What is Hooping?
Hoops have been found in ancient Greece, documented on pieces of pottery and other preserved images, and have been a familiar toy shape throughout the ages. The modern hoop emerged In 1958, when Wham-O introduced Hula Hoops to the North American market. The toy was based on bamboo hoops seen in Australian gym classes and named for the Hawaiian dance that it was thought to resemble. Modern hoopers drop the “Hula” from the name, both to show respect for Hula dancing and to claim Hooping as its own style.
Small hoops are used in North American Native hoop dancing, traditionally by shamen and medicine men to provide healing visions, but increasingly by native dancers who use the hoops to tell stories through movement while entertaining the audience. Large hoops are a newer modification, handmade from poly tubing and decorated with colourful tape or fabric. The String Cheese Incident, a jam-band that often plays at outdoor venues with huge amounts of space for dancing, started tossing hoops out into the crowds at their concerts, and they are often given credit for initiating the modern interpretation of hoop dancing. From jam-bands to the rave scene and fire-spinning culture, hooping is slowly spreading through the world both as a dance style and a fitness trend.
Fitness hooping comes in many flavours: Lumpy hoops that promise to decrease cellulite while you lose inches, heavy hoops that are used more as props and weights for leaning and lifting than they are for spinning around your waist, and multiple kid-size hoops used circus-style with a hoop spinning on every limb. Fitness instructors who have actually experienced hoop dance have created classes that incorporate the best of both worlds: the moves and tricks culled from hoop dancing combined with knowledge of actual muscle use, conditioning techniques, and cues for good body mechanics. Class participants experience elevated heart rates from the workout, but it is the FUN of hooping that they remember!
Hoop Dance also lends itself to both solo and troupe performance. In Vancouver, fire hoops are becoming a common sight at Public Dreams events, usually performed by one or two dancers. Internationally, the Barbarellas are reigning in Australia, while GrooveHoops are a well-known collective of hoopers in New York, and Anah and Christabel of California’s Spin Babes travel the world performing and teaching hoop dance. Looking for hoopers in your neighbourhood? Visit hooping.org for updated information about regional hoop groups!