.
Jodi: What have you learned from working on this project beyond the names and dates that you would like the hoop community to know?
Well, we sure are a good-looking bunch, that’s for sure! Like traditional family trees, the photos truly bring the tree to life. But more importantly, there is a phenomenal story behind every name, date, and photo on the tree. Few participants satisfy themselves with filling in the nuts-and-bolts submission form on the HFT site. The day that the hoop came into their lives is on the level of personal magic. They remember the exact day, what the weather was like, what they were feeling, what happened inside them when they first put a hoop around their waist. It was clear early on that the Hooping Family Tree Project would need a sister project – Hoopstories.org is just getting started (Please send in your submissions, folks), but eventually I hope to link family tree entries to their stories on hoopstories.org for a bigger, fuller picture of our family’s collective geneaology.
Jodi: What is your own Hoop Heritage?
Lara: I may never know who made the hoop that made me a hooper! I found that big, black circle just laying lonely on the ground at a small outdoor festival in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on August 19, 2002. I hooped for twelve hours that afternoon all by myself and didn’t see another hooper for another two years. On the tree, I put myself under Jason Strauss, because it was his hoop-making instructions that allowed me to create my own hoop and recreate that first afternoon of magic at home. But I’ll always be indebted to whoever it was that left an untaped hoop on the ground on Ivanhoe Street nine years ago. And like so many others, that first day is linked to a personal watershed of importance. I met my husband that day. I got off my ass that day. Within months, I would be dancing with light and fire and, through that, meeting the people that would become “my” people, my forever-friends. I would start a business within a year. And I had no idea that the choice to bend over and pick up that ugly black piece of plastic would, in retrospect, mark the beginning of what my life would become.
Jodi: What about the ‘hoop orphans’ who don’t know their hoop parents? Is there any way for them to ‘find their place’?
Lara: I love that there is a branch on the tree for those whose hoop “parents” anonymously inspired them. Initially, I didn’t plan for this part of the tree. But the “anonymous parent” submissions were so numerous, it clearly emerged as an important part of our family tree and its story. It serves as a wonderful and inspiring reminder that each of us touches someone every time we pick up a hoop in public. And we may never even know it. Collectively, anonymous hoopers at festivals, in parks, at gatherings and drum circles have produced more hoop “children” than perhaps any single hooper.
Jodi: How can the hooping community support you in this important work?
Lara: I’ve always known that The Hooping Family Tree is a long-term project. We’ve got a lot of blanks to fill in … and they’re important, early ones. The more the word gets out, the more likely we are to find the many hooping “parents” who are waiting to be claimed by their progeny. A full, and constantly updated list of “lost parents” can be found here. We could be looking for you or someone you know. Meanwhile, the tree keeps growing! And it’s serious, labor-intensive work. Find out how you can support us (and how the tree can, in turn, support you!) in ways large and small at http://hoopingfamilytree.org.