Back in 2007, two poi spinners made a New Year’s Eve resolution to exercise more, not knowing where it would end up leading them. “My friend Jennifer was surfing around the web one day and read that hooping could be really good exercise, so we ordered a couple of hoops and started wobbling around in that funky way you do when you start as an adult.” Despite Colleen and Jennifer’s backgrounds in poi and object manipulation, hooping still took some getting used to. “I had a slow summer for my freelance work that year, so I did a lot of hooping in my backyard – just the basics: walking, turning and trying to dance.” Unlike today, there were very few hoop teachers or classes back in 2007, so they turned to the internet for help. “Once we found other hoopers on YouTube, that opened up an entire world for us! We tried to figure out how to do the tricks from different videos, and I actually broke a pair of glasses learning the duckout!” Five years later, Colleen is the co-owner of Hyperbola Hoops and our Hooper of the Week – join us as we go inside the circle with her!
So what does your Hooping Life look like now?
Colleen: Hooping has basically taken over my life, my home, my car. My husband is super-supportive, but I think
he looks around the house sometimes and wonders what on earth I’ve gotten us into.
Hooping.org: I think a lot of us can relate to that! What really has you excited?
Colleen: My biggest passion is making LED hoops, and I’m starting to get enough out there into the world that I am getting feedback on what people like and dislike about them, and that is really the thing that keeps me going – constant improvement. I have spent the last two summers traveling to music festivals on the East Coast, selling LED and taped hoops.
Hooping.org: Are you a hoop performer?
Colleen: I do perform, though I haven’t made that a large part of my hooping life – I love making costumes, though, so performing at the occasional themed festival or party is fun for me.
Hooping.org: So you’re teaching now too?
Colleen: Yes, I got experience by teaching free workshops to festival-goers. This summer I got certified by Hoopnotica, and am also in the process of being certified by Hoop Revolution. I am starting a beginner-level hoop class at a local gym, and organizing a free HoopJam on Sundays.
Hooping.org: What is your personal hoop time like?
Colleen: My personal hooping this year has been interesting. I hoop about eight hours a day at the festivals, but when I’m home, I really have to remind myself to stop making hoops and actually hoop!
Hooping.org: How has hooping changed your life?
Colleen: I’ve been a creative type all my life: I’ve written (possibly terrible) poetry since I was 6, I love photography, went to school for music, majored in jazz singing, and I do live sound for my “day job.” So the framework was there already, but hooping has just whisked me into a completely different world! I have never been able to concentrate on any one thing for very long and I am now able to structure my days at home to get hoops built without getting overwhelmed. I exercise regularly because it’s fun! I am happier because I exercise. I am more confident because I am proud of building a business from the ground up, and because I feel comfortable with my body (and the hoop bruises). I am learning how to choreograph, which is a whole different way to express ideas and feelings – the body can be so expressive! The improvisatory aspect of hooping is very akin to jazz, poetry, cooking, whatever. I love the feeling of taking a vocabulary (whether it’s notes, movements or electronic knowledge), and making something new. And that makes me more able to deal with random life challenges or problems at work, or whatever. So I think I would say that the potential for positive change has been there all my life, but for whatever reason, it was hooping that focused that into action.
Hooping.org: Share a favorite hooping memory with us.
Colleen: My favorite hooping memory is the first time I made a custom hoop for a little girl. I was at a festival, and I had taken way more custom orders than I could possibly handle. So this little girl kept coming back to see if her hoop was ready and each time I had to tell her it wasn’t. I finally got to her order late in the evening, and when she came to pick it up, I was tired, dirty, starving, and more than a little irritable. But the look on her face when she saw how the colors had turned out was so utterly joyous I couldn’t help but smile. And stuff like that happens all the time. I’ve been in live production for a long time and I call it the “worth it” moment. You work like a dog toward something and by the end you’re completely worn out and spent, but the payoff is so much better than you could have ever imagined that it feels like waking up after a long, peaceful sleep!
Hooping.org: What are you currently working on inside your hoop?
Colleen: In my practice, I have a couple of goals: I am continually working on making my dancing during on-body hooping smoother and smoother. I go back to waist, hip and chest hooping a lot, just trying to feel how every point of my body makes contact with the hoop as I move around. As for tricks, I’m smoothing out all the variations of angles, duckouts and isolations. I’m just getting into different kinds of tosses – of course I love the pizza toss and the over and around the back tosses are a lot of fun too. Personally, I am just working on letting go – I am totally type A, and being inside the hoop forces me to respond to something outside me instead of trying to control it completely. Normally, when I do something new, I like to do it perfectly the first time, every time. Obviously this is impossible, and I think the hoop being a toy reminds me not to take it too seriously. After all, it feels a little silly to get mad at my hoop!
Hooping.org: What music do you love to hoop to the most?
Colleen: For me, my hooping and my music change with my mood – and by that I mean about 300 times per day! I listen to everything (no, really, everything), so some days I’ll find myself rocking out to James Brown and then maybe the Brahms Requiem will shuffle into the mix and I completely switch the style up. I’ve been hooping to a lot of really sad, slow stuff this summer, but I’m finally feeling like there’s a change coming. So maybe I’ll go supa-funk for the fall, or figure out how to rage-hoop to some Slayer or something.
Hooping.org: We’d love to see that! So many hoopers concentrate on flow and being pretty, so maybe we need to get in touch with our inner hoop rage! When you see other hoopers, what quality do you most admire?
Colleen: When I fall in love with a hooper, it is usually because of their grace or because of their inner peace. I don’t necessarily mean grace as in ballet-style, but in the sense of that grace that comes with knowing where every part of your body is in relation to your hoop, simply because you’ve practiced that step over and over again. I think the inner peace thing is also related to the physical grace, because I feel like both only come with being comfortable in your skin.
Hooping.org: Any advice for our hoopers that are just starting out?
Colleen: Support the community! Share yourself! If you have an extra hoop, lend it to some curious-looking stranger. Walk up to that hooper in the park that intimidates you because they are *SO GOOD* and introduce yourself! Chances are, they’re pretty nice, AND they probably have a hooper that intimidates them too! Start a meetup, or just carry your hoop around with you and smile when people ask you about it! If you have a little money, another way is to buy stuff from other hoopers, or donate to their projects. I travel a lot for work and when I forget to bring my hoop on a long trip, I’ll find someone in that city that makes them and buy one. I also try to order my hoop-making supplies from companies that are either run by hoopers or support hoopers – sometimes it’s not always financially feasible, but if it’s a few cents or a dollar’s difference, I’ll always go with HoopSupplies or Identi-tape or whatever. But even if it’s not hoop-related, put it out there that you want other hoopers to follow ALL of their passions! I know hoopers that make clothes, jewelry, organic foodstuffs, whatever. If you can afford it, spread it around! It always comes back.
Hooping.org: Anything else you’d like to share?
Colleen: Like I said earlier, my passion is making LED hoops. I don’t have a whole lot of interest in programming, but I love designing the lights and finding new, unexpected color combinations, and my design is durable enough now to withstand quite a bit of abuse. That’s why I sell them at festivals. I have a ton of respect and admiration for the LED designers that are pushing the envelope with their technology (and I’ll admit it: I am saving up for one of the fancy ones!), but I like to think I’m making LED hoops for people who want a beautiful, basic LED hoop that they don’t have to baby.