Emma Brown: Hooper of the Week
by Lilea Duran
Some people pace themselves when it comes to taking life changing steps, but Emma Brown took two at a time when she started her hooping journey on her wedding day after receiving a hoop as a wedding gift! Since leaving the United States in 2007 she has also become quite the globe trotter. She has lived in Thailand, India, Australia, and is currently residing in Hong Kong. Not only has her hoop followed her every step of the way, she’s now making it her mission to share the hoop love in Hong Kong. Having experienced hooping communities around the globe, she’s creating a larger hooping community there and under the name Turning Circles, Emma is teaching classes in Hong Kong to adults and children, performing, crafting hula hoops to sell and more! So join us for a very special interview with a new international hooping community leader – Emma Brown, our Hooper of the Week!
Lilea: When did you start hooping and how?
Emma: I started hooping in 2010 after my good friend Sarah Gregory did a fire hoop performance at my wedding and then gave me a hoop for a wedding present. It was the best wedding present I received. I didn’t anticipate then how much it would change my life for the better.
Lilea: I love that! So, how has hooping changed your life?
Emma: The other day I heard someone say ‘I only dance when I’m drunk’, and I had forgotten until then, that I also used to feel that way. Hooping allowed me to explore a physical form of freedom of self expression which I was previously too self conscious to explore. I also used to get really bad stage fright, so having the confidence to hoop in front of a crowd is empowering and gratifying.
Lilea: Absolutely. And it’s spinning into your livelihood too.
Emma: Yes. I have a job that I love! Before I made hooping my business, I was a teacher. There were a lot of things I loved about teaching, but it didn’t give me the freedom and potential for upward mobility which I was seeking. With hooping, I am doing something everyday that I enjoy, and I feel like the sky is the limit when it comes to growth, both personal and professional.
Lilea: What are you currently working on?
Emma: I am working on spreading awareness about hooping in Hong Kong. Since it is so new here, a lot of people still don’t even know what it is. I’ve started a new line of classes with Aerial Arts Academy, an aerial studio here in Hong Kong, in hopes of reaching a larger audience. Eventually, I would like to start my own studio focused on flow arts and yoga – and I am also coordinating with a fellow yogi to organize a hoop and yoga retreat for next summer. Stayed tuned for details. Oh! And I am finishing my Masters degree in environmental education.
Lilea: Wow, what brought you to Hong Kong?
Emma: I am from the USA, but have been living abroad since I graduated since 2007, I have spent a lot of time traveling, and lived in Thailand for three years. After Thailand, I went to India and got my yoga teacher certification while my husband went to Hong Kong for an internship. His internship later turned into a job, which is why we moved to Hong Kong. We’re really enjoying the city. It’s a great combination of nature, culture and fun activities.
Lilea: What is the hooping community like in Hong Kong?
Emma: I moved to Hong Kong from Melbourne, Australia, where the hooping community is booming, so when I learned I was moving to HK the first thing I did was google hooping in hong kong. To my disappointment there was nothing! Within the first year of living here I started the Meetup, and we’ve been growing ever since! It’s been really neat to be at the start of something and see it grow, and I’ve met some really awesome people through hooping. I’m excited to see where it goes! My aim is to create an environment where hooping is accessible to everyone who wants to try.
Lilea: Awesome. What are you doing to achieve your goals?
Emma: Since hooping is so new here, finding quality hoops here is impossible. Believe it or not, you can’t even find irrigation tubing, trust me, I’ve tried. So I have been shipping supplies from the US and making hula hoops to sell. It’s been a great way to encourage people to practice and have fun outside of the Meetup or classes.
Lilea: Wow! So, what does your hooping life look like now then?
Emma: My hooping life has evolved rapidly over the past year. In May of 2014 I started the meetup. By late summer I was getting contacted by people asking for performances and classes who had found me online from the meetup group. I realized that there was a demand for hooping in Hong Kong, and an open market, so in December 2014 I quit my teaching job and went full time into hooping and yoga. The classes at the Aerial Arts Academy are for adults and children. I’m also teaching kids classes as an extra curricular activity through 5 different schools, with my largest enrollment to date at 29 students.
Lilea: Do you have a favorite hooping memory or two to share?
Emma: Wow, so many! I think some of my favorite hooping memories are from Thailand. My friends and I used to go to this awesome dance party in the jungle on Koh Phangnan, and I would always bring my hoops. The first time I went, I was so nervous to even waist hoop in front of people with my non-LED hoop. The last time I went, I had an LED and jumped on the dance floor and had an awesome time. Its nice using that as a benchmark to see my progression, both in my skill set and in my confidence.
Lilea: What quality do you most admire in a hooper?
Emma: I really respect and admire a hooper who loves to see others hooping. It can be frustrating when you see someone doing a trick beautifully that you have been working on for ages and still haven’t nailed, so I idolize hoopers who are encouraging and admiring of one another.
Contributor Lilea Duran of Sunglow Hoop Dance found herself in the hoop in 2009 and hasn’t stopped spinning ever since. Co-founder of the Napa Hoopers group, Lilea teaches and performs throughout California and has appeared on Hooping.org numerous times, including two seasons of Hooping Idol. She currently lives in Napa, California, USA with her husband and two little hoopers. She’s also on Facebook.