Courtney Fagras: The Hooping Idol Interview!


Last night, in a suspense filled Hooping Idol 5 Season Finale Results Show, we revealed the winner of our fifth exciting season of Hooping Idol. If you haven’t already watched it, please do. It’s quite the reminder of just how exciting this season was! Two months ago, while watching 60 auditions, I clicked play and saw the smiling face of Courtney Fagras from Bellingham, Washington, USA. I vaguely remembered seeing an audition from her last year, but other than that she’d previously been totally off my radar. Given that she was giving it a second shot this year, I thought we should go ahead and include her in the mix. Little did I know, however, she was going to be the one to really capture our hearts and spin her way to win it all.

Consistently doing well with the judges from week to week, Courtney’s response from viewers took a big jump during Pop Music Week and kept right on climbing from there. But who is Courtney Fagras, our new Hooping Idol? Let’s find out! Join us for a very special Hooper of the Week Interview with our new Hooping Idol – Courtney Fagras.

Chloe McAfee: Our Hooper of the Week

CHLOE Stepping into the hooping limelight at age 9 and taking home our 2015 Hoopie Award for Youth Hooper of the Year, Chloe McAfee has already spun herself into the center of our community circle. But who is this humble, young hoop star from Hudson, Michigan, USA? What’s her hooping story? We sat down with Chloe to find out more about her and how the circle has been spinning her life over the past four years. From new friendships to glow stick hooping memories, hooping makes an impact on lives of all ages. So join us for an interview with Chloe McAfee, our Hooper of the Week!

Philo: When did you start hooping Chloe, and how?

Chloe: I went to the spring Badfish show at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Garretsville, Ohio, for a little summer vacation with my mom and dad when I was 5 years old. When we arrived there, I noticed a lot of girls with hula hoops everywhere which caught my attention. I thought they were beautiful. I made a new friend there too, Lilly, who is my age as well, and she was a hooper too. She also sold me my very first hula hoop.

Philo: Awesome! What does your Hooping Life look like now?

Chloe: It’s looking pretty good I would say. I can say it’s only gotten better with lots of time and practice. I’ve improved my flow and skill a lot over these past 4 years. When I started hooping my mom [Jennifer Clair] got into it as well and we would watch tutorials together. She became my hoop mentor and has taught me so much throughout these past 4 years too.

Philo: Yay! We love your Mom! How has hooping changed your life?

Chloe: Hooping has become one of my many favorite hobbies. It has given me so much confidence and I’ve learned how to connect and become expressive with my hoop through the art of dance. It’s such a beautiful feeling getting lost with my hoop when I dance.

Hooping Mom Lisa Sampson Spins Britain’s Got Talent

LisaSampson Britain's Got Talent BGT by Philo Hagen

Britain’s Got Talent’s latest hopeful is none other than Lisa Sampson of Boogie Hoops, and she even spun a big smile onto Simon Cowell’s face. The 35-year-old self-taught hula hoop instructor and mother of three from West Sussex, England, UK, impressed everybody with her energetic, multi-hula hoop routine, and scored herself a standing ovation from everyone in the auditorium, including all four of the judges. I caught up with Lisa to find out more about her and more about her Britain’s Got Talent experience so far.

Philo: Congratulations Lisa! When did you fist start hooping and how?

Lisa: I started hula hooping in 2012 after taking my children to a circus workshop. I fancied trying it so I started to teach myself from YouTube and I became hooked.

Philo: What does your hooping life normally look like?

Lisa: My hooping life and being a mum of three children is extremely busy. After I take my children to school I come home and practice every day. I have broken lots of items in my house while learning, so now I take everything out of the front room to practice.

Carly Palmer: Our Hooper of the Week

carllypalmer by Philo Hagen

When it comes to stars of the hooping world, you may not have heard of Carly Palmer. Chances are, however, that she’s probably heard of you. Truly a star in our book, Carly joined the staff here at back in September of 2013 as one of our Visual Content Editors. She’s shared more than 300 hooping videos with the hooping community at large, and got the inside scoop on a few of our feature stories as well. But who is Carly Palmer? A melancholy office worker by day and an uber-obsessed, hyperactive hooper by night, from her home computer in Manassas, Virginia, USA, she has diligently been making sure the greatest hooping videos out there find their way on to our pages. She’s been shining the spotlight on so many hoopers that we knew it was time to shine it on her as well. A dynamic hooper with a truly wonderful spirit, join me as we take an up close and personal look at our very own Carly Palmer, our Hooper of the Week.

Sarah Baker: Our Hooper of the Week

sarah b 1 by Liz Frederiksen

Our Hooper of the Week interview series returns and after some discussion about who to kick things off with, we easily and unanimously agreed. It simply had to be Sarah Baker. Sarah’s story and positivity make her someone truly inspiring. On November 4th, 2014, 24-year-old Sarah was on her way home from Suwannee Hulaween in Florida, driving back to Lititz, Pennsylvania, USA. She was in a car accident that caused catastrophic injuries. Suddenly facing a life with only one leg, and a slow, painful recovery from other injuries, she did the unexpected: she picked up her hoop again. We needed to find out more about her, her story and her recovery, so join me for an interview with Sarah Baker, our Hooper of the Week!

Liz: When did you start hooping and how?

Sarah: I started hooping in the summer of 2014, so about 6 months before the accident. I got into hooping because I would always see people with the LED hoops at music festivals. I saved up some extra cash, got myself a beautiful Mood Hoop, and immediately fell in love with it. I was determined to learn and I started practicing every day for at least an hour or two before I went to work.

Liz: How did hooping change your life?

Sarah: Hooping helped me build my self-confidence up so much, especially since the accident. It’s also introduced me to the entire hooping community, which is so full of inspiration!

Liz: Can you tell us about the accident and your injuries?

Sarah: My boyfriend and I, along with our best friend and his Dad, were traveling home from Florida after having a magical week at Suwannee Hulaween. I was in the back seat on the drivers side and I was sleeping, and so were the other passengers. It was 5am and we were somewhere in North Carolina on I-95. My good friend, who was driving, fell asleep at the wheel. When the car hit the rumble strips we all woke up. He tried to keep us on the road, but lost control and the car began to flip and roll off the highway. I remember the first roll, but then I was knocked unconscious and thrown from the car. I went out the window and as I was going the car rolled over my right foot, completely crushing it. Everyone else survived, and managed to stay in the car.

Lisa Lottie’s Hula Hoop TEDx Talk & Interview

LisaLottie1 by Caitlyn Woods

Lisa Lottie of recently took the stage not only to hoop, but to give a TEDx talk at TEDx Binghamton University. Her subject matter was her “Weapon of Choice” – the hula hoop, of course, and after sharing her skills with the audience, she shared about her life as well. Lisa’s personal journey, going from a directionless teenager to a hula hoop performer extraordinaire, is due to her finding her passion inside a plastic circle. Hooping has really helped give her life purpose. I had a chat with Lisa to find out more about her TEDx experience, what else is happening in her world these days, and how she came to be the talented hooper we all know and love.

Caitlyn: We were so excited to see your TEDx presentation. Taking hula hooping to the global stage like this is huge. How did you come to be speaking at TEDx Binghamton University?

Lisa: There is a large hoop troupe of girls getting together and hooping while they are studying at Binghamton. The TEDx event is set up entirely by students, so I think what happened was that one of the girls out of the hoop troupe might have been friends on Facebook with one of the organizers and posted my video. The sheer powers of social media landed me an invite for TEDx!

Caitlyn: You speak about the hoop being your “Weapon of Choice”. When you first picked up the hoop, was there a defining moment that you can recall where something clicked and you thought “This is what I want to do with my life”?

Lisa: I think it was definitely the opportunity that I got from Angie Mack, my hoop guru who I used to buy my hoops from. She initially got offered the job in the Indian circus, which she turned down, but she thought I might like to do it. When I said yes to that, I just had no way back. I was going to have to do it and I was going to have to take it seriously! That was the click, for sure, that made me start approaching hooping in a training-like fashion. It’s 7AM, I need to be at work at 9.30AM, so right now I need to take an hour to train hoops, and an hour in my lunch break, and an hour after I finish.

Hooping Idol Esmeralda Garcia: One Year Later

esmeralda by Philo Hagen with Lilea Duran

A year ago we were all anxiously awaiting the announcement of who would become our next Hooping Idol, the winner of our fourth exciting season of Hooping Idol and our Ultimate Hooping Idol Prize Package, the biggest one yet worth more than $3200! When the news finally broke and Esmeralda Garcia of Hularamma from Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, emerged victorious, it was a well deserved victory, the perfect ending to her truly impressive season and her steady progress to the top all season long. With the casting call for Hooping Idol 5 rolling int next week, I spoke with Esmeralda amidst the whirlwind that her life has become to find out more about her Hooping Idol story of what being Hooping Idol was like for her this past year.

SaulPaul’s Do That Hula Hoop with Rachael Lust

Rachael Lust by Katie Sunshine

Rachael Lust, the hooper that everyone knows and loves, is featured in a brand new music video by rapper and activist SaulPaul. The video couldn’t have featured a more appropriate performer too, since the name of the song is “Do That Hula Hoop.” Set in a graffiti park in Austin, Texas, USA, the video features colorful spray-painted backgrounds that compliment Rachael’s vivid hoops and her signature artfully printed leggings. I had an opportunity to talk to Rachael and SaulPaul and ask them both a few questions about the making of the video, their experience working together, and the very cool project for kids behind it all.

Katie: Rachael, how did you get involved with the making of this music video?

Rachael: SaulPaul reached out to me on Facebook, saying that he was a musician and a hula hoop enthusiast and he liked my hooping style. He said he was going to be filming a music video to a hula hooping song very soon in Austin. I just so happened to be heading to Austin at right about the time he contacted me too, so it worked out perfectly. He sent me a copy of the song and said he would be shooting at the graffiti park downtown. I thought the song was pretty cool and it seemed like a fun project to be a part of. I was also into the idea because SaulPaul seemed to want to do some good in the world.

Katie: Yes, he is quite the activist. In what ways did you see him as doing something good?

Rachael: He said he only rapped family friendly stuff, so that was cool with me. Plus, the video is part of his #hulahoopsforhope project where he is trying to raise money for several good causes.

Katie: Including raising money for SWAN, which is so great. SaulPaul, can you tell us more about that and your Hula Hoops and Hope campaign?

SaulPaul SaulPaul: It’s called #HulaHoopsAndHope because it’s based on 2 things. 1) The song I wrote called “Do That Hula Hoop” and 2) Hope. I’m heading off on tour spreading love and inspiring hope and I will have my hula hoops with me. While on tour, my goal is to raise funds for some people and organizations that are near and dear to my heart, including SWAN. My goal is to raise $1000 to give to them for an upcoming trip they are taking.

Katie: Are you involved with SWAN directly?

SWAN Program SaulPaul: Yes. SWAN’s mission is to break the cycle of crime for children who have one or both parents with a history of incarceration by providing free private music lessons, ensemble training, performance opportunities, and mentoring.

Katie: So this isn’t just a music video, it’s a campaign to raise awareness and do some good at the same time!

SaulPaul: Exactly! SWAN serves children of incarcerated parents. My wife and I teach music performance and choreography to these students and involve them in local shows in Austin. They have been invited to perform at half time at the April 2nd Austin Spurs basketball game. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for the kids involved. SWAN currently has 19 elementary school children, ages 6-10, enrolled and they are in need of $1000 to ensure that the students can get there and participate and I’m personally donating the proceeds from the download of this song to SWAN.

RachaelLust Katie: I love it! Readers can buy the song on iTunes and donate more to the cause as well. I love that you’re making good things happen and having fun doing it.

Rachael: It was fun, I would do it again.

Katie: Was there anything particularly challenging about hooping in this video?

Rachael: The day we were filming it was raining and everything was really muddy and slippery, but it turned out ok.

Katie: I think it turned out great! Thank you both for your time and good luck with this project.

You can get your copy of “Do That Hula Hoop” on iTunes and learn more about SaulPaul’s #HulaHoopsAndHope campaign, and find out more about the the SWAN program too. Happy hooping everybody!


Katie Columnist Katie Wilson, better known in the hooping world as Katie Sunshine, is a teacher, a painter, a performer, and above all a proponent for the powerfully positive change hooping brings to one’s life. She picked up hooping in 2009 at a music festival and she hasn’t put it down since. A Hoopie Award winner with many YouTube viral videos, Katie lives in Conway, Arkansas, USA, with her wonderful husband and her two lovable dogs.

How To Get Your Campus Hooping It Up!

The Boston University Hooping Project

The Boston University Hooping Project

by Rachel Conlisk

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.

Dallas Arcand’s Hoop Dancing Circular Life

DallasArcand by Natalie Kane

The circle, the spiral. Our dance partners help us spin little metaphors about our struggles and triumphs which many of us can’t otherwise express. The circle reinforces that life is a beautiful cycle, ever flowing and changing, one in which everything is connected. Each day scientists and spiritual leaders alike discover more evidence to support this too. Even the smallest actions have immeasurable impacts on the circle of life, just as the subtlest nuance in one movement ripples through one’s own body and hoop, affecting the entire dance.

Native American hoop dance preceded this art we’ve grown to love by decades, yet some hoopers haven’t heard of it. It’s a beautiful and powerful art form that has long symbolized our beginning and our relationship to Earth. As one historian put it, “The Native American hoop dancer becomes a counselor with the hoops representing a circle that returns each problem back to the responsibility of its creator.” Each performance tells a different part of this story as dancers manipulate one to numerous hoops to resemble different animals, the Earth itself, even the personifications of various values. Some performers tell this story so captivatingly, one can’t help but be absorbed. Dallas Arcand is one of them.

A three-time World Champion Hoop Dancer, Arcand was born in Edmonton and is a registered member of the Alexander (kipohtakaw) Cree nation, located 30 km northwest of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. The indigenous hoop dancer travels the world spreading appreciation for hoop dance while teaching people of all backgrounds about the importance of this tradition and how to practice it. In fact, he recently gave an incredible TEDx Talk and performance that’s not to be missed.

There are a few differences between the type of hoop dancing many of us are familiar with and Dallas’ traditional art, but not only can we learn from them, we can also see that the core message is often the same. No matter what your style of hoop dance or how you found the circle, I spoke with Arcand to hear more of his timeless wisdom about what living a circular life means for all of us.

Natalie: Dallas, how long have you been hoop dancing?

Dallas: I’ve been hoop dancing since I was 14 years old and I’m 36 now so that’s about 22 years.

Natalie: Why did you decide to learn hoop dance and what’s the driving force behind your art?

Dallas: I decided to hoop dance when I was introduced to it by my high school friend Joe Chatsis. I decided to learn because I was fascinated by the hoops, and I loved the magic of the hoop dance. Then I took it upon myself to learn this art form and it has transformed me into an independent, self sufficient, modern day warrior. The driving force behind the North American indigenous hoop dance is our culture and belief in the great spirit because originally, our hoop dance was a healing / ceremonial dance. So when I dance, I have my own trance/ceremony that I dance to for the people to help bring balance and harmony to the world. And that’s what spins my hoops!

Hoop-Dallas-Arcand-615x527 Natalie: When did you start dancing competitively?

Dallas: I started dancing competitively in my teens and at the time I was fortunate enough to start to make a living at it when I was very young. I was able to average an income of $3000 per month just on dancing and performing at powwows, festivals, and performances. I came from a poor family, so having these means did miracles for my career in helping me move forward, to eventually travel the world and much of the continent.

Natalie: You won your first championship in 2006 and have now earned three, the most recent in 2012. What was that like?

Dallas: Winning the world championships for me was the beginning of the end for me. It was like climbing a mountain and looking around at all the other peaks. It has opened up my eyes to the endless possibilities that could be achieved through arts and culture. Art is a lie about the truth, and culture is the truth about our way of life. Since the three world championships, the hoop dance momentum and fame has allotted me time to pursue my musical career and lifestyle and since then I have released five albums of indigenous contemporary music (available on iTunes).

Natalie: In what context do you dance right now?

Dallas: I travel as an aboriginal entertainer in which I utilize music, dance, visual art, and indigenous culture to teach people about our history and philosophy. I also get opportunities to speak at different venues such as graduation ceremonies, awards, schools, universities, and cultural gatherings across the country.

Natalie: You speak widely about many diverse topics, from humans’ role in nature, to the power of music, to personal development. How do you feel these topics interconnect to help the young people you work with?

Dallas: I believe that young people in our communities need a holistic education that pertains to their cultural values and inner personal development. So, it is our leaders’ responsibility to bring these tools and things that we’ve learned back into our community. Teach our future generation the tricks of our trades and art. These consist of things that we learned on our own journey and mistakes. By doing this, we can prepare the future generations for their life journeys. That’s how we keep the circle strong.

Natalie: Where has your art taken you around the world?

Dallas: My art landed me a contract in Spain at Universal Studios Mediterranea dancing in a show for eight months. I’ve been to Holland, as well, five years in a row to perform at the Western Experience. In 2002, I went to Hong Kong to perform. I’ve been to many places in the USA, and also had the opportunity to perform in Oslo, Norway; Cancun, Mexico; and in England at the 2012 Olympics.

Hoop Dancer Dallas Arcand performing at Calgary Stempede Natalie: Do you have a favorite place to dance, and what makes it great?

Dallas: I first and foremost love to perform at powwows because that’s my home for the hoop dance in its rightful place. ❤ Secondly, I love to perform my music and dances at festivals because the people love it and need the love that we put in to it. I also really enjoy performing in schools for kids because they really listen and learn from a real-life experience that comes from the teaching and performing hoop dance. That’s where my art is most appreciated and a useful educational tool.

Natalie: How does hoop dance affect you and its other practitioners?

Dallas: Hoop dance has provided me a lifestyle, and I always try my best to uphold that. I love to live circular; :) it makes the most sense. Hoop dance gives me a reason to wake up in the mornings, to go for a jog and start my day out with a workout and stretch, as well as a couple of hoop “dancercises.” Many of my hoop dancer friends have had prosperous lives because of the hoop dance giving them opportunities to perform for celebrities, in popular music videos, music festivals, the Olympics, Cirque du Soleil, the Calgary Stampede, and many aboriginal tourism hotspots across the country.

Natalie: Do you have a particular performance that sticks out in your mind? What made it so memorable?

Dallas: The 2012 Calgary stampede has to be the one performance that I will never forget. In 2012, I got to be one of the stars of the evening grandstand show. It was probably one of the biggest budget / audiences I’ve ever performed for. Every night there was a sold out crowd of 25,000 people, and I got to fly on an eagle towards the audience and then jump off to perform my hoop dance with 28 hoops. Fireworks. pryotechnics, you name it! They had everything, and that has been the highlight of my career. Absolutely amazing!

Natalie: What do you want your legacy to be; what do you want to be able to tell future generations about your generation?

Dallas: For future generations, I am recording all that I’ve done in my career and publishing it in a book and documentary about my life. I also have plans to make a museum and cultural center in my community to have a collage and public display of art connections to where the hoop dance has taken me in my life journey as a hoop dancer. Part of my plan is to show future generations the power of the hoop dance in what it can do for you and where it can connect you to in other art disciplines. Who knew that being a hoop dancer means that you have to be a tailor or a seamstress and a designer/ engineer to pioneer the proper hoops and designs to use while dancing this sacred but contemporary style of hoop dancing?

We want the future generations to embrace this circular way of living in balance with everything, living as a master of all the trades and tricks necessary for survival in life. I also plan to construct a ‘hoop dancer sculpture’ that will be holding a ‘globe’ aligned with the sun in medicine wheel (circle of rocks with four quadrants). It will be built from stone and steel to last for generations.

Natalie: What issues of our era do you want to see {or create} solutions for in your lifetime?

Dallas: The only issue I see presently in our society is that not enough people are connected to their roots, extending to the earth and the universe. Not enough people work the land anymore; therefore, we have lost our connection to the earth. Like the little worker bee that makes the honey in the hive, we have to strive to do our part to be in balance with the earth and universe.

Natalie: What advice would you give young hoop dancers just starting out?

Dallas: My advice to young aspiring hoopers is for you to stay true to your art and visions. Master your style and art to your perfection. Become one with the hoop, and discover its power and energies. Research your art; know your craft inside and out. With passion, patience, and persistence, your art will shine.

Natalie: Finally, is there a message you most hope to spread with your art?

Dallas: My message to the universe is that we are all connected through the circle to all living things, and within the circle is the energy of life that connects us all. We must live in balance with our own cultures and the rest of the world. We all have to balance between worlds and continue to move in a circle. Hi-hi kinanaskomtin {Thank you}.


Natalie Kane Contributor, Pyromaniac and GIS analyst Natalie Kane helps young, aspiring travelers launch the lifestyle of their dreams and elevate the world through her website Kinetic Karuna. She hoop dances with the Dogtown Hoop Mafia in Richmond, Virginia, USA, and founded FloWiTheJames to clean up the James River. Her passions include environmental conservation, exploration, yoga, self-sufficiency and gettin’ silly in her circle. She’s on Facebook.