by Philo Hagen
If you’ve never been to Hoopcamp, then you’ve never attended the largest annual gathering specifically for hoopers on the planet. Every year we make a pilgrimage from all over the world to spend five days together spinning it up in the California redwoods, sharing knowledge and hoop love with one another along the way. Driving up the long and winding road, climbing higher and higher into the Santa Cruz Mountains, I grew increasingly excited about Hoopcamp the closer that I got to Pema Osel Ling, a Tibetan Buddhist Retreat Center and Hoopcamp’s home for the past five years. Making the left turn and arriving at the top of the drive, a sign welcomed me to Hoopcamp 2014. I made it and I couldn’t have been happier after missing it last year due to health concerns. Having attended six out of the seven events though, I knew it would be a great week, I knew there would probably be some unforeseen surprises, and I knew right where I wanted to pitch my tent. Organizers Heather Troy and Nessia Starr were there putting the finishing touches on everything as green, blue and red lights soared high into the trees above us, aglow in the dark especially for our time there together. Heading to my campsite a deer paused on the trail and welcomed me. You could feel the magic that was to come lingering in the air before it even began.
WEDNESDAY: SEPTEMBER 24th
Hoopers came in droves from all over the United States, Canada, Mexico, El Salvador, Brazil, the UK, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, even Thailand, each and every one of them with a bundle of circles made of plastic draped over one shoulder. Once registered they each climbed the hill and found a place to call their own for the duration, and soon we were called to gather at the Temple Stage for an opening circle with Kandice Korves-Kaus of Holistic Hooping. The energy and intention set also set the course for another kickass Hoopcamp opening workshop by Jonathan Livingston Baxter of the HoopPath. As we spun it up together, we began to let it all go, finding ourselves in our circles surrounded by beautiful souls in a gorgeous setting.
From there we climbed the hills to the dining hall for dinner and delicious fellowship. The camp was abuzz with excitement and conversation. After dinner there were those who chose to partake of a workshop on Body, Breath Work and Beyond taught by Jocelyn Gordon of Hoop Yogini, while others of us preferred to revel in a little after dinner relaxation. I personally was busy getting the opening night Presenters Performance Showcase together. Honored to be the MC again this year, it was super exciting to see the instructors for this year taking to the stage and showing us what they were all about. A whirlwind of amazing talent indeed, with videos coming to hooping.org in the future. Even if our more newbie attendees weren’t familiar with some of the hoop stars that night, they certainly had an idea of whose classes they wouldn’t want to miss by the time it was over.And following the big show there was, of course, more hooping. And cocktails for those who partake of such libations. And reconnecting with old friends. And connecting with new real life friends previously only witnessed online. They were real, and we could reach out and touch them. And time flew by. About 2am I made my way down the hill to my tent and once safely inside it, the rain began to fall. Listening to the pitter patter of raindrops upon the roof throughout the night, it was easy to tell when it began to pour later on. With my laptop and phone safely snuggled up beside me in my sleeping bag, I was able to hold out for a few hours. The waters inside my temporary home were rising and I was eventually forced to abandon ship. While the majority would weather their way through the storm brilliantly, I was one of several that sank. Most everything I owned ended up soaking wet. “Well, this must be the unforeseen surprise of 2014,” I said to myself. I put my laptop under my shirt and ran for shelter.
THURSDAY: SEPTEMBER 25th
It had previously only rained once at Hoopcamp, several years earlier. It happened near the very end of the event, just as we were packing up, and it was a light and warm rain that we all delighted to hoop and dance in. This year, however, the rain continued through the morning. Weather reports, however, called for a 20% chance of scattered showers, and with a three year drought most of us never really saw it coming. Was it the hoop dancing that called the much needed clouds to the mountain? Between the forecast and the downpour, me and several of my close hoop friends seriously began to wonder. Beth Lavinder and Bukki Sittler and Danielle Odette headed off to try to teach classes and find spaces under cover. As for myself, having been up all night, I managed to last through lunch and before finding a dry place to nap for most of the afternoon. Occasionally I caught ear shot of Caroleeena or Nicole Wong teaching a class, but the highlight of my afternoon was some much needed sleep.
I awoke later to the sounds of DJ Eartha Harris and her music soothed my soul and called me to life. I’m glad that it did too, or I might have missed something truly incredible – The Great Unicorn Hula Hoop Twerk Race. Hosted by Hoopalicious of GroovinMeGzz, Katie Holt McClain and Tiana Zoumer in the finals, but it was the only male unicorn, Van Maffei, who spun away with it all.Thursday evening there were hors d’oeuvres by Chef Mazi, another delicious Pema Osel Ling dinner and dessert (some amazingly delicious berry cobbler), and a fashion show where all of the amazing vendors from Hoopcamp strutted their stuff on the catwalk. Yes, another great reason to go to Hoopcamp is for the shopping.
Our night time featured a great big community trick share with everybody swapping notes on their moves, more cocktails, more conversation and more hooping galore. Sleeping bags made their way to the dryer, a few other hoops who needed to be relocated found new homes, and as we went to sleep on Thursday I think we all had the feeling everything was gonna be all right.
FRIDAY: SEPTEMBER 26th
Mornings at Hoopcamp begin with a yoga class at 7:00 am, followed by breakfast. There are hoopers that tend to be morning larks, who are naturally up at that hour and ready to stretch and greet the dawn. I’m personally of the be the last one to bed so I don’t miss anything night owl variety, and while I can’t really tell you about the mornings on campus, I can tell you that there is action from dawn to dusk. There were class offerings from Baxter and Luna Breeze on Friday morning, a tasty lunch break, and more classes taught by Mary Gargett, Aya Papaya and Matt Porretta. Earlene taught people how to hoop on stand up paddle boards in the swimming pool. There were aerial classes and cyr wheel classes and acroyoga classes too. Oh, and there was more rain. And thunder. And lightning. The hoop dance weather theory began making even more sense as millions of droplets of water fell from the sky. It didn’t last as long though, and most of us were well prepared the second time around.
Friday night, following a delicious dinner, came one of the true highlights of 2014 for me – the Community Performance Showcase. While many Hoopcamp attendees who are likely to be some of the most badass hoopers in their own local communities, at Hoopcamp everything is different. There are hundreds of hoopers and everyone knows about hooping and loves to spin it up. Performing in front of your peers takes courage and those who were willing to grace the stage this year let me know and all of their names were entered into a lottery. The only person certain to appear in the showcase was Esmeralda Garcia, the winner of Hooping Idol 4. She’d not only won a ticket to Hoopcamp 2014, but also a spot on stage. 13 other names were drawn and as I assembled the order for the show I soon realized several had never performed anywhere before in their life. As each person took to the stage the love fest for each and every one of them and our community grew and grew too. I don’t think there was a single one of us that wasn’t touched by all the love that very night. Stay tuned to hooping.org for performance videos from that night.
Our finale was something of a surprise as well, even to the person performing. Heather Troy, the organizer of Hoopcamp, who has been so busy at previous Hoopcamps that she never even got a chance to hoop, had never performed at her very own event either. Having told me about a dream she had once where her and her hoop were on the Hoopcamp stage, she said there were hoopers encircling her on all sides. She told me that a certain song was playing, and little did she know I’d downloaded it just for her. Ensuring she’d find a little time to hoop at Hoopcamp 2014, something she hadn’t yet been able to do, hoopers were invited up onto the stage to encircle the performance area, and as Heather stepped on to the stage and “One Voice” by The Wailin’ Jennys (on iTunes) began to play, she stepped into her hoop and performed for the very first time at Hoopcamp, and I don’t think there was a dry eye left in the house.
SATURDAY: SEPTEMBER 27th
The most beautiful day at Hoopcamp 2014 brought with it many delights and a few surprises. There were classes taught by Hoopalicious, Shakti Sunfire, Bex Burton, Caterina Suttin, The Hoop Hooligans, Tiana Zoumer, Shellie White Light and more. There was even a Samba Hoop Dance class taught by Davaryah Trugman with a live drum line that ended up parading through camp.
Down at the Temple Stage everyone gathered for our final evening hoopjam with live music. We all got together for a group photograph too, and then we made our way back up the hill to a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings – turkey, tofurkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce – it was really something. A fun filled Saturday night was in store for all of us too and it kicked off with the very first Hoopcamp Hoop Tape Off where several hoopers battled it out to see who could tape their hoop the fastest. It was hilarious and congratulations to Danielle Odette, the fastest hoop taper on the planet.
The Renegade Show also took place on Saturday night. Known for silliness, heckling, absurdity and plenty of laughs, before we made our way to the Redwood Stage, we first assembled in front of the dining hall for the very first cyr wheel performances at Hoopcamp. Sam Tribble and Elijah Leone Cherweznik, both of whom have been teaching at Hoopcamp in years past, dazzled all of us even more when they were able to truly show off their talents. Elijah’s performance was actually so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes, so it wasn’t any wonder that the audience demanded more, and more is what we got. Renegade fever took over and Elijah spun up what is probably the world’s first little boylesque strip tease performance ever done in a cyr wheel. It was amazing.
As for the Renegade Show itself, Shellie White Light hosted the festivities and we all had a great time. There were redneck hooping boys singing country songs, stand up comedy about hooping that made us all literally laugh out loud, contortion, hhooping while playing the didgeridoo, incredible poetry, burlesque, even musical theater to the soundtrack from Grease. After the show there was an LED hooping class followed by a glow hoop walk through the woods, as well as DJs and dancing and visual art. I think everybody gave it their last night at Hoopcamp their all and I kept hearing from many that in spite of the rain, this had turned out to be the best Hoopcamp ever.
SUNDAY: SEPTEMBER 28th
In case you thought that was enough, there were more classes on Sunday morning taught by Caroleeena, Jenna Nordgren, Jinju Dasalla and Michelle Nayeli. There was lunch. Then we packed up our stuff and came together for a closing circle with Kandice, grounding the energy of our time together so we could take it home with us, while letting it go to share it with the world and the universe. Hoopcamp 2014 was something truly special, a time of hoops giving for the magic of the circle and the wonder of the community that has come to each of us from simply stepping inside of one.
Philo Hagen is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He’s been spinning things up online and off since April 2003. Co-Founder of the Bay Area Hoopers and LA Hoopers hoop groups, Philo has performed internationally and has won Hoopie Awards for Male Hooper of the Year and Video of the Year. He lives in Los Angeles, California, USA.
It’s time for our weekly Top Ten List where we count down the top ten most buzz worthy posts of the past week (as based on reader response), starting things off at number ten and working our way up to the number one spot of the week. What was hot in the hoopersphere this go around? It’s time for us to find out. Here’s Hooping.org’s Top Ten List for April 20th – 26th, 2014.
10. La Gatoun spun up a super sweet illustrated hula hoop story with music by Sphinks: Spinning Childhood Dreams of Hula Hoops (182 Points).
9. Meg Amor made her hooping.org debut and it proved to be a beautiful smash: Introducing Meg Amor (187 Points).
8. This stunning photo made a lot of readers pretty freakin happy – Fire Hooping in the Mountains with Nolita Ananda (204 Points).
7. Our own Matthias Elliott schooled us in his new video – Ghosts and Vocabulary in Isoland with Matthias Elliott (208 Points).
6. Coral Jade spun up a new hula hoop demo that is a total winner: Circus Hooping with Coral Jade (221 Points).
5. Our top photo post featured Cameron Doss Hooping at Coachella (282 Points).
4. Casandra Tanenbaum examined the five elements and how they relate to hooping style – Five Energy Hooping: What’s Your Element? (296 Points).
3. The results of Classic Rock Week on Hooping Idol 4 were revealed – Hooping Idol 4: Classic Rock Week Results (379 Points).
2. Our highest rated video of the week featured Hooping Idol judge Ayumi Mitake – Ayumi Mitake: Hoop Dance with Cherry Blossoms (444 Points).
1. And at number one this week with a bullet was Classic Rock Week – Hooping Idol 4: It’s Classic Rock Week! (1,581 Points).
Top 5 Features
1. Hooping Idol 4: It’s Classic Rock Week! (1,581 Points).
2. Hooping Idol 4: Classic Rock Week Results (379 Points).
3. Five Energy Hooping: What’s Your Element? with Casandra Tanenbaum (296 Points).
4. Spinning Childhood Dreams of Hula Hoops with la Gatoun and Sphinks. (182 Points).
5. Hula Hoop Fitness Spins World Wide Exercise Fun with Philo Hagen (176 Points).
Top 5 Videos:
1. Ayumi Mitake: Hoop Dance with Cherry Blossoms (444 Points).
2. Circus Hooping with Coral Jade (221 Points).
3. Ghosts and Vocabulary in Isoland with Matthias Elliott (208 Points).
4. Introducing Meg Amor (187 Points).
5. Kaleida Kinetic (155 Points).
Top 5 Photos:
1. Hooping at Coachella (282 Points).
2.. Fire Hooping in the Mountains with Nolita Ananda (204 Points).
3. Beth Lavinder in Bali (138 Points).
4. Hoop Love with Benjamin Berry (115 Points).
5. Peep Style Hula Hooping with the Easter Bunny (101 Points).
That’s our Top Ten List and Top 5’s for this week and remember if you see something you appreciate here (or on any of our social networking sites), it only takes a second to “Like” it or leave a comment and share the hoop love, and you get to make someone’s day while you’re at it. YAY! Each like, share, note or comment is worth a point in calculating our weekly Top Ten. And with that, we invite you to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest if you’re not already doing so and we hope you had a very happy hooping weekend everybody!
Sex! There, I said it, and before I say anything more on the subject and how it relates to hooping and the hooping community these days I think we can probably all come to an agreement on a few key points to start. Even if you don’t believe that they really pertain to you personally in your own hooping life, if you can take a step back and allow yourself to see things from a distance a few things ring true.
1) Hooping is sexy. It’s rather undeniable, isn’t it? I mean if you want to learn how to hoop and you’re having trouble keeping it up, a big piece of the solution seems to be bringing the focus of our attention out of our heads and down into our hips. There’s a certain rocking back and forth motion that’s rather primal, whether we acknowledge it as such or not.
2) Less clothing makes hooping significantly easier. With the dawn of the modern hoop dance movement in the late 1990s came gals spinning things up in skimpy outfits, only they had a little secret. They weren’t necessarily wearing less simply to be sexy, but to make a stronger connection with their hoops. When the hoop touches skin, control of it increases dramatically. Some shoulder moves are next to impossible to learn on covered shoulders. Leg hooping secrets have been unlocked for many simply by changing into a pair of shorts.
3) In the past 15 years hooping has gone from an underground dance community movement to become something a bit more mainstream, and while it may have been easier to agree on community norms surrounding sexuality and hooping back in the day, given the smaller numbers and all of us pretty much emerging from the same or similar communities, in 2013 our opinions on the subject are probably as diverse as our now world-wide hooping community itself.
Can we agree on those bullet points? Good, because in the wake of our ever expanding community at large it seems that the sex factor, as it relates to hooping, is something that is becoming controversial. And just to be clear there’s a different standard for women than there is for men. It’s not necessarily something specific to the hooping community, not at all, but it does seem to have it’s own spin here. In most places there are laws that make it illegal for women to go topless in public, even in the midst of a sweltering heatwave, while it’s fine for men to wander around shirtless as long as they don’t expect to order in a restaurant. And if a guy makes a sexy flirty hooping video with a little less on, not only does it seem to not bother anyone, in a community that might be 80% female or more it probably even helps his YouTube rankings. Not that we’re all hung up on hot guys who can’t hoop, but for those who can there seems to be a certain degree of male objectification that we put a collective seal of approval on in our community, right down to the Dudes of Hooping Calendar. While a woman can make a hooping video wearing a bikini and someone will likely take issue with it, whether they say so or not, a guy can do a somewhat comedic strip tease through the streets of downtown Los Angeles in his tightie whiteys and you’ll overwhelmingly give him the Hoopie Award for Video of the Year.
In my independent, casual, and random surveys over the years with hoopers I’ve also found something else to be true – for some, not all. There are those in our community, particularly women, who have found that the hoop has allowed them to spin their way into a whole new level of sensuality in their lives. Some, who may have previously ignored their bodies due to body image issues and/or past violations of it, have stepped inside the circle and discovered a safe space to explore and express themselves as women. Pounds fell, self esteem rose, some even found themselves feeling sexy for the first time in ages, maybe for the first time in their lives. It’s a pretty powerful thing with a litany of very powerful stories we most likely would collectively cheer providing we knew all of the details. When we’ve shared such stories here in the past these women have really been held up and celebrated in our community.
In 2012, however, something else happened that has been making an impact on our collective dynamics as it relates to the sex factor of the hoop. The online male world discovered just how sexy hooping can be too. It’s not that that they didn’t notice before, but in 2012 they took it to a new level and in the midst of this whirlwind a relatively unknown hooper named Katie Sunshine suddenly found she had become a YouTube sensation. Single handedly racking up 7 of the Top 10 most watched YouTube hooping videos last year, there’s been a bit of a community power shift, as it were, and the inertia from it has left some with questions and others a little jealous and/or confused.
In a community that has primarily been molded by women, simply due to the sheer numbers inside the circle, suddenly we have new hoop stars – thanks in part to the attention of men who don’t hoop. Katie’s viewers weren’t all men though, not at all, and we know quite a few female hoopers who gratefully credit a Katie Sunshine video as the thing that got them inspired to take up hoop dance. That rocks, but then we’ve also seen a few of the comments Katie has received that were spun with pretty sour grapes. Some didn’t approve of her simply being sexy or of what she was wearing, even though in reality for those who have joined the circle in recent years, Katie’s hoop wear was a significantly tamer version of what the warrior women who spearheaded the modern hoop dance movement were wearing back in the day, right down to the fuzzy leg warmers. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
THEN: The Good Vibe Hoop Tribe
NOW: Katie Sunshine
I spoke with Katie about the sex factor of hooping and the hoop star who is also an elementary school teacher told me, “You’re right, hooping is inherently sexy. The way you move your stomach and hips to keep a hoop rotating looks sexy. I also believe confidence and passion are sexy. So you pair the physical moves one is making with the self-confidence and passion of the hoop-performer and even a basic hoop dance is automatically sexy! I won’t deny that one of my favorite things about hoop dancing is that it makes me feel sexy, which I don’t think is a bad thing. I should specify that when I say ‘sexy’ I’m not necessarily referring to a feeling of being sexually desirable. I’m referring to a feeling of confidence, self-possession, assurance in myself, and comfort in my own body that I get when I hoop.”
It seems to me that sexy, as she sees it, is a pretty good thing, right? Who doesn’t want to feel good about themselves? Well if that is true, then what’s the problem? Katie told me, “I think the important thing is to have clear boundaries for yourself and know what makes you comfortable, what makes you feel confident, and what gives you that sense of self-worth versus what makes you feel uncomfortable or objectified. It’s also important to understand that different hoopers will have different boundaries. Every hooper, and every person, for that matter, has a different comfort level when it comes to what they wear, how they move their body, even where they perform, and it’s all up to the hooper to decide that for themselves. I would guess this is intuitive for a lot of hoopers, so I think the most controversy arises when a female hooper doesn’t appear to know her boundaries or seems to have no regard for her own boundaries.”
In asking about the negativity she’s experienced from other hoopers Katie said, “I did have some negative comments and I have to admit, the comments definitely had more sting coming from a fellow hooper. I suppose I expected more support, more understanding and even similar sets of boundaries from another hooper. However, I simply looked at it as a misconception. What she must have perceived as me disregarding my personal boundaries was actually me acting comfortably within my own boundaries, which must be more liberal than her own. The unexpected thing was, so many of my followers came to my aid! Immediately, fans started commenting in my defense, including some hoopers, which was a very cool feeling.”
Hoopsie Daisy (left) and Company
Hooping.org’s Assistant Editor Hoopsie Daisy has performed for years with a litany of big name artists and was a member of the hoop troupe that spun off of The Good Vibe Hoop Tribe with a similar vibe, the Hoopgirl All Stars. She told me, “I think that sexy, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. What one person considers sexy, another may consider vulgar and another may consider tame. I understand not wanting all female hoopers to be considered sexual objects as opposed to talented artists, and I think that some people may be trying to protect the female hooping community by advocating for more conservative / less skimpy costumes, but the fact of the matter is that I can’t control how other people hoop or dress and I also can’t control how other people perceive anyone’s hooping or costumes. To me, the most important thing is that each person is comfortable with what they’re wearing and how they present themselves. If you can walk away feeling good about yourself, then ignore whatever other people say.”
Has she been on the receiving end of any negativity? “I’ve actually been criticized for being too sexy AND not being sexy enough, which again just goes to show that sexiness is all in the eye of the beholder. The funny thing is that when I was told that my costume was too sexy by a non-hooper once, I was wearing a pretty conservative costume. It was a halter top that completely covered my stomach worn with shorts, and my cheeks were totally covered with leggings. In other words, I had bare arms and there were a few inches of leg showing between the bottom of my shorts and the top of my leggings. I was wearing more than most women wear to the beach! Yet somehow that was ‘too sexy’. I was really taken aback by that criticism, but I didn’t let that person make me feel bad about it.”
Andi Epstein is one of those hoopers who found a personal transformation in the hoop and she teaches about the sexual benefits of hooping. She told Hooping.org, “Insecurities run deep in everyone and sometimes they surface in a direct reflection of a fellow hooper because the hoop as a tool opens, centers and connects the body and soul. This is the equation of vulnerability.” Asking about her own experience she responded, “When I first started hooping in 2005, I was a size 20 cutie with a bootie, androgynous in my lifestyle wearing surf shorts, tanks and flip flops everyday and practiced my hooping at Surfers Point, watching the surf with my guy buddies. One day this extraordinarily handsome man with large muscles ran past and later stopped by saying, ‘You look like you’re having a great time in there. I’m in town on business, would you like to meet me for coffee?’ The guys behind me screamed and embarrassed I apologetically refused, but later, sitting with my tail between my legs a newly retired surfer said, “Andi Girl, those clothes aren’t hiding anything. He’s watching your style and the way you move, get over it!” And she most certainly has.
What does she see as being the sexual benefits of hooping? “Hooping activates kundalini energy. It awakens the sleeping libido. It increases blood flow to the brain, building a strong and confident body all the while encouraging a playful sway of the hips!” What’s her take on clothing and hooping today? Andi explained, “My grandmother encouraged me to ‘dress the part’ when I ‘played a role in life’, because we fake it until we make it and sexy is an art and art is in the eye of the beholder. To this day the question ‘What role am I playing today?’ appears in my mind when I put my clothes on.”
The Vivacious Miss Audacious
It’s a question also near and dear to the heart of the Vivacious Miss Audacious, otherwise known as Audria Larsen of Audacious Hoops, a multi-faceted hooper who spends part of her time spinning things up in the burlesque world. She told me, “My good friend and yoga guru Rachel coined the phrase ‘liberate your hips’ and I use it all the time in my hoop classes. As a burlesque dancer I know that there is an unending font of opinions lobbied back and forth between women and I am often confronted with how women view strip tease, sexuality and clothing. Just because I am comfortable hooping in little shorts and a halter top, doesn’t mean you have to be. While I encourage growth of self love, body love and self confidence in anyone, as an entertainer, of course, I dress for the gig. What I love about hooping is that one day I may have a circus look and be hooping with toddlers at a church event and the next day I might be doing burlesque at a night club, and I am very careful about keeping those two things separate.”
How does it feel when she’s on the receiving end of negativity for doing what she loves? Audria told me, “If you are a woman and you think other women shouldn’t hula hoop in a bikini – which can be so joyful and freeing – then you probably should avoid those videos and scenarios. If you think burlesque is amoral, then don’t go to a show. But women hating on other women in a broad sense is damaging and un-helpful. I am the type of feminist who believes in self expression – and that includes makeup and sexuality.”
When it comes to the sex factor of hooping Milo Shucavage has never seen a hooper behaving in a way that she found unacceptable. She did note, however, “I have occasionally seen what some might deem a ‘slutty’ hooper on YouTube, but mostly those were the girls who can only hoop on their waist and I don’t generally view them as part of the hooping community. They most likely don’t even know what the hooping community is. I still don’t think they set back hooping, or make it “slutty” though. I think to each his own. Hooping often instills confidence, and it does make one feel sexy. This isn’t a negative thing in my opinion, but a positive one. Who doesn’t want to feel sexy?”
When it comes to those judgments being directed at those within our community, Milo gets pretty upset about it. She explained, “The hooping community is usually about acceptance and love and this judgment does not fit that. We should never be calling our fellow hoopers sluts. I’ve read a lot of articles and user comments really attacking women which makes me feel very angry that we’ve started to slut shame within our group. Usually these comments are from female hoopers that believe when these sexy hoopers exist it is ruining how everyone else in the world sees hooping. I don’t think this is true. Anyway who cares how the world sees it? Let’s just enjoy our hoops. I saw a lot of comments on a video posted of Babz Robinson (but not posted by her) hooping at Shambolah in pasties and undies not long ago and people downright attacked her in a vicious way saying they lost all respect for her hooping and were no longer her fans. That horrified me. She is talented, and she was at a place that what she’s wearing was the norm. She didn’t even post the video. What she’s wearing doesn’t affect her talent.”
Beth Lavinder – Photo by Cadencia Photography
Beth Lavinder has found over over the years in the hooping community that while norms may vary, her initial opinions on this subject have changed. She told Hooping.org, “I do think there are different ‘norms’ within different communities and I have to confess that in the beginning, 10 years ago or so, I had to face my own inhibitions and figure out what was acceptable for me. I was never a physically confident person in my youth – when I probably had every reason to access that inherent confidence. Hooping with a blindfold meant that I could avoid some of those triggers that challenged my comfort levels and self confidence. In the blindfold my imagination and self image were unlimited and it was often a ‘singing in the shower’ kind of experience where I felt absolutely amazing. On YouTube I saw footage of beautiful women dancing in costumes made from about the same amount of fabric as my blindfold and I struggled a bit with my own internally created pressures. Fortunately, the hoop has been a great teacher and I’ve learned to go with how something feels and let go of how it looks. Perhaps growing older has helped me along that path a bit as well. And of course, our hooping community is rich and composed of women of every size and shape and age and I find that heartening and inspiring. I love the variety of folks drawn to the hoop and the individual beauty and yes, sensuality, that each of us emits.”
Has Beth experienced being on the other end of any unwanted objectification? Beth told me, “Well yes, this happens quite often. It kind of sucks. I tend to be uber sensitive and have certainly not enjoyed the feeling of being oggled or jeered at for being a woman who dances with a hoop. I can understand some discomfort or non-understanding of exactly what kind of dance this is supposed to be. But I don’t see myself as overtly sexual or flirty in the way that I move with a hoop. It’s not really my nature – although the hoop has brought a bit of that out in me as well. Honestly I’ve often been shocked that people read it that way to that extent because often times when I’m dancing I feel athletic and expressive, but not overly sexual. It reminds me of bit of being a carpenter in my 20s and having new crew members make a disparaging or sexist remark about the fact that I was a woman carpenter. But once they got to know me or work with me, that usually disappeared. I see it as an expression of discomfort about something new when I’m feeling generous. And I see it as a result of feeling threatened by seeing a woman empowered and capable in her body and with her skills when I’m feeling cynical. Perhaps it’s a similar thing with hooping.”
Beth could be right. Is there anything more threatening than seeing a woman empowered and capable in her body, particularly if you’re a woman who isn’t? While I personally don’t identify, being a male hooper, I do know I didn’t make a hooping video for years after an early one of me ended up being the subject of several fat jokes. So when I finally decided to make one I wanted to head things off at the pass and annihilate my own inner critic. Confronting my own body image issues and comfort levels and sexuality and empowerment proved to be quite the personally liberating journey. It has been for others as well.
Hoopsie Daisy notes, “Have you ever had a weird sweater or a crazy piece of jewelry that everyone thought was hideous but you wore it anyway because you loved it? That’s how you need to feel about your costumes, your sexiness, and your hooping. As long as you feel good about what you’re doing and how you look, then what other people say doesn’t really matter. Hooping really encourages people to get in touch with their sensuality, so hoopers may find themselves on a journey of discovery. It’s okay for your feelings about sexiness to change too! If you feel more comfortable being more covered up, then don’t let yourself feel peer pressured to wear a bikini top with booty shorts to hoop.”
Audria, however, encourages those who might be uncomfortable with their own hooping sex factor to try taking it for a test drive. She says, “If you aren’t comfortable moving in a certain way in public, do it for yourself in the privacy of your own space anyway. I often tell my students who are just finding their flow or learning to thigh hoop, etc. to go home and when no one is around, to put on a tiny outfit, amazing music and hoop your brains out.”
What advice does Katie have to share with others about it? She told me, “First of all, I would tell a fellow hooper that there’s nothing wrong with feeling sexy. There’s nothing wrong with having passion, self-confidence, a good attitude, high self-esteem and being comfortable in your own skin. Just be sure to know without a doubt your own boundaries and where you draw the lines. Also know that your boundaries will be different than other people’s, maybe even other hooper’s, but that’s ok as long as your comfortable with yourself and your not harming anyone. Finally, don’t be afraid to defend your own boundary choices. Personally, I’ve been asked to perform in costumes that crossed the line for me. However, I was direct in letting them know that it made me uncomfortable, I wore something else, and the show went on, better than ever because I wasn’t self-conscious about my outfit. Just take some time to reflect and decide what makes you feel sexy and where you will create your boundaries.”
Philo Hagen is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He’s been spinning things up online and off since April 2003. Co-Founder of the Bay Area Hoopers and LA Hoopers hoop groups, Philo has performed internationally and has won Hoopie Awards for Male Hooper of the Year and Video of the Year. He lives in Los Angeles, California, USA.
Beth Lavinder takes time out to spin up some of her own special blend of awesomeness following a workshop that she taught in Ottawa. She lives in Carrboro, North Carolina, USA, where she is an inspiration to many near and far. The video was filmed by Trish Stolte of Sirenhoops and we’re happy she was able to catch this beautiful moment. The soundtrack is “Steal Your Love” by Lucinda Williams and you can a copy of it for yourself very easily on iTunes.
[Hooping.org Assistant Editor Natasha “Hoopsie Daisy” Young shares why every woman should hoop. Parental guidance suggested.]
Hooping does so many great things for us. It tones the abs, encourages laughter, creates friendships, and does a million other things. Today, however, I have something to share with the girls about another benefit of hooping people generally don’t talk about, one that you probably won’t see advertised on hula hoop company websites. Are you ready for it? Hooping made my cramps go away. Seriously. Did you know that working on your flow might make your time with Aunt Flo a little bit easier?
Back in college, my cramps decided to ratchet themselves up to a degree I hadn’t known was possible. The first day of my period felt like a 24-hour flu. In addition to cramps that had me doubled over in pain, I had the chills. One minute I was sweating and the next minute I was freezing. I completely lost my appetite to the point where even thinking of my favorite foods made me want to vomit. My cramps had me so immobilized that I could barely move. Sometimes I would sit frozen in place because I was convinced that if I just stayed very still, at the very least I wouldn’t feel any worse. Moving meant risking the pain getting worse. Sometimes I would call in sick to work so that I could stay curled up in bed with a bottle of water and a bottle of Advil. I tried all kinds of remedies, some of which are contradictory: avoiding dairy the week before, having extra dairy the week before, rubbing pennyroyal oil on my belly, exercising more, drinking more water, etc., but I couldn’t shake that day of feeling like I had the flu.
It’s time for our weekly Top Ten List everybody! Every week we count down our top ten most buzz worthy posts of the week (as based on reader response) and we are starting things off at number ten and working our way up to the number one spot of the week. What was heating up the hoopersphere this time around? Here’s what climbed into Hooping.org’s Top Ten for April 14 – 20th, 2013.
10: We kick things off this week with a beautiful photo of Beth Lavinder in Bali (100 Points).
9: Coming in at number 9 was an awesome hooping video from Nicole Stark in Berlin (111 Points).
8: And then we take you Road Trip Hooping with Brooke and Mallory (119 Points).
7: The latest advice from Hoopalicious proved to be smart and popular: Ask Hoopalicious: Handling Handsy Hoop Fans (120 Points).
6: Michelle is 29 Weeks Pregnant and Still Hooping, to the delight of all (125 Points).
5: In her video Erika reminded us all that Practice Makes Perfection (133 Points).
4: At number four this week we met the judges for our exciting third season – Hooping Idol 3: Let’s Meet the Judges (179 Points).
3: Five Hooping Idol finalists were eliminated and our next theme was announced – Hooping Idol 3: 90s Dance Hits Week Results Show (181 Points).
2: Everybody got excited about Self Magazine Hooping It Up with Kelly Osbourne (263 Points).
1: And at number one this week, and already setting records, was the exciting return of Hooping Idol and our first challenge – Hooping Idol 3: 90s Dance Hits Week (1,438 Points).
That’s our Top Ten List for this week, and remember that if you see something you appreciate here (or anywhere online), it only takes a second to “Like” it or leave a comment so share the hoop love and make someone’s day. YAY! Each like, share or comment is worth a point in calculating our weekly Top Ten. With that, we invite you to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Tumblr if you’re not already doing so and we hope you had a very happy hooping weekend everybody!