Fellow hoopers, it’s SPRING in the Northern Hemisphere, and while I know many of you need little excuse to sign up and attend a whole slew of hooping and flow arts festivals in the next half year or so, I am here to play devil (or angel!) on your shoulder and nudge those of you still reluctant to give in to the urge and, as Star Trek II’s Captain Picard would say, “Make it so.”
I had not been hooping long when I stumbled across a video on Hooping.org which was a beautiful mashup of moments from something that looked pretty magical, a gathering of hoopers in the redwoods of California. People were dressed in gorgeous fabrics (some in much less fabric than others), all jamming in big masses to funky music, and tromping through the forest at night by the light of their LED hoops. What was this thing called Hoopcamp? I was pretty sure I had to go.
When I bought my ticket, just four months prior to this annual hooping soiree held in late summer/early fall at a bucolic Buddhist monastery in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, I had only mastered hooping in both directions around my waist. That, and The Lift. Maybe a few other minor tricks. That was about the extent of my hooping skills. Still, I had a lot of good reasons for justifying the decision — and expense — to attend. Of course I didn’t actually need to justify this to anyone but myself, but that’s often the hardest party to convince. During and after the experience, I acquired even more validations. Here’s why you really should go to a hoop gathering this year:
* “You’ll meet people and get down,” as Baxter says on the invite to his HoopPath workshops. Same goes for any and all hoop and flow arts festivals and retreats. Maybe you are really shy, or maybe you already have a lot of friends and a very active social life, but no matter where you are on this spectrum, attending a hoop gathering is a surefire way to have access to a really, really good party — one with great music, great dancing, great food and drink (that includes excellent coffee and tea!). Plus, your fellow partygoers are not only warm and friendly (after all, they all came in from somewhere else, too), but they’re constantly moving their bodies around and sharing hooping tricks and talking hooping too.
From the moment my friend Annie and I arrived at the San Jose Airport to take the shuttle to Hoopcamp, for example, just waiting at the airport we started making friends right there at the baggage claim. When more than a dozen of us crammed into the van, with our gobs of luggage (camping stuff, clothing, hooping toys), we were already feeling a part of it all.
* You’ll automatically have something to look forward to, an event on your horizon that not only gives you an excuse for some time off and probably some travel, it will probably inspire you to hoop much more regularly in the time leading up to the gathering. You want to look good, feel good, and be as good a hooper as you can be by the time you get there, to get the most out of it, right? In this way, you can view your commitment to attend a hoop gathering as a health tool, part of your overall health plan, perhaps even more inspiration than joining a gym or committing to a marathon or taking karate classes? I know that when once I signed up and paid for the ticket to Hoopcamp, I was motivated to hoop many days a week, and to persist until I got some of the more elusive moves under my belt so I could at least spin with the rest of the hoopers at camp and have a solid foundation from which to learn.
* You’ll have an excuse to go somewhere new (or return to an old favorite stomping ground or vacation spot), and what’s more, you can do one of the things you love most for most of the time you’re on that vacation: hoop! Maybe you like to travel and yet you’re tired of doing it alone, or it’s hard to convince your partner, friends, or family to go with you? Or maybe when you’re traveling with family or friends, it’s pretty good, but you keep wanting to stop at the overlook and that rock outcrop and this beach and those luscious green hills to hoop and your fellow travelers are just not into it?
No worries: now you HAVE that reason to go to, say, camp in the Black Forest of Colorado with the Rockies as your backdrop this spring. Or to the red rock desert of Sedona, Arizona, this fall. Maybe you prefer the beauty and hospitality of North Carolina. Or maybe, if you start planning and saving now, you can swing that trip to a hoop fest in Indonesia or Germany or The Netherlands! Plus, someone has already done a bunch of the planning for you, making it a pretty easy vacation to slide into; most events offer a nice array of sleeping arrangements, from basic tent camping to recommendations for excellent B & Bs nearby.
And you’ll have ready-made hooping playmates there to meet you!
* You’ll surely learn about and get to try new things, some you expect and some you don’t. At one workshop I got turned on to a new teacher, a whole new batch of soulful music, and had one of those magical “This is IT!” sensations for a whole hour of hooping barefoot with others on the grass, under surreal, crystal clear, sunny, blue skies, watching the redwoods move in the wind. I also learned “breathing breaks,” got one of the best massages I’ve ever had, learned a whole lot more about what it’s like to go to Burning Man, and got one of the best haircuts of my life as the sun set and the French Canadian haircutter named Messiah had to finish it by the light of my headlamp just before the Performance Showcase. These are vignettes I expect I will hold dear well into old age.
* You’ll get to spin things up with hoopers at all levels, which is a recurring source of inspiration. Sure, you get to hang out with your hooping heroes, via actual workshops, ad hoc jams, and dining side by side with each other. Getting to meet and talk with your hooping teachers/idols brings them down to the level of real humans with fully fleshed out personalities and stories, which I find makes them into more genuine role models. I ended up being really impressed by and learning so much from several presenters about whom I was mostly unaware; they are now consistently the sources of some of my favorite online hooping tutorials.
Perhaps equally as important is all the other hoopers you will meet, including the beginners. Several of my new friends from Hoopcamp were not the ones presenting, but those just doing their thing, often working full time in other fields, who somehow find the time and motivation to keep practicing hooping, no matter their other responsibilities. These are my new hooping heroes.
* You’ll be validated as a hooper, and ushered more vividly into the hooping tribe (or reaffirm your role in it). Some of us are fortunate to have a group of hoopers with whom we regularly meet to hoop and play, while others of us hoop alone for long stretches of time. Some of us make a living in things hoop-related while others do so in unrelated jobs. Lots of us feel a part of a greater global hoop community thanks to the world wide web, while some of us want and need to feel part of a community of like-minded people more than others. Nevertheless, to be immersed in a big group of others who have heard and responded to the hooping call in so many different ways is so affirming, and, to put it in Hoopcamp parlance, just plain “juicy.”
Have I convinced you yet? The party’s on: jump into the hooping pool!
Here’s a list of hoop gatherings around the world from which to choose. If we’re missing something let us know in the comments below and we’ll add it to the list.
2014 HOOP GATHERINGS
• Hottie Hoop Camp: March 27 – 30, Surfside Beach, Texas, USA. For women only.
• New Zealand Hoop Fest: March 28-30, Wellington, New Zealand.
• Sacred Circularities Bali: Four sessions between April 2-May 4, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
• Guru Guru Camp (Flow Arts): April 26-May 6, Niijima Island, Japan.
• Spin Summit (Flow Arts): May 8-11, Black Forest, Colorado, USA.
• Hoop Convergence: May 22-26, Carrboro, North Carolina, USA.
• London Hoopfest: May 26-June 1, London, England, UK.
• UKHG Spanish Hoop Holiday May 31-June 7, Spain.
• Play Think! (Flow Arts): June 12-15, Berea, Kentucky, USA.
• SpinOut (Flow Arts): June 13-16, Thorsby, Alberta, Canada.
• CirqueCamp: June 11-15, Joshua Tree, California, USA. Flow arts festival.
• Hoop Path 8: June 19-22, Carrboro, North Carolina, USA.
• Hoopurbia: June 24-29, Berlin, Germany.
• Madskillz (Flow Arts): June 26-30, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
• Italian Hoop Connection: July 3-6, Montefiorino, Italy.
• Hooplaland: July 4-6, Brandenburg, Germany.
• German Hoop Convention: July 11-13, Hannover, Germany.
• Return To Roots (Flow Arts): July 24-28, Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, USA.
• In Flow Festival: August 1-3, Orangeville, Ontario, Canada.
• Five Elements (Flow Arts): August 8-10, Lansing, North Carolina, USA.
• Heart and Hoop Dance, August 12-17, The Netherlands.
• Austrian Hoop Convention: August 14-17, Vienna, Austria.
• UK Hoop Gathering: August 15-17 and August 22-24, Shropshire, England, UK.
• Rendez-v’HOOP Paris: September 12-14, Paris, France.
• West Coast Hoop Fest: September 12-14, Pender Island, British Columbia, Canada.
• Hoopcamp: September 24-28, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, USA. The largest event specifically for hoopers.
• SWhoop: October 3-5, Bristol, England, UK.
• Sacred Circularities Sedona: October 4-11, Sedona, Arizona, USA.
• Florida Flow Fest (Flow Arts): October 10-12, Lake Worth, Florida, USA.
Events already held this year, but keep them in mind for next year:
• Manchester Hoop Congress: (February 22-23, 2014) Manchester, England, UK.
• Spin Milk 2% (Flow Arts): (Feb, 22-23, 2014) Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
• Huladalajara: (March 21-23, 2014) Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
• Hoopy Happenings: (March 21-24, 2014) Sydney, Australia.
Columnist Marlys Hersey caught the hooping fever in Spring 2013 and promptly surrendered to it. She started a hoop jam in the Chihuahuan Desert where she lives in Alpine, Texas, USA. She works as a massage therapist, and is Editor/Writer/Co-owner of The Big Bend Gazette.