[Hooping.org columnist Abby Schwartz just wants to hoop.]
As I celebrate my two-year hoopiversary this month, it dawns on me that in just a short time span, the world of hooping as I know it has evolved into something way beyond spinning with (and in) a plastic hoop. Within our community of hooping enthusiasts there is a great deal of diversity. Women and men of all ages, from countries all over the world, have found connection through a shared love of hooping. From that common starting point, this thing we call “hooping” can begin to splinter off into different meanings for different people. There are casual at-home hoopers like me, as well as professional circus-style performers. There are hoop dancing body rockers, off-body spinners, those hooping for fitness and those who hoop for art. And while hooping can apparently be just the beginning for some, a gateway drug perhaps to other types of things referred to as “flow arts”, my interest remains fundamentally simple. I just want to hoop.
Let’s talk about flow arts for a minute. In recent years, I have seen a trend. What were once primarily hoop gatherings have increasingly become touted as flow arts festivals; gatherings where hooping is just one of several performance arts that include poi, staff, juggling, aerial silks and more. Their proponents claim that learning another of these flow arts can, in fact, be beneficial to your hooping and from what little I’ve seen I’m inclined to believe them. And yet, each flow art requires a mix of patience, practice, and dexterity. Each requires time to be devoted to learning a new skill set and with two years of hooping under my belt I can honestly say the hoop is still more than enough of a skill set challenge for me in and of itself. I just want to hoop.
My relationship with hooping started when I was a kid. I used to hoop with my little sister all the time. We had those cheap, lightweight Wham-O hula hoops like everyone else, the ones with the little bead inside that would whir around with every rotation. Fast forward several decades to when my daughter was a little girl and I picked up a pair of hula hoops at a toy store so she and I could hoop together. A big green hoop for me, and a little pink hoop for her. After a few years they gathered dust in my basement. Then I picked up a copy of Shape magazine and read about actress Marisa Tomei’s favorite workout. Yep. Hooping. What intrigued me (and still does) was the idea that something so playful and fun could be considered a legitimate, body-toning, calorie-burning workout.
When I looked up hooping online I learned that there was a whole subculture out there I was completely unaware of, complete with adult-size, heavier hoops, hoop tape, hoop clothing, performance videos, tutorials, and an awesome web site called Hooping.org. I ordered my first adult hoop online, and when it arrived in the mail I was ecstatic. This was a whole new level of hooping from what I grew up with. My new, larger hoop felt amazing on my body and was blessedly free of that noisy little bead. Two years later, I still love the feel of the hoop and enjoy hooping simply for its own sake. While my obsession with hooping has calmed down from a rapid boil to a slow, steady simmer, it remains one of my top go-to activities; something I can pick up at any time for exercise, meditation, energy or relaxation. My hooping aspirations, while once high (I am going to master every hoop trick on the Internet!) have also lessened into something more realistic for my life at this moment. Between work and my family I am thrilled if I can hoop for 30 minutes in front of the TV most days of the week. Part of that thrill is an emotional attachment to the simple act of hooping. In those moments, I’m not interested in anything else.
I know there are others out there who feel the same way. Maybe some of it has to do with lifestyle. I’m in my mid-forties, married with a teenage daughter and a full-time business that I run. I don’t go to music festivals or raves. I don’t have any circus aspirations, and I have no desire to set my hoop aflame. I’m really not much of one for big public gatherings, though I do love a good Phillies game from time to time. Last year I ventured out to HoopCamp, traveling across the country to California to immerse myself in hooping. Attending the event was definitely outside my comfort zone, yet it turned out to be tons of fun. While there were a variety of workshops available, including some of the aforementioned flow arts, the classes I chose to take were all about hooping. I still feel like I have so much to learn.
Two years of hooping later, I still just want to hoop. While being something we can share as a community, hooping can also be highly personal. If you want to learn another flow art by all means, go for it. If something else out there really speaks to you and your progress and flow by all means, be my guest. There is no wrong way to do it, and there is no expected path of advancement. But to those of you who, like me, enjoy hooping for it’s own sake and don’t want to put down your hoop in favor of, well, anything else really, I say good for you. Stand up and rejoice in your love of hooping and repeat after me: I just want to hoop.