by Philo Hagen
We’ve been having an ongoing conversation in the staff lounge here at Hooping.org about the current state of the hooping community for awhile now. We’ve seen things that have disturbed us, and we weren’t really sure what to do about them. We’ve heard even more that have kind of made our skin crawl too. We’re not the only ones. Sharna Rose recently shared on Facebook, “Hoop life on the Internet is starting to repulse me. I sound old, but I remember a time when it was beautiful. I watch debates rise and fall, childish arguments escalate, more sex and money than love. Its becoming like false Gods causing wars between factions. It’s just a plastic circle. Oh dear how blasphemous I am.”
We love Sharna Rose, and we remember a time when it was beautiful too. And yes – it is just a plastic circle, but then again, it’s so much more. Back in April of 2003 when hooping.org began, there was very little about this thing called hooping online. I’d attended a party in the San Francisco Bay Area where Jason Strauss had handed me a large adult-sized hoop. Giving it a spin, I was transported out of my head and into my body. Being fully present inside the center of my own rotation was exhilarating! Once home, I scoured the web for information. I found out Hoopalicious was teaching classes down in Los Angeles. I also found Betty Hoops, who was teaching in New York City and sharing about some of the amazing benefits. That was essentially all that was out there though. Knowing that the world needed to know more about this super cool thing called hooping, a few of us got together and hooping.org was born. We arrived before Facebook, YouTube, even MySpace, and we’ve been keeping things spinning ever since.
When the site began we had community forums that not only proved to be invaluable, it’s where we all initially found each other. Baxter, Spiral and Stefan came rolling in. Anna, Babz, Bunny, Caroleeena, Christabel, Diana, Kandice, Kara, Lara, Rayna, Sass and many more spun in as well, and it really was a beautiful time. We were all in one place and we were so excited to find other people who loved this hooping thing as much as we did!
Now let’s talk a little more about this hoop love thing, shall we? You gotta remember that the roots of the modern hooping movement all trace to The String Cheese Incident, a bluegrass meets rock and electronica hippie jam band from Colorado. They began tossing these large adult-sized hoops out into the audience at their concerts in the mid to late 1990’s. Some of our hooping luminaries mentioned above discovered hooping at one of their shows, and once hooping.org’s forums launched a community began. Some of those same awesome hoops and hoopers started showing up at raves too, and at places like Burning Man, which in turn inspired more to step inside the circle. Whether we were hippies or ravers or burners, however, we all had one thing in common. We were all very liberal and pretty much rooted in a place of love, something that simply came along with our love for the hoop and our fellow hoopers. The Hoop Love was pretty much a given, it’s who we all were.
Two years later, hooping.org’s forums were hacked and everything was deleted. It was a sad day when we discovered our hosting company had never made those promised weekly back ups either, so we relocated our hooping community to Tribe.net. Many who were around back then will recall that time as the true renaissance of the modern hooping movement. And yes, my dearest hula hoopers, hula hoops were still something your grandma played with back then. Hooping was something new and different, and our dropping the word “hula” brought a language that helped conveyed that. Hula Hoop trademark lawsuits tossed at some by Wham-o really helped cement that philosophy too, even if we did end up falling in love with all of our hula hooping friends along the way too.
The Tribe years were golden, loving and supportive. We were still all in one place. The community was small enough too that if you saw someone at an event with a hoop, you either already knew them online, or you had six friends in common. Everything was going so well, until Tribe.net started collapsing. There were major outages, sometimes for days or weeks at a time. They’d gone from a staff of 35 down to a staff of 2 and when the second to last person handed in their resignation, I started working on bringing hooping.org’s community forums back, using an ill-fated software called Elgg. Meanwhile, SaFire and others started their own business rooted communities on Ning. Elgg was very cool, an entirely open source social networking package by the people for the people. It was all just so gosh darn politically wonderful, how could it go wrong? Well, it did, and after hooping.org’s Elgg forums folded back in 2010, we tried it again with a different software system that also ended up becoming problematic. We had to shut the second one down two years later as well.
Our hooping community on this brand new thing called Facebook, however, was growing by leaps and bounds. We thought we’d just stay there and at the height of it we had nearly 8,000 pretty active members – and then we were thrown another curveball. Facebook decided to kill off all of their existing groups, forcing everyone to move over to something new they’d developed – Pages. Tired and a little defeated at the time, I personally came to the conclusion that maybe hooping.org just needed to forget about the whole community thing. It was our third strike, even if it was through no fault of our own. Maybe enough was enough.
Since that time Ning too fell out of fashion. Pinterest and Instagram rose. Newer Facebook groups have tried making something happen in an effort to serve up a yummy slice of community. Some have been more successful than others. As for the community as a whole, however, we’ve really been all over the place – and the end result has been leaving a rather bitter taste in our mouth. We mean nobody any harm or discouragement in saying so though. In fact, we whole heartedly salute everyone out there who has been trying to make something happen. We have nothing but applause for all of them because we know first hand just how much work it can involve. It’s the primary reason we’ve been hesitant to step back into the community circle with a solution as well – until now.
In light of recent events we’ve all come to an agreement that it’s time to help bring the community norm of hoop love back, before we see it disappear once and for all. It’s been such an important dynamic within our community, and it’s one we here at hooping.org do not want to lose. We all deserve to be treated with love and respect, to receive support and encouragement in our hooping journey, to be lifted up on our path. That’s why we lined up the launch of our new Facebook community group with the stars themselves to help guide us along the way. Whether you’re astrologically inclined or not, humor us.
Uranus and Pluto have been battling things out over the last few years. There’s been a lot of struggle and disharmony as a result. They had their final tense battle on March 16th. Today, however, is not only the first day of Spring, a day of perfect balance between light and dark that promises more light in our lives in the months to come, it is also a new moon that brings with it a total solar eclipse. This eclipse in Pisces is one to purge hearts of sorrow and welcome greater happiness back into our lives. They’re calling it an 11:11 Portal, and what can we say – we do love our portals! That’s why we’re inviting you all today to step on through and join us in resetting the hoop love norm in our brand new space on Facebook, and everywhere else that you are currently spinning things up online and off. Our new Facebook group is an inclusive hoop love space for all, a place to grow and meet and become friends and hoop it up. It’s also a place where we can lovingly let people know that what may be okay somewhere else, really isn’t here, so can collectively celebrate this thing we all love so much. Our entire staff is stepping up to help admin the group because we collectively saw that this was something that really needed to happen. So won’t you join us? We’d be happy to have you in the mix.
Having been at the helm of hooping.org for so long, I know that I see and hear things that most never know about. With that sometimes comes a unique perspective, and a rather paternal one. I care about this movement, how it started, where we’ve been, and I really care about where we are going. Let’s have that be a place that everyone who finds the circle will want to step into and really be a part of.
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.