[Hooping.org's Editor Philo Hagen puts it in reverse.]
by Philo Hagen
Over the years as I’ve watched the hooping movement rise from the music festivals and underground dance community events and spin it’s way into a more mainstream world, I’ve always been aware of the fact that there was an “us” and a “them”. For those who started hooping more recently the thought may not have even occurred to you. What am I talking about? The answer can be found in our very use of the word “hooping” in and of itself. A decade ago we created our own language and dropped the hula to instantaneously let people know this was something different. This wasn’t your Grandma’s hula hoop. The hoops of today were customized, adult-sized and so ready to roll that anyone, anywhere, could spin one up. And we discovered, quite by accident, that hooping was actually great exercise too. When the news about that started getting out more people joined us inside the circle in pursuit of fun and fitness.
In the last few years, however, the differentiating line began to blur. Old school circus hula hoopers like Mat Plendl, Miss Saturn and Marawa The Amazing became our friends. With the rising popularity of hooping too, new school circus performers caught the bug and even started putting their acrobatic spin on it. Poi spinners and other object manipulators, originally reluctant to hoop, discovered they liked it too and began shrinking our hoops into smaller, light-weight circles for weaving and what not, making it easier on their hands. Then someone decided hanging upside down from an aerial hoop was hooping too and soon the Cyr Wheel and mini-hoops came rolling our way. They’re both hoop shaped so they count too, right? And as things expanded further and further the luminaries from the fringes cheered it on saying, “We need to keep pushing it forward!” And today I whole heartedly disagree. While Hooping.org has followed the hoops for years, in whatever direction they were traveling, the time has come to say enough and roll it on back. Here’s why.
1) One Size Does Not Fit All: Back in the early days of hooping we were very clear in telling people that toy store hoops were for kids, not adults. The community was collectively in support of a quest for every hooper everywhere to find the hoop that was right for them. Recently, and with increasing frequency, I’ve had conversations, mostly with women, who’ve purchased hoops online, from a variety of places, places I would’ve assumed would know better, who were told things like, “I guarantee this 34 inch hoop will be perfect for you”. The hooper was never asked about their body type. They were never asked their height or weight. They weren’t asked anything really and none of them were able to hoop with the hoops they purchased – and these are just the stories from those who’ve bothered to contact us afterwards for advice. How many countless others out there have simply thrown in the towel believing hooping really isn’t for them, that their negative “I can’t” self talk was right all along?
2) Negativity Is So Negative: In the early years our community was as inclusive as it was loving, probably because a) we were mostly hippies and ravers who were really all about the love anyway, and b) those who joined in the fun were happy, silly, playful people who were attracted to the fun we were having. There was a lot of mutual support and encouragement everywhere. So when hoopers leave comments on a video like, “She just did the same thing over and over again. I’d like the last 4 minutes of my life back!” – it’s clear times have changed. When popular hoopers post videos on Facebook making fun of others and people chime in tearing someone apart my skin crawls. If this is what we get with the continuing expansion of hooping, it’s no wonder some are getting turned off. In fact a dear hooping friend I love left the hoop world recently. Why? In their words, “What I used to love about it has changed. The hoop community, I feel, is going in a different direction. What was once pretty and sexy and fun has become mechanical and somewhat harsh. I loved, I mean loved to hoop, but all the other stuff has me getting too down on myself as a result.” Most of us, to varying degrees, have our own internal critic to contend with, a voice that can be more than enough of a challenge without any additional junior high school nonsense.
3) It’s Hard To See From The Inside: I love Revolva. She’s in all honesty and sincerity one of the most underrated hula hoopers out there, probably because she’s often silly and having fun while showcasing her incredible skills. While I admire her personal interest in always challenging herself in new directions, mine remains right smack in the center of the circle. I love hooping. Hoop dance spun it’s way into my life and it isn’t going anywhere. That’s why I have to disagree with something she said recently. At the end of The Revolvies, her personal hoop awards, in predicting an Acro Hoop Explosion (which involves doing yoga poses while being balanced by a partner and hooping) she said, “’I just dance with [a hoop] is so 2004″ while doing a cartwheel in your 40′s is so 2012. Excuse me? I know she was just being clever, but no one in my independent casual random survey of hoopers in their 40′s has expressed any interest in learning cartwheels. A few did, however, utilize the opportunity in my info exchange to ask for hoop dance advice. It reminds me that the problem with being inside the hooping community is that it’s very hard to really see it for what it is. What may seem very 2004 to someone who was hooping back then is still very 2012 to the one who hasn’t seen it before – which is still most people everywhere. Case in point: which video this weekend by a non-celebrity raked up a startling 12,000 views in a mere 24 hours? If this isn’t indicative that it’s time to roll the hoop back, I don’t know what is (furry footies optional).
4) Conformity is Boring: Every snowflake is individually designed to be unique. The same goes for people right down to our fingerprints. At Hoopcamp last year I taught a class called “Deconstructing Your Hoop Experience” where many expressed that they’d gotten caught up in trying to emulate and be someone other than themselves. They were so inspired by their instructor or a well-known hooper that they were trying to BE them, rather than taking what they could learn back into an even greater vision of themselves. The result of following too closely is almost always a loss of authenticity – the single most important ingredient our community cherishes. Think of the hoopers who have dazzled our world the most and they are all so uniquely themselves. If we’re all following along in a quest to move like so-and-so, or hoop in a hoop so small we’ve lost the freedom to dance and move, sacrificing the additional space we originally loved in a down-sizing quest to appease who the hell knows, then we’re losing the opportunity to be the bright, shiny hoop stars of our own creation, the one the Universe wants us to be.
Hoop dance rules uniquely. The night I discovered hooping I knew that I had found something incredible. Five minutes into it when all the chatter in my head began to silence and I found myself centered within my body, I came home. I exhaled. As a result I’ve rediscovered flow and joy and movement in my life. In every interview I’ve done with hoop dancers over the years, whenever I’ve asked the question, “How has hooping changed your life” the answers have been endless. There’s something incredibly powerful about a hoop spinning around the very core of our being. This very spin has the power to heal and transform lives as we have heard testament to time and time again. There’s always more for us to learn from the hoop itself. While I’m glad that the “us” and “them” lines were erased to allow our community to be even more inclusive of hoopers of all persuasions everywhere, at the fundamental core it’s very important for Hooping.org’s message to remain as simple and clear as it was when this site began, so that the marvel that is hooping can be enjoyed by all who hear the call.
Philo Hagen is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He’s been spinning things up online and off since April 2003.