Picture perfect weather and a beach full of confident women hoopers of all ages and sizes. Learning burlesque, making their own clothes, and, of course, hooping. Imagine cozy beds and organic menus served up from a towering beach house. Morning yoga, after-sunset LED hoop jams and nighttime bonfires with fire hooping and s’mores. This is Hottie Hoop Camp – the beachfront and body-friendly hoop gathering hosted by Texan sisters Rowan and Blythe TwoSisters of Punk Rock Hoops. Two weeks ago, I headed south to their third annual gathering to learn more about what I’d heard was truly a different kind of hoop retreat – a safe-haven for the plus-size hooper, the uncomfortable beginner, and those less inclined to dive head-first into a hundred-person hooping event full of “master’s” classes, techniques, and drills.
After listening to organizer Rowan’s rockin’ awesome radio interview last month, I had high expectations. Here’s a woman who lovingly refers to herself as a “fat hula hooper … with no natural ability” and effortlessly weaves humor, acceptance, and riotous encouragement into her teaching. She said, “Look what I can do with my biscuits!” – referring to her curvy arms. How could this gathering not be a breath of fresh air? Also a healer and a doula, Rowan graciously allowed me to bring along my still-breastfeeding infant, Lafayette, to this women’s-only weekend. So along with the requisite hoops, the car was filled to the brim with baby things and a long list of extras I’d been instructed to pack for the beach and for the classes with unusual, but enticing titles. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
After the seven-hour road trip south to Surfside Beach, Texas, we arrived at the pristine water’s edge just in time for a spectacular sunset and introductions.The mood at the beach house was calm and intimate. The ladies who’d already arrived were busy making hoops for the weekend. A few seemed shy, others focused, and some quietly friendly. I admit that for an extroverted loudmouth like myself, it threw me for a loop at first. Where were the squealing, jumping up-and-down “I’m SO glad to meet yous!”? Where was the party? But a couple hours later, when I’d had the time to settle myself and the baby and begin getting to know everyone, I found myself grateful for the low-key and gentle introduction to the upcoming weekend. I was going to need it!
Friday morning brought the second of several insanely delicious meals we were served over the weekend. Seriously, I did not know oatmeal could be as enjoyable as bread pudding. An endless supply of fresh greens and to-die-for homemade salad dressings. And oh, what they could with an egg (Let’s just say it involved herbs and havarti)! Locally-made kombucha, pastries and lemon curd. There was more than idle talk about a Hottie Hoop Camp recipe book happening, and for good reason.
It was all just a part of the sisters’ plan to provide what I can only call a Whole-Body Hooping Experience. For starters, calling HHC plus-size friendly doesn’t quite capture the miracle atmosphere this event created for each of its participants – one of acceptance and exuberance about every female form. Certainly my rounder body was, as advertised, in good company. As much as I’d believed at past gatherings that that didn’t matter, it was intensely reassuring to be with hoopers of varied silhouettes. We weren’t all full-bodied by any means, but darn it each and every one of us was made to feel drop-dead gorgeous. Every class focused on the beauty of our bodies in-movement and the beauty of a body inside a hoop – and out. Ready for some examples?
One class that blew me away was “Altered Couture,” taught by fabric and styling phenom Lisa Sacaris, and based on the book 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt. Lisa introduced her workshop by shattering any belief we’d had about “hooper wear” by dismissing the idea that a garment ever had to be accepted as-is. In just minutes, before our very eyes, and with only scissors, she turned a run-of-the-mill, extra-small salmon-colored t-shirt into an original, curve-hugging, and stand-out top that could fit anyone in the room. Her irreverence for the unflattering straight lines of off-the-rack clothing was refreshing and downright hilarious. Pointing to a square sleeve, she declared it “obscene” and just a snip later, we were all re-creating our too-tight or ill-fitting clothes into cuts that we’d made to fit our every curve.
We’d started off the weekend with Aimee’s beginner’s intensive to set everyone at ease. Yours truly taught a couple classes based on Hooposophy articles “Hooping and Learning Styles” and “What Kind of Hooper Do You Want to Be?” We’d had a yoga class tailored to hooping muscles from bellydancer Ms. Yet, fire instruction from Lorelei, and Rowan had us all cracking up in a “flight” class where we got to hone our proprioception (that is, we got to throw our hoops in the air and do our best to catch them).But then it was time to add some swagger to our new style! Blythe rolled out the feather boas, elbow-length gloves and sultry tunes to lay some Burlesque on us. Anticipation was high amongst the Hotties. They’d clearly been waiting for this and Blythe had gone to Burlesque school for the very purpose of teaching this workshop. With baby Laffy in-tow, I pulled up a seat and made myself the audience. Lucky me! Things started off gently enough – poise, how to hold your head and shoulders, how to walk – but soon got sassy. I’ll leave that part to your imagination, but suffice it to say that we quickly proved that a woman who loves her body is about the most stunning thing there is. I was taken aback by the personalities shining before me. I’m pretty sure I shed a tear or two. And yep, you guessed it, the final task was to take that self-loving sass and put it back in the hoop. Be still my heart.
What happens at Hottie Hoop Camp shouldn’t stay at Hottie Hoop Camp. In fact, I’d like to see more of the whole-body approach in all of our hooping events. Every hoop gathering I’ve ever attended has left me feeling deliriously happy. I leave with mad new skills, a heaping handful of new friends, and a real sense of belonging and community. At the close of Hottie Hoop Camp, I felt renewed. I had some stellar hoop clothes that fit and flattered and the knowledge to make more. I found myself infinitely more accepting of my own body and because of that, more accepting of all women’s bodies. I sensed that I was part of a sisterhood. I had a little extra sass in my step, a little more “oomph” in my hoop, and youbetcha, a feather boa in my diaper bag.
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 Forum. Lara is also the planting and gardening force behind discovering our hooping community roots at The Hooping Family Tree Project.