So you’ve been back at school for a few months now, but something is missing. Sure, you’ve got your friends and you have your hoop, but even though there are an awful lot of clubs and societies on campus, what you really need is a hooping club, right? Well, some lucky students are actually at colleges and universities that already have established hooping or circus clubs. If there is nothing happening where you are, then you are going to have to take matters into your own hands. How? Make your own! I spoke with Mona Shpongledhoops, formerly of the University of Vermont, Valeska Griffiths of the University of Toronto, and Rose Kreditor of Boston University, all of whom successfully started up hooping clubs on campus from scratch. In fact, they gave me the lowdown on just how they did it, how it worked out for them and more.
Rachel: When and how did you get your hooping club started?
Mona: I started the UVM Hoop Dancing Club in the Fall of 2007 with some friends that I lived with. Our University had specific steps to submit a particular sport or recreational activity to be officially recognized by the school. So we filled out all the necessary paperwork and then had to present our proposal to the athletic activities board. We made a Power Point presentation explaining what “Hooping” is and how it would benefit the body and mind.
Valeska: My friend Shannon and I co-founded the University of Toronto Hoopdance and Flow Arts club (HAFA) in the summer of 2013. We’d already been spending most of our time practicing for the last couple of years (hooping for her, hooping and contact juggling for me), and thought it would be fun to get to know other students. We registered as a club through the University and attracted new members by hosting impromptu jams outside the main library on campus.
Rose: I set up The Boston University Hooping Project in 2012 on Boston University’s campus with the hope that it would entice BU students to learn and create a space and community for BU (and greater area) spinners – I had been hooping for 4 months! Though I went through the process of making The BU Hooping Project a recognized BU club alone, we now have a President, Vice president, secretary, and treasurer.
Rachel: Where did you get your equipment from?
Mona: The summer before my Junior year in college, a couple of girls that I lived with worked with vendors at festivals. They traveled all over the country serving crepes and falafel. One of them spoke with a regular festy goer about how to make hoops, so when she came home we went to Home Depot and started making giant hoops.
Valeska: The extra props that we supply for HAFA events are pretty affordable; we made our own hoops and sock poi, and we bought four inexpensive rubber contact spheres from a juggling site. Many schools will actually supply clubs with some amount of funding for things like this. It’s important to research what resources are available to you through your school. We actually applied for and received a grant to help us cover our film screening. Which brings up an important point: make sure that you officially register as a club! HAFA has access to free indoor space rentals on campus because of our official club status.
Rose: We had no equipment! I began to troll the internet to hunt down and gather as many hoops as I could in the greater Boston area, through friends and Craigslist. I received some tubing from a friend and made some. More recently the club raised enough money to buy tubing that made 10 hoops to belong to the project. With the hula hoops I donated upon graduation I am proud to say that Boston University now owns 20 hula hoops!!
Rachel: How did you get and keep people attending?
Mona: At first the classes were mainly just friends and friends of friends. But after the first semester, I did a little extra paperwork and got the club to be an accredited PE class. As a student of UVM we had to complete a minimum of 2 PE credits to graduate. That brought in a lot of people and we averaged about 30-35 people a class sometimes.
Valeska: The only pitfalls we’ve really had have been scheduling issues, since most of our members are current students and have conflicting class schedules. Overall, the response to the group has been great! We set up a Facebook page and keep it active. Promote your events heavily. Students get caught up in their assignments and often need reminders, and post inspirational videos and tutorials to keep interest stoked.
Rose: The cool thing about going to a college like BU is wherever you are you can get great exposure. When we have our spinjams outside, the publicity is incredible. People stop for five minutes to shake it out and some stay for an hour learning the beginnings of The Vortex. Then I bought a giant sign that reads, “COME HOOP WITH US.” I always made sure not to change around the schedule too much and I was always there. I met up with many beginners randomly during the week who could not make it for class.
Rachel: How have your hoop clubs evolved over time?
Mona: It became an accredited PE class, but we also got involved with performing and hosting activities for the rest of the students. One of the other University recognized clubs, The Orchesis Dance Club, asked us to perform. It was a huge hit and they kept having us back year after year! We also were asked by our student government to perform at our yearly spring concert called Spring Fest. Musicians like Ratatat and Toots & the Maytals played, so for us as newbs it was a great honor! Lastly, one of my friends who helped me start the club, organized a couple Hoop Jams during finals week to help relieve stress for all students. Those were always fun and opened up hooping to a lot of people who had never seen it before. After 8 years the club is still going and they’re still doing group performances!
Valeska: Since starting HAFA, Shannon and I have hosted a screening of The Hooping Life, thrown a few guided beginner jams using instructional videos, brought in some great teachers for classes, offered movement labs for other clubs’ events, and taught a few workshops on DIY hoop-making.
Rose: We made a promotional video! I created choreography for our beginner hoopers, we had our more seasoned members have solos, and we documented what it was like to hang with The Boston University Hooping Project! This got the whole Project thumping and excited.
The Project has focused more on teaching and learning than gigs, but perhaps one day! Most importantly, The Project is holding its own – I don’t have to hunt people down to show up, the club has good attendance and seems to always be growing. We have even been featured on hooping.org!
Rachel: What advice do you have for hoopers who want to set up a hoop club on campus?
Mona: My advice to others is to work with your friends. It was a lot of work getting the club started and I had a lot of support from my friends to keep it going. Sometimes we’d fight about which direction things needed to go, but it all worked out in the end. It’s really just all about having fun, so don’t take it too seriously…you’re still in college and…it’s hooping! It’s meant to be fun!
Hold hoop making workshops! They’re fun, easy, and allow newbies to really personalize their experience from the get-go. You don’t want having a club to be about you, it should be about the members. If you always think in that mindset, you can never fail…as long as you don’t overwhelm yourself with too much work!
As far as group performances go…they are super fun and give new hoopers a great opportunity without too much risk! They take a lot of work and are never perfect, but it’s a real confidence booster for everyone. Just remember, it’ll never be perfect…everyone has their own rhythm and it’s very hard to sync 10-15 people…especially when they’re all at different levels.
– Take teaching seriously, but not too seriously (if you’re hosting it as a class)
– Make your Hoop Dancing Club fun!
– Show appreciation for your members (we had a pizza party the last year and it was awesome!)
– And lastly, when you leave (because college isn’t forever…*sigh*) choose a new club leader that can continue your legacy and who is passionate about the club, yet also approachable for the members.
Valeska: I think the best tip I can give is to hold a regularly scheduled jam on campus every week (outside if possible) and supply extra hoops; we got so many new members just from people walking by and getting curious about the fun we were having! Plus, regularly scheduled jams encourage people to come out every week, so club members can get to know one another and build friendships.
Rose: A community can only breathe from the members in it. It cannot be created and retained alone! If you are not being recognized – find where the center is and place yourself in it. Publicity is anywhere. Try and be as accessible as you can. All you need is members – the rest can be created or obtained together.
Thank you to Mona, Valeska and Rose for their excellent advice – now what are you waiting for? There is a campus full of hoopers out there, and they don’t even know it yet. All it takes to start the ball rolling is you and your hoop. Go for it!
Contributor Rachel Conlisk was addicted to hooping from the very start and now spends most of her time thinking about hooping, finding new music for her hoop classes, or spinning it up. A data analyst for a school, she spreads the hoop love on campus daily with a hoop club for kids, and teaches a weekly adult hooping class in Smethwick. You can follow her hoopenings at HoopsRock.com and take her class in Birmingham, England, UK.