What is Hoop Dance?
Modern hoop dance has served many as a tool for achieving self-confidence, embodiment, empowerment, and mindfulness; a gateway into dance and a multigenerational source of play. It is familiar enough to evoke a willingness to try, yet mystifying enough to deeply resonate with colorful and eccentric people.
Benefits of Hooping
Physical benefits: hula hooping increases coordination, core strength, flexibility, motor skills, endurance, tones the entire body, and burns up to 600 calories in a 60 minute session according to the American Council on Exercise. Many experts cite hoop dancing as being great physical activity for many age groups; excellent for development in children and becoming increasingly popular with seniors who want fun ways to stay active.
Emotional benefits: many have reported that having a regular hoop dance practice has helped them achieve "the flow state," a therapeutic psychological state of "total involvement" coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Further, dancing has been found to elevate mood, help with anxiety and depression, and reduce stress.
Social benefits: by engaging in a hoop practice, one exposes themselves to one of the most supportive and inclusive communities out there, the hooping community. Additionally, I have seen many folks conquer the "I Can't" mentality. By learning new skills and setting short- and long-term goals in their practice, hoop dance has helped many become more confident and self actualized.
Additional benefits: Movement has been found to help folks with debilitating illnesses such as Parkinson's Disease, as well as helping people with developmental disabilities gain motor control. Folks who get serious about hooping may be able to develop careers or part-time work through it, by teaching, performing, or whatever other business avenue they decide to take.
What size hoop do I use?
First thing's first, you need to pick an appropriately sized hoop. Many people say to measure the diameter up to the belly button, but I advocate that total beginners try one that comes up to about the sternum (38"-44"), just so they can get the rhythm of on-body hooping before moving on to tricks. Contrary to popular belief, the heavier thew hoop, the easier it is to use on-body. For handmade "professional" hoops, there are a few options for tubing. black PE (polyethylene) hoops are great (100, 125, and 160 PSI, 3/4" or 1" width), and for those seeking smaller, mid- to lightweight hoops, there is polypro (polypropylene) and HDPE (high density polyethylene), coming in widths ranging from 1/2" (ridiculously small) to 1" (a total handful). 5/8" or 3/4" width polypro or HDPE in 30-36" is a great "everything hoop" for on- and off-body, depending on your height and size.
Where do I get a hoop?
I always advocate supporting a local hoopsmith who crafts hoops by hand with love, if you have the option. Hoops sold at big box stores are made cheaply in factories, and tend to break and kink easily. Those are only appropriate for very young children who want to try it out, in my opinion. If you are local to Buffalo, NY, I make and sell beginner taped PE hoops for $35 each. I can also teach you and a group of friends how to make one, providing all supplies, in one of my hoop making parties. If there are no sellers in your area, hoop sponsor Pop Lock and Hoop It makes quality, gorgeous hoops and you will get 10% off with my discount code "BerryHoops."
Where do I learn to hoop?
Since hooping is so physical, the best way to learn for many is through experiential learning. As with purchasing a hoop, I recommend supporting your local hoop community leaders by purchasing group or private lessons from them. There are plenty of free resources for learning, as well. Local "hoop jams" where many hoopers and movers gather to play and often skill-share are a great place to look to learn and connect with a local tribe of friends. For people who wish to learn in private from the security of their living room, I offer private and semi-private lessons in the Buffalo, NY, area and sometimes travel and teach (schedule and details here). YouTube also has an abundance of free hoop tutorials online. Deanne Love, Hoopsmiles, and Babz Robinson were a few channels that helped me exponentially in the first year of my practice.
Where did hooping originate?
While the modern plastic hula hoop was patented by the company Wham-O in 1958, people have been depicted dancing with circles since ancient civilizations. From hoops made of vines in 3000 B.C. Egypt to wooden "rolling" hoops in Greece; from the metal hooping craze of 14th century England to the beautiful shape-based storytelling of Native American hoop dance, hoops have served as a universal source of recreation, exercise, and art. Rhythmic gymnastics and hoop juggling have emerged as modalities of Olympic sport and circus performance. Since the 1990's, the modern hoop dance movement has emerged and exploded worldwide through the culture of musical group String Cheese Incident, the Burning Man festival, and the online community built by sites such as Hooping.org. Today, hooping continues to evolve and thrive!