Barbara Francesquine lives in São Paulo in southeastern Brazil, the most populous city in the western hemisphere. The city hosts high profile events like the Brazilian Grand Prix, São Paulo Fashion Week, and the world’s largest Gay Pride parade. It’s also home to a hooping community that has exploded in the past year and a rising international hoop star that has even earned herself Hoopie Award nominations. I sat down with Barbara to learn more about her, how Brazil’s hooping community evolved, and where it is headed and her personal hooping journey is as inspiring as her community’s maturation. As a hoop instructor and performer, she brings her love for classic dance forms like Flamenco, Afro, and Brazilian into her hoop dance. Creating hooping performances that use backdrops she herself has constructed, she captivates audiences with her raw emotion and creativity. Join me for a very special interview with Bárbara Francesquine, our Hooper of the Week!
Lilea: When did you start hooping and how?
Barbara: That’s something really difficult to say. I think the first time I made a hoop for me and started to try was in 2008 maybe. I had a really slow process until I fell totally in love with my hoop, which makes it difficult to remember the exact date. I used to perform as a fire poi spinner in a fire group called Biolumini and in this group I had a friend who hoops. She learned hooping in the USA and when she came back to Brasil, she started to perform with us. I always looked at it as something beautiful, but I just couldn’t imagine I could hoop. When I was a kid all my friends could except me, so even thinking that it was something beautiful to do, I didn’t think about learning. This friend wasn’t giving classes or selling hula hoops, and we didn’t even live close, so it was just not something to think about.
One day while I was looking for poi and staffs online, however, I came across hooping videos. I found Hoopalicious. I remember that her videos were the only hoop videos I saw at this time and they were awesome! It still took a time, like a year or more, until I looked for hooping videos again and found hoop making tutorials. A few months later I just woke up one day and decided to make a hoop for myself. I made it and went with some friends to the beach to try it. I was a little embarrassed because I was totally awkward doing it, but I kept it on my waist for the first time in my life. As I didn’t have anyone to teach me, and at this time I didn’t know about hooping tutorials, it took me a long time until I started a consistent practice. I would start, stop, start, stop, and I only practiced the tricks I saw in Hoopalicious’ video.
Lilea: She’s got some great tricks to learn!
Barbara Yes! When I finally knew some I began performing in a company. I met great artists there and started to feel I needed to dance more, because dance inspires me. I didn’t have money to pay for dancing classes so I was always looking for free dancing workshops. We have a lot of this in São Paulo. In this time all companies were giving creation-process workshops. It made all of the difference in how I think about hooping. In one hand I felt I still needed to look a lot for technique in dance, in my other hand I’ve been filled with many, many ideas about creation and creativity. I started to think of the relationship between hoop and dance as something more. Your body looks more beautiful when you move!
Lilea: What does your Hooping Life look like now?
Barbara: Now I finally feel like I can express my ideas with the hoop. Before I could express my body, but I didn’t know how to express my ideas. With the act “My Shades of Woman” I started to do it and I felt great about it. I have others ideas I would like to express, much more complex, and I have started to see a way to achieve this. I think I now have some maturity that makes it easier to understand what I want and how to make it happen.
Lilea: What is the hooping community in São Paulo like?
Barbara: The hooping community in São Paulo is something that’s really, reaaally, growing up fast. As São Paulo (just capital) has something like 21 million people, you can image how much bigger the hoop community can grow there. Each day I find more and more people hooping in São Paulo.
Lilea: How did Sao Paulo’s hoop community form?
Barbara: It’s difficult to say how the São Paulo hooping community started without talking about others hoopers from others parts of Brasil. When I started hooping it was just me in São Paulo – that I know of. I was giving some classes but I was not organizing hoop jams, there were really few people who knew and were interested in hooping at this time, and most of them were friends from festivals who would see me performing and ask me to teach them. I was also giving hoop workshops at juggling conventions – with Camille Bastos, another lonely hooper from Bahia who became a big friend – and in and out of São Paulo.
Later on Patricia Arnosti arrived in São Paulo from the USA. We didn’t know each other then because there weren’t any kind of Facebook groups or sites for hoopers to connect in Brasil.Mariana Bandarra from Puerto Allegre, Pitila Hossmann from Recife and I guess Verinha Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro also came back to Brasil from USA and had picked up hooping there. I think the Brazilian hooping community started to grow with these 4 women, because they started to organize some hoop jams in their own cities. They were thinking how to make hooping something popular, while I was more focused on performing and dancing. They saw hooping communities in USA and they started to make them here too. I’m not sure who created Bambolê Brasil Facebook group, but it has become a very important thing to Brasil’s hooping community, and of course to São Paulo’s too.
Lilea: And they’re looking to have the Brazilian Hoop Convention in São Paulo next, right?
BarbaraYes, last year the hooping community in São Paulo really exploded. People are thinking about making the Brazilian Hoop Convention here this year. There’s a challenge in São Paulo, Brasil, and I guess throughout all of Latin America too. Most people are not able to pay 200 dollars to attend a hoop convention and they are not used to investing so much money in something like this. We need to think of how to put on a convention using a tight budget, while at the same time knowing we can bring hooping to millions of people.
Lilea: Bringing hooping to that many people could be life changing. How has hooping changed your life?
Barbara: Before I started hooping I knew I wanted to move my body, but I didn’t know how. I knew I wanted to dance and express something, but for some reason I couldn’t do it with poi, staffs or contact juggling. I think hooping has some kind of natural dance that everyone gets when they start hooping, it is something that just happens naturally. This natural dance helped me start to feel good about moving my body, and with time I also understood how I could finally use my knowledge in flamenco and others arts to express myself through the hoop. Feeling good about what I was doing opened doors for jobs and performances. It also made me believe, and allowed me to prove to my family that I could work as an artist. Before this I use to look to art just as a hobby. The moment I started to look at it as a career, I dove more deeply in to the art itself and it’s importance to the world. And I also discovered the magic about teaching. I would never think I could enjoy teaching so much! I really do! I love seeing how hoop can change someone and love to find a way of teaching for each person.
Lilea: What are you currently working on?
Barbara: I’m working in the act “My Shades of Woman” (Meus Tons de Mulher) in which I use my painting hoops in a way to express my feelings. This year I constructed the backdrop I have always imagined and finally had time to work on the structure of the act, putting together lots of old ideas and also some new ideas with the help of the great juggler and artist Pablo Perasso. I’m also developing an interactive performance with the painting hoops that should bring the audience closer and give them the possibility of also experiencing the hoop paintings.
I’ve also been teaching video-dance workshops as a partnership with Alexandre Salomão, and it has been really awesome. It increases the many possibilities we have for expressing ourselves with the hoop and thinking about hoop dance in a different way. Right now I’m in Europe and I will be here until September. I’m looking to meet more hoopers in different cities, give workshops, perform and take this time to enjoy hoop jams. In São Paulo it can be difficult to meet new hoopers as I’m always running with projects.
Lilea: What do you do when you’re not hooping?
Barbara: I’m part of the Maya-Lila Dance Group so when I’m in São Paulo I’m dancing with them. And going to Brazilian, Afro, Modern and others dancing classes, which I just Love! I also spend a lot of time writing projects, playing with other forms of manipulation juggling like buugeng and rolling, reading books and watching films that inspire me and, of course, stretching.
Lilea: Do you have a favorite hooping memory or two to share?
Barbara: Hooping has given me lots of good memories. Most of them are related to the great people I have met through hooping. I have no words to all the things I learned with those hooper friends, professionals, students and lovers I’ve been meeting. Some values that I try to take everyday to my life.
Lilea: What quality do you most admire in a hooper?
Barbara: There are many qualities I admire, but I will say three: generosity, creativity and an “I don’t give a sh*t” attitude. I really appreciate generous hoopers who are concerned with teaching and sharing the hoop with their community; creative hoopers who just develop their own things, moves, dance and tricks, and “i don’t give a sh*t” hoopers who just hoop without being worried about what people will think, like, or don’t like. It can be something really difficult to do with Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and all the social media that keeps looking at you. In one hand it helps to promote yourself, but promoting yourself can take the focus away from what really matters.
Lilea: Do you have any advice for someone just picking up a hoop for the very first time today?
Barbara: Yes! We all have some kind knowledge of how to express ourselves with our bodies from other practices and experiences. All those memories can help and influence your hooping. Tapping into these memories can help you to find your own way to express yourself. You will find that the combination between your memories and your hoop makes you unique and also make you stronger to overcome difficulties.
The good thing about hooping is that there are no rules, you can express yourself as you want, so enjoy it!