Hoop Dance in D.C.
It’s okay. To answer your first question, I was never able to hula hoop as a kid, either.
To answer your second one, it’s not the same thing.
Hoop … dance?
Hoop dance, often called hooping, has its modern origins in early 90s festivals. Jam band The String Cheese Incident became known for tossing hoops into the grooving audience, and the art of hoop dance was born among counter-culture. Kind of hilarious, as the Hula Hoop was born in the 1950s with no artistic or counter-culture intent — simply a toy to sell to the masses for a buck fifty a pop.
Far from counter-culture now, hoop dancing is everywhere. Think of dance hoops as the bright hippie cousins to the drug store plastic hoop you owned as a kid. Dance hoops are heavier and larger than Hula Hoops, which sounds scary, but most people find dance hoops easier to keep up and get spinning.
Spinning right round
Keeping it up around your waist is pretty basic Hoop Dance 101, but it’s far from the end-all-be-all of hoop skills. Exploring dance with the hoop involves learning to give it a spin around arms, feet and neck, as well as simply exploring the hoop in space and playing with where it can go and what it can do. Moves such as tosses and isolations have nothing to do with that initial spin that so many find intimidating to try — but so liberating when they succeed.
What drew me first to hooping was what draws me to a lot of things: it’s pretty. Hoopers are almost always sleek, skilled dancers in bright clothes, listening to hypnotic music — and boy, are they happy. More than any other exercise or dance I’ve ever done, hoopers are a joyful lot, taking their love of the hoop to spiritual levels. Hooping can be meditative, and hoopers often use the image of the circle and the feeling of spin to center, ground and de-stress themselves.
And the joy persists through hooping’s massive popularity. Companies such as Hoopnotica and Hooping.org are the evangelists to the masses, offering hoops, accessories and online classes. Since 2006, there’s even a World Hoop Day held on the first Saturday of October to promote world peace and general well-being.
Hoopnotica is currently the leading certifier of hoop instructors, and their page lists several happy, smiling instructors who teach all over the country and in the D.C. Metro area. Hooping classes have the excellent benefit of being easily set up; have hoop, will travel. Classes are far from the only way to meet other hoopers — hoopers love to take their hoops everywhere from Rock Creek Park to the National Mall and “jam” as a group! Hooping is far from dangerous, so those that feel like a class isn’t their thing are encouraged to purchase a hoop online (sites such as Hoopnotica offer several vendors) and learn from online classes.
Truly, there are few forms of cardio more gleeful than hooping to some great music in the backyard (the dog tends to stare) or on the beach (the other beachgoers tend to stare). But if setting your spiritual center spinning isn’t enough to get you into a hooping class, consider this — hooping burns upwards of 600 calories an hour.
Health editor, Tini Howard is a writer, aerialist and foodie from the East Coast.