Thursday, 20 December 2012

The big D.

Despite all the good things that have been going on in my life, it’s been challenging times in my little corner of the world recently.

The black dog has paid me a visit, for the first time in about six years. The black dog has been my companion since my teenage years, mostly staying in the background, but occasionally attacking me with sudden, sharp ferocity. I like dogs, so perhaps that’s not a good analogy. It felt like a gradual ascent into a black pit – it began with the realisation of a low-level sadness running through my days and reached its zenith when I found myself on a stormy Sunday afternoon, after a bust-up at home, at the beach contemplating walking into the wild waves and never coming back.

That’s when I began to cry and couldn’t stop. That’s when I realised I needed help.

For those who have never suffered depression, it’s hard to understand. It’s not just feeling sad. My experience of depression is a literal absence of colour: when I look around all I see is grey. I feel completely alone, disconnected from my loved ones. I feel trapped down the black pit and I’m looking up and seeing, at a far distance, light and happiness and life – but I can’t be part of it because I’m down in the darkness. It’s struggling to fall asleep at night and hoping I never wake up in the morning. It’s nasty voices in my head telling me how worthless and useless I am. It’s feeling like nothing good will ever happen to me again.

Yet most people wouldn’t have a clue that anything is wrong with me because I’m really skilled at hiding it when I feel I need to. Perhaps that’s not such a good thing…

I think I’m coming out the other side now, hopefully. I still have bad days but the possibility of feeling joy again seems real. John has cared for me tenderly and I’ve had several sessions with a counsellor I trust. Depression always has something to teach me, so I’ve been looking for the lesson. I know I need to make some changes in how I live my daily life and I’m trying to work through that.

Throughout these dark weeks, hooping has been one of the few things to make me feel like a “normal” person. I’ve continued to hoop, even on the days I felt like I was barely capable of lifting my hoop. I’ve even continued to teach, although now most of my teaching has finished for the year. Even the big D couldn’t destroy the joy hooping - and teaching hoopdance - brings me, although my joy is a muted one, as if felt at a distance. Because I haven’t had much energy I haven’t been at my usual spot in the gym; mostly I’ve hooped for short periods of time in the garden, in the sunshine - sunshine is definitely good for my state of mind!

I have had some wonderful hooping experiences recently, including hooping on the beach with some of my students, hooping with my youngest nieces, and taking part in a celebration for World Hoop Day. All of which have helped, in their own way, to nudge me back towards the light.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Some thoughts on teaching.

My first term of teaching hoopdance is nearly at an end … boo-hoo!

My mother has always said I should be a teacher of some esoteric skill, and it seems she was right. I’ve adored this term of teaching more than I ever thought I would – it’s not merely something I have to do; I actually look forward each week to my class. I always come home from class feeling super positive and energised.

And I think I’m okay at teaching. I still have a lot to learn, of course. I’ve certainly learned a lot about the right and wrong way to teach hooping during the past eight weeks. I’m good at breaking a move down to show my students, I think I explain everything well, and I’m patient. I also suspect I’m good at conveying my utter joy in hooping [ie, obsession] to my students, something I believe is important for any teacher. But I do struggle with troubleshooting. If a student is having problems nailing a move, I’m not so good at working out why she isn’t succeeding. So that’s something I have to work on.

Next year I plan to do some formal training in hoopdance and hopefully that will round out my teaching skills even more.

I reminded my students during this week’s class that the course was nearly finished, and it was gratifying to see their disappointment. Nearly all of them have asked me to teach a level 2 course for them next year, and it looks likely that will happen. My students [aged between 30 and 70] are bright, bubbly, enthusiastic and positive women, and each class is full of laughter, clapping and encouragement. I feel so sad about saying good-bye to them for the year!

Do you remember the woman I met on the beach? She comes to every class religiously and is probably my most dedicated student, with a devotion to hooping that nearly matches my own. She’s a joy to teach! And it all happened because of a chance meeting on the beach.

Any way, I’m glad to say my teaching isn’t over for the year. I also teach a class at the gym I attend and this will run right till the end of the year. This is quite a different class – it’s a drop-in class, with new and experienced students coming along every week. That provides a whole different type of challenge, as I need to provide instruction for numerous levels of hooping. It’s actually a very relaxed, fun class, and I enjoy it as much as the other class.

I have plans for another type of hooping class for next year … more about that later!

Happy hooping,
Anne-Marie x

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The rock star of hoopdance.

Today I am sharing this video of the divine Anah "Hoopalicious" Reichenbach for you to enjoy. Anah was the second hoopdancer I ever discovered [after Spiral], when I went searching for hooping videos on YouTube. I just love her style. She's so funky. She's the rock star of the hooping world ... and next year [all fingers and toes crossed] I will get to meet her and learn from her!!!!!
I'm a member of a Facebook group for New Zealand hoopers. Recently I logged in and my hoop brother, Richie, from Taranaki, had posted me a one-word message: HOOPALICIOUS?! So I knew something was up. My feed for the hooping group came up and there I found this post:
"Hiya New Zealand!! Hoopalicious here ... I am thinking of coming to your part of the globe in late May 2013. Do you ladies and gents want a workshop? One day? Three days?? And what would be the best city? AND of course I will want to stay for an extra handful of days to enjoy New Zealand ... Who wants to play?!"
My newsroom colleagues wondered what was wrong when I SQUEALED!
As I explained to my football-mad beloved, it would be like David Beckham coming to New Zealand and offering to do a coaching session with his social football team.
Watch the video and you’ll see why I’m so excited at the possibility of learning from this incredible hoopdancer.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Hoop meets the gym.

Yet another item to be added to this year's list of Things I Thought I'd Never Do: I've joined a gym.
And not only have I joined a gym, I've been going to the gym several times a week. This morning I was at the gym! Working out! At 8am!
Of course, I have an ulterior motive in joining the gym. I go there to hoop. You knew I was going to say that, didn't you?
I live in New Zealand, where the only thing you can predict about the weather is that it will be unpredictable. It's often rainy, often windy. I love to hoop outside, but in winter and spring - when the weather is at its wettest, windiest and coldest - it's difficult to hoop outside. And there's not enough room in our house to hoop.Oh, how I'd love to have my own hooping studio! But failing that, I decided to join the gym.
The gym has a room off to the side with a nice clear floor space and a full-length mirror - absolutely perfect for hooping. There are weights in this room which people sometimes come in to use; but there are never more than a few people at one time there. At the start I got some odd looks from gym patrons when I turned up with my hoops but now they're used to me.
And I'm used to the gym. In fact, I love it. I still hoop at home when I can, but going to the gym is like a regular date with my hoop. I go to the gym after dinner, when it's very quiet, to do my practice. It makes such a difference having a mirror to practise in front of because I can see how my moves actually look, rather than just assuming they're okay by feel. So often I think my hoop is moving in a smooth vertical plane - I get in front of the mirror and realise it's wobbling all over the place! I also do some yoga and some work with resistance bands at the gym, both of which help to strengthen my muscles and joints.
Going to the gym has sharpened my focus. I set myself a new goal each week relating to my hoop practice, and spend my practice sessions working towards that goal. Hooping really does reward hard work. I can begin a week completely unable to execute a move and by the end of the week it's been smoothly added to my repertoire. It's a great feeling.
I'm still not sure what I want to do with my hooping. Will it only ever be a fun hobby? Could I one day be a professional teacher, performer, hoop-maker, or a combination of all three? I can't answer those questions yet ... all I know is that I feel driven to be the best hoopdancer I can be.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Dance yourself.

"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open."  - Martha Graham.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Lesson plans.

I spent some time over the weekend working on lesson plans for my eight-week hooping course, which starts on Wednesday. I've had my plans roughed out for a while but I went into it more detail with it over the weekend. {I have a special journal for planning which has been scribbled in a lot recently - mostly hooping stuff and wedding stuff! That's where I've been writing my lesson plans.}

I love going back to the very first moves I learned in March and April, and dissecting them for my students. These days I do a lift-up without thinking about it {I could probably do it in my sleep} but it wasn't so long ago the lift-up was my holy grail of hooping. I watched clip after clip on YouTube, trying to work out how to do it! I think that move is a thrill for most new beginners - being able to lift the hoop off the body for the very first time. So I've been going over this and other moves, pulling them apart and working out how I will explain and demonstrate each one for my students.

Last week the manager of a local gym and I negotiated for me to teach a hooping class there, too. This class will be promoted as hoop fitness rather than hoop dance, so I'll probably have to come up with a different set of lesson plans for that course. It doesn't start till next month, though, so I'll focus on it later.

I really love this, you know? I love planning my lessons - even though I know they could go right out the window once the course starts! At least I'll still have those guidelines. I love taking each move apart in order to be able to teach them. And I'm really looking forward to meeting all my students. {I have 15 of them - the class sold out two weeks ago!} I just know teaching them, watching them connect with the hoop, will be a joy.

Happy hooping,
Anne-Marie x

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Size matters.... least, it does when it comes to hoops. Finding the right-sized hoop for you can make learning to hoop so much easier. As you progress, you learn to hoop with hoops of all weights and sizes, but beginners need a proper beginners' hoop.

People often think they should learn to hoop with a small, light hoop - but in fact the opposite is true. Many of the students I taught during the adult education week arrived at class with their $5 hoops from The Warehouse. "I could hoop when I was a kid," they said, "but now I can't." I gave them one of my beginners' hoops to try and within minutes most of them were hooping happily away. We had quite a collection of The Warehouse hoops propped up against the wall during that class!

Those little hoops are made for children, mostly. [I can hoop with them, but not easily.] If you're a beginning hooper - forget about them, or give them to your kids.

The generally accepted rule of thumb for a beginners' hoop is that when you stand it on the ground it should reach your tummy button, or just above. For most people a hoop between 99 and 106cm [39" and 42"] would be just fine. If you are very petite, you'll want something smaller, and if you're very curvy or very tall, you'll want something larger.

Why is it easier to learn with a big heavy hoop rather than a little light hoop? Well, that's getting into the realm of physics, which was never my strong point! So to put it simply, a big hoop turns more slowly around your body, giving you more time to make your moves. This is what you need as a beginner, as you imprint hooping into your muscle memory.

Happy hooping!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Spring dance.

I wanted to do something special to mark the spring equinox, which this year fell on 23rd September. Of course, my first thought was to do something hoop-related. It was a glorious day, just a few fluffy clouds in a dazzling blue sky and no wind.
So I took my newest and most favourite polypro hoop [a pale pink one - appropriate for spring], and headed down to the beach for a bit of hoop loving by the waves. I found myself a flat patch of sand beneath the sand dunes and began to dance.
For what was I believe the first time ever I felt like the graceful hoop dancer I've longed to be these past seven months. [And, let's be honest, I've had a secret hankering to be a graceful dancer my entire life.] I guess you'd say I found my flow. Every move was smooth and effortless, even the ones I've been struggling with recently. I actually felt beautiful.
I hooped without stopping for about 20 minutes, every movement a prayer of gratitude to God. I was thankful for the sea, the warm sunshine, my hoop, my good health, my loved ones, my upcoming marriage. And I was grateful for the unfolding spring. I love this time of the year, with the promise of summer and warm days to come.

My meditation was broken by the sound of coughing - a light, apologetic cough - behind me. I turned to see a woman standing there. "I'm so sorry to disturb you, but I just had to talk to you. Are you involved with the hoopdancing class at CES next term?"

I laughed and told her I was the teacher.

"Oh good. I thought you must have been." She told me how she'd heard about the hoopdancing class and had been trying to decide whether to take it or not. She really wanted to, but her friend thought it was stupid.

"But now that I've seen you hooping I've decided I will take your class. I'm going home right now to fill out the enrolment form."

We talked for about 10 minutes, and she told me how she loved to hoop as a child but hadn't done it since. "Seeing you do it - well, it just reminded me of myself as a child, and how happy it made me. I want to feel like that again."

When she had gone - "see you in class!" she said gleefully as she left - I continued my dance for a little longer, overflowing with gratitude and happiness.

Life is good ... but hooping makes it great.

Happy hooping,
Anne-Marie x

Sunday, 16 September 2012


Late night hooping. Photo by Claire French.

I haven't done a lot of hooping since I returned from Under The Spinfluence. I learned a lot of new stuff which I want to keep practising ... but while the spirit may be willing, the body is flat out exhausted and needs a wee break.

I began hooping within 10 minutes of arriving at Spinfluence [after a three-hour drive] and for the rest of the weekend I stopped only for meals, for the evening concerts, to read for a bit [when the weather was bad] and to snatch a few hours' sleep. Most people at the festival were hippies or circus freaks - I'm neither, but I did find some other dedicated [obsessive] hoopers that I connected with. Together we probably hooped for a minimum of around 10 hours each day we were there.

I had intended to take workshops in poi, fire fans, acrobalancing, yoga, and so on. But once I got there all I wanted to do was hoop. I took two amazing hooping workshops - one was a tricks lab with the dynamic Frenchy, the other was a breaks workshop with the stunningly talented Natasha. Natasha's workshop was responsible for the horrible bruise you can see here. In fact, everyone who took Natasha's workshop got variations of that bruise ... so I've dubbed it the Natasha bruise.

It was a truly nourishing weekend and perfect in every way, despite the stormy weather! I needed a break from my routine at home. I needed the time and space to dedicate to hooping. I got all of these, and while I've come home tired in body I'm feeling refreshed in soul.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Hooping war wounds.

How's this for an impressive bruise? I got this bruise, plus a few other nice ones, from too much hooping at Under the Spinfluence. This is what happens when you learn arm breaks, then practise them non-stop for about three hours. True story.

Any way, I've just returned from Spinfluence ... happy, sleep-deprived, bruised and physically weary. [And a little freaked out from driving home during a very scary storm.]

More later when I've had some time to recover.

Happy hooping,
Anne-Marie x

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

More hooping excitement.

Yet another exciting hooping event is happening this week. On Friday I'm heading south to Wainuiomata, near Wellington, for Under The Spinfluence. Just like with my first hooping class, I feel giddy with anticipation and also a wee bit nervous about Under The Spinfluence.
I feel giddy at the thought of being surrounded by other hoopers for two whole days. Two days to dedicate myself to hooping and other fun circus arts such as poi, fire fans, acrobalancing and even a bit of yoga. But the nervousness comes when I realise all those people are complete strangers - and I will be living in close quarters with them for those two days. The camp where all this is happening is in the middle of nowhere, with not even a cellphone signal
But I'm going and I'm stoked about going. I hope to come back full of inspiration! I'm keeping an open mind on what will go down at the workshops ... but I do want to pick up some teaching tips and of course a slew of fancy new hoop moves.
I am naturally a cautious person but when it comes to hooping I seem to have the ability to push through my caution and my fears, and do what needs to be done. I've taught a class and I've been hooping at the Saturday morning market and even though the prospect of both has scared me, I've done them anyway. It's the same with this hooping festival. Feel the fear and do it anyway, and all that.

See you when I get back.

Monday, 3 September 2012

First class.

Tonight I taught my first formal hoopdance class.

I've taught dozens of people to hoop in an informal setting but teaching formally is whole different thing. For a start, people are paying me to teach them to hoop. Gulp. I had 11 people enrol for the class, which was run through the local Community Education Service [CES] as part of adult learners week. Eleven was the maximum number we had allowed for the class - it sold out in less than a week, which I was pretty happy about.

So I spent much of my weekend organising music, practising stretches and warm ups, running through important information to tell the students, and going through moves - the class was focused on waist hooping, but I had to have some other moves ready just in case everyone picked it up really quickly.

Although I felt a little nervous about the class, I was mostly excited and happy. There was a quiet hum of satisfaction in my bones as I made my preparations - a sense that I was doing something I should be doing. I had been hooping for just two weeks when I wrote in my journal: "I'd love to teach hooping classes - obviously I'm nowhere ready to do this [yet] but one day I will be!"

I never imagined that day would be less than six months later.

The class went really well. My students were mostly older women and they were lively, enthusiastic, open-minded and so positive. Every person who successfully spun the hoop around their waists was rewarded with claps and cheers from her classmates. Some of them picked it up immediately; some really struggled, but by the end of the class everyone was spinning happily away.

Tonight's class was just a taster: in October I'll be starting an eight-week hoopdance course through CES. Most of tonight's students said they would enrol for the eight-week course! I can't wait.

Happy hooping,
Anne-Marie x

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

What's the buzz about hooping?

Every hooper has their own reasons to love hooping, and today I want to share with you why I am so crazy about it.

I love how accessible hooping is. All I need to practise is my hoop and enough room to swing it. I don't need to pack a bag, wear special clothing, or be home from work at a certain time. I can practise in the living room while I'm watching the rugby league on telly and at work during my lunch break. Anyone who can stand on their two feet can hoop - it doesn't matter if you're young, old, male, female, fit or unfit, thin or fat.

I love how hooping makes me feel. It's great exercise that doesn't feel like exercise. I can put on some catchy tunes, pick up my hoop, and before I know it an hour has passed by. I'm not thinking about how my abs are getting a good workout or how my legs are being strengthened. I'm just rocking out and having fun.

If you want to be a good hoopdancer, you have to work hard - but it's a form of dance that rewards hard work. At the start of this year I took up adult ballet classes and although they were fun, after six months I had not improved my ballet skills at all. I could tell that any improvements, if any, would take a long, long time.

Hooping isn't like that. I remember, as a very green newbie hooper, looking at hooping videos on YouTube and despairing of ever being able to do those moves. Now, five months later, I can do most of them. I don't consider myself a good hooper - yet - but my skills over the past five months have improved more than I ever could have hoped for. And I know I'm not unusual in this. Lara Eastburn of Superhooper describes hooping as "not easy, but much easier than you think".

A lot has been made of hooping's ability to help women lose weight. Well, I can only speak from my own experience. I haven't lost weight - in fact, I've gained some weight since I began hooping. And yet, my clothes are noticeably looser ... people have asked me if I've lost weight ... most importantly, I feel better about my body than I have since I don't know when. Slowly, muscle seems to be developing in my body [which explains the thinner-but-heavier thing]. I even have abs - woo-hoo!

But none of these things would mean anything to me if hooping wasn't fun. I hate exercise for the sake of it, which is why you'll never see me running or on a treadmill. Exercise has to be fun for me to commit. And there's few things more fun in my life than hooping.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Hooping at Lake Rotoiti.

Yay for hooping with other people!!

We spent the weekend at a bach [summer house] at Lake Rotoiti, near Rotorua. We met my brother and his family, and my parents, there and spent the weekend cooking, eating, sleeping, reading and, of course, hooping.

We missed my sister and her family, who couldn't make it, and the weather was quite wet. But I still managed to do plenty of hooping. There was a lovely little lawn between the house and the lake which was a picturesque spot for hooping. My sister-in-law and one of my nieces were keen to give hooping a go and they were immediately addicted. My sister-in-law even bought some hoops online on Saturday night.

I'm used to my solitary hooping sessions in the front garden, so it was great to have other women to hoop with. And I really LOVE spreading the hoop love ... seeing the look of delight on someone's face as they discover for the first time that THEY CAN HOOP is nearly as much fun for me as hooping itself.

Happy hooping,
Anne-Marie x

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Body longing.

I've been obsessed over the past few days with learning a series of spins in a video clip I watched on YouTube. You begin spinning within the hoop, then the hoop is lifted up at an angle and eventually comes to rest horizontally on the base of the spine, all the while continuing to spin. It's quite the optical illusion. I have watched that video clip over and over and over [some times even on my iPhone during my practice], trying to nail it down.

I think I've pretty much got it. I just need to iron out the kinks, as is usual when I learn a new move.

[And just as a side note, someone needs to write an encyclopaedia of hoop moves. I often have no words to describe the moves I'm doing within the hoop. It's frustrating.]

I've noticed that I often become obsessed with a move or combination of moves. It might be something I've seen on a video clip or it might be something that originated in my head. I get what I can only describe as a physical longing to execute that move, and the only thing that will ease the longing is to actually do it.

For example, a month ago I could not get the idea out of my head of describing circles with my hoop while spinning. I worked on this idea during my practice but still my body ached for that right move. Then one weekend, while doing the dishes with my stepdaughter, it suddenly popped into my head. I grabbed my hoop, ran outside, and began hooping - a series of circles alternating above my head and down by my knees, all the while spinning.

Perfect, said my body. And for the next week I did that combination of moves continuously, just because it felt good. Now my body has absorbed the combination and it's part of my hooping repertoire. It's a move I enjoy but don't think about too much these days.

Some days I'll be watching television and think, "I will self-combust if I don't pick up my hoop right now and do a J throw." Or I'm at work and I have to scoot off with my hoop for a few moments to do some elbow hooping. John is probably used to me jumping out of bed and hooping naked in the bedroom for a few minutes before I get dressed.

Just because I have to.

In other news, my participation in hoop30 is going really well. I'm hooping for between 30 and 60 minutes every day [ideally I'd like to get in 90 minutes but that's not always realistic]. I'm delighted I've had the motivation to be out hooping at 7am, or soon after, the past two mornings. The photo above is me hooping at 7am today. The hoop30 facebook book group is busy, lively and inspiring. It's so encouraging to hear about other people's experience of their hoop practice.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sunny Sunday.

Today was an unseasonably mild day for August, with brilliant sunshine most of the day. Daffodils nodded at us as we drank our tea and an unseen riro riro trilled at us from the ngaio tree. The weather was no doubt responsible for me buying, while John and I were in town, a pair of Teva sandals. I wouldn't normally buy sandals at the end of winter but these were on special, and I've always wanted a pair of Tevas.

I tried them out while I was hooping in the back garden and boy am I glad I bought those sandals. I can tell I'll live in them come summer. They were great to hoop in - I hadn't realised I need good support for my feet until I actually had it. Jumping about was so much easier with them on!

Despite this, I didn't do so well with my hooping today. I hooped right after eating, and after 40 minutes of really fast hooping I felt like I was going to throw up so I stopped. Forty minutes is more than I needed to complete Hoop30 for today .... but in the weekends I usually hoop for at least an hour each day.

Today I was working on the corkscrew and an arm wrap I've just learned, as well as the sliding door, chest stalls and variations on elbow hooping.

Tomorrow I'm back at work. My work days are usually so busy I have to be well organised to fit my hooping in!

Saturday, 4 August 2012


Hooping is a solitary activity for me, except for the rare occasions I can persuade someone to hoop with me. I often wish I had a community of hoopers to jam with, share tricks with, and enjoy the journey with.

This is something I want to work on over summer, but in the meantime I've joined a Facebook group of hoopers called Hoop30. The idea of Hoop30 is that you hoop for a minimum of 30 minutes per day for 30 days, post something about your practice that day [if you want] and generally support and encourage each other. It certainly doesn't take the place of real life hoop buddies but it is great to be reading about other people's hoop journeys.

The group was started by Alicia and it's private so I can't provide a link to it. However, if you want to join you can message Alicia at her facebook pageand ask her to add you. Get hooping and join in the fun!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The journey so far.

I was hooked from the moment my big blue-and-silver beginner's hula hoop first rolled across my hips.

It was the morning of 1st March, 2012. I was on leave from work, and John and I had become engaged the previous day. I was doing my morning yoga practice when there was a knock on the door. It was the courier, delivering my hoop from Hoopnotica. I was giddy with excitement. I ripped open the packaging, assembled the hoop - wow, I can't believe how big and heavy it is, I thought - put the instructional DVD into my laptop, and began to hoop, my yoga forgotten.

I'd been reading about hooping on the bloggersphere for a while, and it seemed slightly silly to me. I mean, isn't hooping what kids do? Why are these grown women with children of their own doing it? But they seemed so passionate about it. It seemed like such good exercise. I loved to exercise but could never stick to a regular exercise routine. It was always too much effort to get myself down to the pool or to yoga class. Maybe a hoop would be the answer? While I was still trying to decide, I came across this video of hoopdancer Spiral hooping at a festival:

I must try that, I thought. So I ordered a hoop, half-expecting that after the initial novelty it would soon begin to gather dust in a corner of the bedroom.

How wrong I was ...

People are always saying to me, "Oh, I couldn't hoop. I've never been able to." Well, guess what? I spent the first 40 years of my life unable to hoop as well. I couldn't do it as a kid or as a teenager. It turns all I needed was a proper, adult-sized hoop, the right instruction and a little bit of practice. And I was hooked.

When John came home for lunch that day, I proudly showed him my hooping skills and he was [and always has been] very encouraging of what I'd achieved. By the time I was ready to go back to work, I had drained my DVD of its hoopy goodness and knew all those moves. I became a YouTube addict, searching for hooping tutorials and hooping videos to inspire me and learn new moves. I've now signed up for SaFire's series of online classes, which I am still working through, and I practise every day.

That was five months ago. My hoops are smaller and lighter now, although I do still use my heavy hoops regularly. I have a big repertoire of hoop tricks - I'm not nearly as good as I'd like to be, although I'm far more skilled than I ever thought I would be when I first picked up that hoop back in March. I take hoops with me whenever I can and love teaching people how to get the hoop spinning, especially those who think they can't.

In September I'll be teaching for real! The programme director of our local Community Education Service [CES] has asked me to teach two classes during adult education week. If they're successful, I'll be offered a contract to teach a full night school course in hooping at CES next year. Exciting times!!

Friday, 20 July 2012

What is hooping?

At its most simple level, "hooping" is the act of spinning a hoop round your waist. You can go that far and no more, if you wish, nothing wrong with that.

But most hoopers find their hoop twirling about their hips, legs, chest, shoulders, neck, hands, head ... even their nose. They find themselves tossing the hip, reversing it, throwing it, shimmying it, swishing it, wrapping it, kicking it, spinning it, dancing with it, jumping through it. You name a move, someone, somewhere will have tried that move with a hoop.

There are several different kinds of hooping. The oldest is cultural hooping, the kind seen in some Native American groups. The ancient Egyptians swung hoops made of vine branches, so it's been around for a while.

Then there's circus hooping - the sort of hooping involving very bendy girls in sparkly leotards doing eye-popping routines with 20 hoops at one time. Circus hooping is probably beyond the realms of possibility for most of us but it's sure fun to watch. Hooping seen in rhythmic gymnastics is closely related to circus hooping. It's my least favourite kind of hooping, probably because I don't like the idea of using hoops to compete against others.

Then there's exercise hooping. Pretty simple, really: using a hoop to burn calories. Exercise hoop classes can be found in gyms, exercise clubs and on DVDs. Exercise hooping is done with a heavy, large hoop which spins mostly on the body. It's fun, but the emphasis is on working out.

The final type of hooping is hoopdancing, and this is exactly what it sounds like: a form of dance using a hoop. Although it requires a lot of hard work to do well, hoopdance is easier to pick up than something like ballet. It's creative, expressive, graceful, and the best fun you can have with your clothes on!