by Philo Hagen
The hooping community is all about love and inclusion. Whoever you want to be is not only good by us, at some point we’re probably going to insist that you actually get there. We’re all about letting our light shine bright and encouraging others to do the same. Let your freak flag fly in whatever colors you so desire! Add some glitter if you’re so inclined, or be as hoop geek or hooper incognito as you wish. We know you love to hoop just as much as we do and that circular tie binds us all together on this big blue spinning space marble in a way that is truly miraculous. We’ve found ourselves and found each other, becoming friends with others we might not have never even spoken to otherwise. The hoop can truly bring people together who ordinarily would not mix and whatever you want to do or say is pretty much fine, but do be forewarned that just because we might not actually ever say we ain’t liking it, doesn’t mean that we all don’t have a communal raised eyebrow or two every now and then.
In my independent, casual and random surveys over the years it seems that within our beautiful spinning circle of hoop love there are somewhat nebulous and unwritten conduct guidelines of a sort and should you violate one you could suddenly find yourself feeling like you’re on the outside looking in. And if you don’t know them, it might even be a challenge to figure out exactly what you did. So, while hoopers seem to have a greater capacity and a tremendous tendency to simply “live and let live” – when we don’t like something it tends to typically manifest with a shoulder shrug, a smile and a move to another corner of the hoopjam. So if you should ever find yourself feeling a little like you aren’t fitting in and don’t know why, or you haven’t really tried to join the greater circle and want some navigational advice, here are ten unwritten community conduct guidelines I’ve noticed that most of us don’t even really talk about.
1: It’s Not All About You. Hooping is by design very self-oriented. After all, when we step inside the circle we become the center of our own rotation – some of us for the first time in our lives. Learning to hoop requires turning the focus on ourselves and many have shared things about rediscovering themselves inside the hoop for a reason. It’s powerful. It can be transformational, but once you do in fact find yourself, be careful not to take that former self neglect to the other extreme. It’s a fine line between thoughtfully sharing about yourself and all of life’s little nuances online and off, and falling into blatant self absorption. Symptoms include monologue syndrome, easily identified by long running conversations where you’re the only one talking (and when you’re not you’re not really listening, you’re just waiting for your turn). The key ingredients needed to avoid this seem to be a certain level of humility and gratitude.
2: It Is About You A Good Deal of the Time: Self deprecation also isn’t something that rolls over very well with most of us for very long. After all, the centripetal force of hooping itself does wonders for spinning all that negativity out of our space – so don’t go picking it all back up when you’re done! Let it go! If nothing good ever really happens for you and all your hooping videos suck and you’re just never going to be able to hoop good enough for it to even matter, eventually we’re going to get tired of hearing about it. Sorry! There’s an unwritten rule that you need to have a willingness to change, a willingness to grow, or at least a willingness to be willing to change and grow. That’s not to say that some of us may not have legitimate mental health issue obstacles to overcome too. I myself qualify and spent a little holiday in the nut hut many years ago to prove it, so if you’ve got something going on you just can’t seem to shake, consult a mental health professional. Seriously, you’re worth it. The hooping community is all about spinning our lives forward into happier and healthier places, so get on the happier healthier hooper train. Practice hooping in front of a mirror and saying things like, “Look how cute you are in that hoop! I love my body! I am capable of amazing things! I love you so much!” Do it until you start to believe it and stop criticizing yourself in your video postings.
3: Don’t Expect to Be Given Personal Hooping Classes All Day for Free. If you’re new and you show up at the hoop jam and you want to learn some cool stuff, hoopers everywhere are generally more than willing to teach you something we know and are happy to do it. That being said, there’s an unwritten rule regarding the amount of tricks that varies from person to person and group to group that you’re allowed to learn at any given session that isn’t an actual class. So for the sake of keeping it really simple, limit yourself to two on any given day. Demanding more attention from others means you’re not allowing them to hoop and find their own flow, not to mention that you’re minimizing whatever gifts you were just given. Every move has so much in it for you to play with and explore and learn from, so soak up each new move slowly and thoughtfully. Discover the more subtle flavors within it and really see what the new moves hold for you before wanting more.
4: Don’t Perform If You Weren’t Hired or Try To Get Gigs By Charging Less. Hooping is a career for some of us. It’s how we pay our bills. We’ve dedicated years and countless hours and classes and dollars into developing the fine art of hooping to a level where we can get paid to do what we love. That is something to be celebrated and it took time to get there. So if you show up with your hoops at an event or gig where a paid hoop performer typically is and try to hop up on stage and do your thing even if the promoter involved invites you to, you’re not only being disrespectful of the hooper that was hired, you’re being completely disrespectful of all professional hoopers everywhere. And trying to get gigs by telling promoters you’ll do it for less or for free not only cheapens our art, it’s a seriously major hooper party foul. Take time to rise to where the pros are rather than tearing down what took so long to build. Will it take you longer to get where you want to go by going the proper route? Probably, but you’ll still have the respect of your peers and that’s pretty priceless.
5: Don’t Undercut Your Community Just To Make a Few Bucks. Once upon a time when I decided to start my own hoop making business years ago I thought the way to get ahead was to sell my hoops for less. What happened, however, was that I worked my ass off and didn’t make any money while lowering the value on what we actually do. Hoops cost a certain amount for a reason, last for years and have a value far beyond their actual price tag. So resist the urge to start teaching classes or selling hoops in your area for less, especially if the person you’re competing with is the person who taught you how to hoop. That can not only be pretty tacky if you don’t go about it properly, you’re worth more than that too. Target another side of town or age group or community than the one they’re already serving. There’s enough to go around.
6: We Don’t Go Dissing On Our Fellow Hoopers. As mentioned earlier, a community hoop love code of silence seems to exist regarding things that we’re not personally all that crazy about. We may not like something, but we generally keep it to ourselves. Hoops and hoopers come in all different sizes and so do our opinions. One person may never be able to understand the value of minis, while another may see someone else working a personal hoop groove that is so different than their own that they may never understand why anyone would want to. But that age old pearl of wisdom, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” is a value the hooping community seems to hold very dear. And on a related note, racist sexist homophobic ableist views, whether they are yours or are in the soundtrack of your hooping videos, generally don’t fly very well in a community celebrating the diversity and inclusivity of hoopers around the world.
7: Keep The Party Appropriate. It’s no big secret that hoopers like to have a good time, but there are hoopers that seem to like to have an even better time than most. What’s wrong with that? Probably nothing, except when they put their own personal party needs ahead of the welfare of the others in their hooping circle. So if you show up at a public hoopjam or retreat know what the rules are and follow them. Don’t break the law and put your group in jeopardy of not being able to come back there and hoop again. Hoopcamp, for example, is held at a Buddhist retreat center that doesn’t allow fire on the property of any kind. Respect that and walk out to the street or risk finding everybody upset with you. We ain’t saying don’t have a good time, we’re just saying don’t ruin ours in the process.
8: I’m Too Sexy For My Hoop. We all know that hooping is sexy. It’s pretty much a given when you involve the pelvic region that some of us are going to feel a little, well, sexy and sexual too – and since the dawn of the modern hooping era there have been hoop dancers that have enjoyed playing that card. Many of our community trailblazers were known for rather skimpy and provocative outfits. Why? Because it’s much easier to hoop in less clothing! If you don’t believe me, try it. That being said, however, there is an unspoken and unwritten line out there regarding just how far you should go in the sexuality department that varies by region and culture and individual. I wouldn’t really say that there’s a pretty clear community guideline, but it’d behoove me to not mention it. Just know that what might be okay where you live, might not be cool somewhere else.
9: Make The Circle Larger: The second revolution of hooping came in the form of a hoop that was big enough for anyone and customizable to be perfect for bodies of all shapes and sizes. Our community started growing because anybody could learn to hoop and that is a value we still hold in high regard today. So if you’re newer here and you’re making and selling hoops and/or talking to the press and/or organizing hoop jams and/or teaching classes and don’t offer hoops of all sizes or have any larger hoops on hand in classes and at jams, you’re kind of missing the boat. If you’re not asking people what size and height they are and are simply sending one or two sizes of hoops that are supposed to work for everyone, you’re not only hurting the future of the hooping movement by potentially giving people a product they will never be able to use, you’re missing out on all of the repeat customers and referrals that can only come from happy hoopers who will tell all their friends that you’re the one who made this magical experience possible for them too.
10: Be Yourself. Finally, it’s also a very big and typically unwritten community guideline that one of the greatest things we value in the hooping community is authenticity. Think about it for a moment. If you’ve been around here long enough to be inspired by other hoopers, think about who they are for a moment and recognize the one thing they seem to all have in common. No, not that they love to hoop, silly. They all tend to have their own style of hooping that is authentically them! They don’t seem to be too caught up in worrying about what anybody else is doing. They’re letting their inner light shine and radiate who they are and we love that here in Hooplandia. So when you show up to hang out with your fellow hoopers, online or off, don’t worry too much about fitting in or dressing a certain way or having to learn a certain repertoire of hoop moves that don’t even speak to you. Just be yourself. Be you. Hoop the way you want to hoop and if you don’t know what that is ask yourself. Let your light shine and be your own super special creation. Not only is this is a community that celebrates that, you’re going to feel oh so much better about yourself and the world around you too.
(Photo by Philo Hagen)
Philo Hagen is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He’s been spinning things up online and off since April 2003. Co-Founder of the Bay Area Hoopers and LA Hoopers hoop groups, Philo has performed internationally and has won Hoopie Awards for Male Hooper of the Year and Video of the Year. He lives in Los Angeles, California, USA.