Tuesday, 10 December 2013

A different groove.

In mid-flight

I've become a lot bolder with my hooping recently. I've talked about this for a while - now it seems to be actually happening.

I feel there is a real experimental quality to my dance. I'm not afraid to take a familiar groove and send it in a different direction.

We all have "riffs" or "phrases" that we know and are familiar with - this move follows this move and this move. It's good to have those riffs to give our hooping some steadiness. But if we rely on them too much we can feel our dance become stale and static. In the past I think I have relied too much on these familiar phrases.

But recently I've had so much fun stopping the middle of some thing familiar and wondering, "What can I do differently with this?" I've come up with some awesome combinations through this experimental approach. It has a very meditative feel to it.

I'm also no longer afraid to make mistakes. A mistake is merely an opportunity to send the hoop in a different direction!

Happy hooping,
Anne-Marie x

Saturday, 7 December 2013

How to hoop!

That would be me, waist hooping.

Okay, I meant to post this aaaages ago but I forgot: instructions on waist hooping for beginners.

Waist hooping is the first move you learn in hooping. It's like first position in ballet, like dribbling the ball in football. You could learn to hoop without it, but you'd struggle.

Some people I've taught to waist hoop are content to stop there. They like to hoop, and it's good exercise, but they're not interested in fancy-pants moves. Others want to learn more. Either is good - there's no right or wrong.

Before you begin, you need to find the right hoop for you. Here are my guidelines for choosing the right hoop, but you may have to experiment a little because no two people are the same. If you're really struggling to hoop, and you've followed my trouble-shooting tips, consider changing your hoop size if you can.

Okay, let's get started.

Put your hoop down on the ground - you won't need it just yet.

We'll start off looking at stance. Stand with your feet together. Now move one foot - it doesn't matter which - a few inches forward and slightly to the outside [eg, if you moved your right foot forward, take it slightly to the right; slightly to the left with your left foot]. Keep your knees soft. You don't want them bent, but they have to have some "give" in them.

Tuck your bottom in. Keep your upper body as still and as straight as you can. Begin to move your weight from one foot to the other, so that you are rocking back and forth. This is where your knees must be soft as they will bend and straighten as you move.

Now add in your hips. For many of us, isolating our hips is difficult, but you will get the hang of it! As you rock on to your front foot, push forward with your front hip. As you rock on to your back foot, push backward with your back hip. Beginners do need to do this with a fair bit of power. Remember that your upper body must stay as still as possible - all the movement is from your hips and below.

Now pick up your hoop.

Put it around your body and place it in the small of your back. Hold it comfortably. Think about which direction you want the hoop to spin in - clockwise [to the right] or anti-clockwise[to the left]? Some people know immediately, others need to experiment a little. Keeping the hoop as flat as you can, give it a strong push in your preferred direction, and immediately begin your rocking motion.

Are you hooping yet? Remember that some people pick it up straight away and some need a bit of practice. Don't beat yourself up if it doesn't happen immediately.

Here are a few trouble-shooting tips:
+When you hold the hoop ready for push-off, make sure it is FLAT, not drooping downwards.
+Really try to keep your upper body as still as possible. If you're unsure stand in front of a mirror.
+If it's hard for you to isolate your hips, practise rocking back and forth without the hoop.
+Don't bend over forwards to look at yourself hooping - the hoop will most likely drop to the ground.
+Remember that when you first begin, you do need to move those hips strongly to keep the hoop going. Once the movement is in your muscle memory, you won't need to use the same force.

It is normal to have some bruising around your hips after your first experience of hooping. Don't be alarmed if that happens - it's like a rite of passage. I like to call these bruises hoop kisses. But PLEASE be careful with your body, especially if you have back or knee problems, and if you have any pain, stop.

Happy hooping!
Anne-Marie x

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Five dreadful years.

This month marks five years since I began my dreadlock journey. It's been an interesting year for my dreadlocks and me, as we have wrestled with our future together.

In the past year my dreads have grown more than in the previous four years put together. There have been times when even I could see they'd grown in the space of a week. At four years, they were just below my shoulder blades; at five years, the longest ones touch my hip bones.

Well, they would do if I hadn't cut them...

When you begin your dreadlock journey, you think about your dreads all the time. You touch them all the time and you want to look at them all the time. This was me for about the first three years. Then your dreads start becoming - for want of a better phrase - part of you. You identify as a dreadhead but, because your dreadlings no longer need your constant mothering, you don't think about them as much.

So I was at that point. But I was also at the point - with this super-fast-growing pile of dreads - of getting headaches nearly every day. I have such a ridiculously sensitive scalp that I couldn't tie my hair up for long. Left loose, my dreads were spectacularly beautiful but they were also interfering with my ability to hoop. And you know, when that happens, you must do something!

So I was ummming and ahhhing for months about my dreads ... was I ready to release them or did I want to keep them? And then my dear husband came up with a solution: "Let me give them a trim," he said one recent Sunday morning. Without hesitation I handed him the kitchen scissors and we headed outside.

John chopped about 15cm off the bottom of my dreads. Immediately my hair felt lighter and hooping was easier [oh joy!]. I can even wear my dreads tied back and not get a headache. The downside is that I of course no longer have stunning, hip-length dreads. But I'm okay about that!

I may yet get rid of my dreads - but I don't think that time has come.

Happy hooping,
Anne-Marie x

PS. Here are before and after shots:

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Poetry in motion.

I've posted about Tiana Zoumer beforebut man, I can't get enough of watching her hoop right now.

Her grace, her strength, her speed, her poetry, her passion and, especially, her creativity, are so inspiring. Whenever I go to YouTube, Tiana is the first channel I check to see if she's posted a new clip. She posts quite regularly and I swear she comes up with some new mind-boggling way to hoop each time.

"Poetry in motion" is a bit of a cliché but really, that's what comes to mind when I watch Tiana hoop.

So then I go back to watch my own hoop videos and eek! They're less of the "poetry in motion" and more of the "shuffling around the back garden". I believe I do hoop with more grace than what comes across in my hoop videos, but I still get so nervous in front of the camera that I can't hoop freely!

Any way, I don't want to be Tiana Zoumer but I would like to inject a little more of her poetry and grace into my hooping. So from now until the end of the year, I'm learning no new moves [other than those that come naturally out of my own body]. Instead I'm allowing myself to be inspired to dance bigger and bolder than ever.

Happy hooping,
Anne-Marie x

Sunday, 3 November 2013

No more teaching.

I've really enjoyed my experience of teaching hoop over the past year.

I've made new friends, helped to build a little hoop community in my town, and I've learned as much - or more - from my students as they've learned from me.

But I'm not teaching hoop any more.

Well, I sort of am, informally. But I'm not being paid to teach, and I'm okay about that.

I live in a small town, so the market was never going to be big. People are curious about hooping but they're afraid of making an arse of themselves so they won't try it [is that a New Zealand thing?]. Enrolments totally dried up for my eight-week courses so they stopped. My drop-in class at the gym didn't have any new students for months.

I have a core group of really dedicated students who come to every drop-in class. Each week I would plan what move I'd teach them next and what little "hoop challenge" I could dream up to keep them interested. But what I eventually came to realise [it took me a while] is that most of them come to class to waist hoop and socialise. Except for one or two really keen learners, that's what most of them want to do.

Add in the fact that the gym started making it really clear that they'd rather we left and made the practice space available for their super-duper group fitness classes, and I started to feel discouraged about my future as a hoop teacher.

So I decided not to do it any more.

My drop-in hoop class has been re-named the River City Hoop Jam. We're a bunch of people who get together to hoop once a week - whether that be waist hooping and socialising, or learning some complicated new move. I provide the music and the spare hoops. The local museum has very kindly let us use their classroom free of charge till the end of the year, and in January we will move in to our [hopefully] permanent home in a disused woolstore owned by a local artist.

That's when I'll start advertising again to get some new people along, who can learn from me or from any of the more experienced students. And I'll charge people NZ$5 per session to cover costs [ie, room hire].

I feel relaxed about all this. While I'm still responsible for organising the group, I no longer feel like I have to keep every one engaged for the entire hour. I can just hoop and enjoy the company of other hoopers.

Happy hooping,
Anne-Marie x

Monday, 28 October 2013

Breaking and balance.

Mmmmm ... breaking. It's my current hoop obsession. I've spent all of October focusing on my breaking technique.

What do I mean by breaking?

Breaks are a whole series of moves that involve breaking the flow of the hoop by hitting it [usually against a body part] and sending it back in the opposite direction. For example, you could be hooping around the shoulders and break using an elbow. Or you might break the flow of an off-body move by hitting the hoop against your knee.

Breaking is usually done in quick succession so the hoop is going back and forth, back and forth. In this it differs from reversing, which is simply sending the hoop in the opposite direction. Then there's paddling, which is propulsion of the hoop using the hand on the inside of the hoop.

These moves were pioneered by Jonathan Baxter of The Hoop Path; but in my opinion you couldn't get a better set of breaks than those by the lovely Caterina Suttin. If you watch the video clip above, you'll see what I mean.

What I have learned from practising my breaks this month is balance. In hooping, there is a risk that your body can become unbalanced if you focus only on your dominant side. [It's something I'm always aware of when I hoop - I practise my non-dominant current all the time and try to incorporate it into my flow.] To do breaks successfully you must learn balance: between both sides of your body, between both currents. Otherwise they just don't happen.
Maybe that's why I love breaks so much.

Happy hooping,
Anne-Marie x

Saturday, 5 October 2013

World Hoop Day.

Happy World Hoop Day to you!
If you're a hooper, I hope you get the opportunity to celebrate the awesomeness that is hoopdancing!
I tried to organise a public hoop event in my town for today, but unfortunately it didn't get enough support.
So I took my hoop into the garden and had a solitary jam, and here's just a bit of it. Enjoy!

Happy hooping,
Anne-Marie x

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Hooping with a cloud.

Just a few of the beautiful colours of polypro

[Warning: hoop geekery ahead.]

The hoop was unlike any I had seen before.

It was white and didn’t have any of the fancy tape my other hoops had. And it was incredibly light, like hooping with a cloud. It was a polypro hoop – my very first – and it arrived on my back doorstep in May last year, while I was recovering from having my wisdom teeth out.

Spend any time in the hoop community and you will hear the word “polypro” come up sooner or later. No, we’re not talking about polypropylene thermals but about hoops made of polypropylene.

Standard adult hoops [those big, heavy ones] are usually made from some form of polyethylene [PE] – I use medium density polyethylene to make my standard hoops. I’ve heard that using white polypropylene tubing to construct hula hoops was pioneered by a famous hooper named Rich Porter and it hasn’t been around long, perhaps about four years.

The big difference you will notice with polypro is how light it is, and for that reason it’s not for every hooper. Although I know some hoop teachers who recommend their beginning students use polypro hoops, I personally think most beginners should start off with a standard hoop. That’s because beginners need some weight and size to get that hoop swinging around their waist. Some of my students have taken to polypro hoops quickly and easily; others are unlikely to ever use it.

I bought my first polypro hoop when I’d been hooping for three months. I had three PE hoops by then, and I was getting frustrated by the heaviness. I wanted something light, something I could throw! Polypro hoops really seem to float around your body, they’re super responsive to your movements, and they move much faster than PE hoops. They take some getting used to for core or on-the-body hooping, but they’re the best for throws, pops, breaks and other non-core moves.

Polypros are usually, although not always, used “naked” – without tape – and can be sanded to add grip. The great thing about untaped hoops is that you don’t have to worry about scuffing or damaging them. And nowadays polypro hoops come in a dazzling array of colours, so you can get your colour fix without needing to add tape. My current favourites include two yellow ones, a sea-green one, and even a gold one!

I still use my very first, 96cm polypro sometimes, although for regular hooping I quickly downsized to a 92cm hoop. And 92cm has been my polypro size for more than a year now.

But recently that size has started to feel just a little heavy and unwieldy. So over the weekend – after several months of experimenting – I finally decided to downsize to an 89cm hoop. A 3cm cut off the diameter of the hoop doesn’t sound much but already it’s changed the way I hoop. Everything is faster. Some moves flow more freely now; others require a bit more effort. But I’m happy I made the change. It feels good.

Happy hooping,
Anne-Marie x

Sunday, 15 September 2013

18 months of hooping; or, the more you know, the more you know you don't know.

Sanding hoops at Under The Spinfluence.

This month marks 18 months since my hoop journey began. Don't worry, I don't intend to write a post like this every time another six months passes by! But recently I've been reflecting back over these 18 months. It seems incredible to me that I've been hooping for only 18 months. Like - what did I do with my time BH [before hooping]? I can't remember!

It was interesting to read my journal to find out what was happening in my hoop journey last September, when I had been hooping for six months. I went to my first hoop gathering and taught my first class in September 2012. Both were very exciting for me, and I was in a happy place with my hooping.

The other thing I discovered in my journal, which surprised me, was that in September last year I thought I was a pretty damned fine hooper. I had a few kinks to iron out - like I couldn't knee hoop or hoop on one shoulder, but those things were just a matter of time. {Which is true - I can do both now.} Despite those small faults I had it going on. I never said it explicitly in my journal, but it was obvious that was how I saw my hooping.

*embarrassed cough*

Fast forward a year, and now I've had a lot more exposure to the hoop community. I spend far too much time watching hoop videos on YouTube, and I've also been able to video myself. Both of those things have given me some perspective on my skill with the hoop.

It's also not just a matter of learning this move or that move, and being content to leave it there. The more I learn within my hoop, the more I realise how much more there is for me to learn!

So now I think I'm an okay hooper. Obviously I'm a lot better than your average beginning hooper. My flow is improving all the time and I have some good moves - including some I made up myself - under my belt. In the hoop community I would be considered at intermediate level. And I'm happy with that.

Because I no longer see hooping as something to be achieved, as it was for me this time last year. Rather hooping is to be experienced and enjoyed - whether you're a beginning student who is content to hoop on her waist, or an eye-popping hoop artist.

Happy hooping,

Monday, 9 September 2013

Hoop geekery.

The sign on the appropriately-named dormitory where I stayed.

Natasha doing her thing at "hoopers' corner"

I am back from Under The Spinfluence with sore muscles, a desperate need to catch up on sleep ... and a big smile on my face. For two whole days I hooped, ate delicious vegan food, watched incredible circus people perform, caught up with old friends, met new people, and sold a few hoops.

One of the things I love most about a gathering like Spinfluence is the opportunity to indulge in hoop geekery. As well as hooping nearly all day [and well into the night], I had many conversations with hoop friends about things that no-one in my "real" life would appreciate, or understand. Things like, are connectors best sanded or unsanded? Does coloured polypro feel different to clear polypro? What's your favourite polypro size and why? Do you catch on the same side or opposite side in escalator? Can you please check to see if my arm is going through the hoop when I do that vertical break Ryn showed us? Etc, etc...

I restrain my "hoopiness" around non-hoopers and even around my students ... because no-one wants to hear the crazy dreadhead go on about hooping all day long! But at a festival, surrounded by fellow hoopers, it's perfectly okay to be a hoop geek.

Happy hooping,
Anne-Marie x

Sunday, 1 September 2013


Here in New Zealand, today is the official start of that delightful, crazy season which I always look forward to. To be honest, it has felt like spring for the past month or maybe even six weeks, as winter has barely licked our lawns with frost this year.
But, no matter how mild or short the winter, it is always so wonderful to see the daffodils in bloom, the magnolia trees flaunting their fragrant flowers, the first tender green on the trees.
I have been hooping outside as much as possible recently, making the most of the sunshine and mild temperatures. I love the feel of grass on my bare feet and the breeze on my bare arms. In the spirit of the season, I haven’t really been working on things – just playing around with my hoop to see what happens between us. Some days all I want to do is shoulder hoop for 20 minutes, nothing else. And that’s okay.
In my spare time I’ve been busy getting ready for Under The Spinfluence, which begins on Friday. This year I’ve booked myself a stall at the market and I’ll be selling my handmade polypro hoops. So I’m often to be found with hacksaw or sandpaper in hand, crafting the brightly-coloured material into beautiful hoops. [Well, I think they’re beautiful!] I have no idea how well they’ll sell … we shall see.
I’ve just realised it’s 18 months since I first picked up a hoop. More on that another time.

My hoop-making station in the garden.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Our vow.

I, Anne-Marie, take you, John, to be my husband.
I love you - you are my best friend.
Today I give myself to you in marriage.

I promise to encourage you and inspire you, to laugh with you,
and to comfort you in times of sorrow and struggle.

I promise to love you in times of good and bad,
when life seems easy and when it seems hard,
when our love is simple and when it is an effort.

I promise to cherish you and to always hold you
in highest regard.
These things I give to you today and all the days of our life together.

*  *  *  *

Two days after our wedding, my sister, brother-in-law and two youngest nieces left for six months in the United States. After the joy of the wedding it was hard to say good-bye to them!
I took this picture of them on the porch of their house right before they left.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

In my garden, this afternoon.

Time in my hoop seems even more important right now, what with a busy job to hold down, hoop classes to teach, a family to spend time with ... oh, and that little matter of a wedding to organise. The big day is just two weeks from today, and I am both excited and nervous!

My hoop gives me the time and space to slow down, to breathe, to get off that mouse wheel if only for a short while.

I could have cleaned the bathroom this afternoon, but today feels almost like spring, so me and Monty decided to do some hoop practice instead. [Monty retired to his favourite sunny spot under the lemon tree, so he doesn't appear in this video.] I decided not to add a soundtrack to this video. All you'll hear are birds singing, the wind, dogs barking and someone's chainsaw. I swear every New Zealand neighbourhood has at least one resident who is obsessed with his chainsaw!!

Currently working on a few new moves and, as always, on smoothing out my flow.

Happy hooping,

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

One month from today ....

... God willing, John and I will be married. 

We got engaged in February last year and since then wedding plans have been made and cancelled several times over, as one stumbling block after another met us on the road.

We’ve never wavered in our commitment to each other, but we just didn’t know when we’d be able to have a wedding. With John out of work for much of the past year, all our money has gone towards day to day living – never mind saving for a wedding.

But a couple of weeks ago, one Saturday night, I arrived at the club to pick John up after his football match. He’d had a few drinks, and he wanted to know how I felt about just going ahead with the wedding any way, as cheaply as possible? One of his best mates had given him a lecture about how we shouldn’t worry about an expensive wedding, we should just invite our favourite people and … get married.

The idea couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Over the past few weeks I’d started to feel sad about the fact the wedding seemed to be stalled indefinitely, although I hadn’t mentioned this to John. I didn’t want a big, fancy wedding – I just wanted us to get married. So that’s what we’re doing and I couldn’t be more excited!

So now when I’m not working or hooping I am elbow deep in wedding plans. I refuse to stress about it; both of us want to enjoy our wedding and the build-up to it.

It’s been very gratifying to see how excited people are for us. Not just our families, who are obviously delighted, but friends and colleagues too. Entering into a marriage is not something to be done lightly, and it is risky, yet people still seem to believe in marriage. [Except for one friend of mine who was “jokingly” very rude about me getting married. I probably wouldn’t consider him a friend anymore.]

So many people have offered memories of their own weddings, or bits of advice, or even practical help. Today one of my colleagues – a professional photographer – offered to shoot our wedding for free, just because he knew we were on a shoestring budget. Incredible.

And in case you’re wondering … yes, there will be hooping at our wedding reception. Of course!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

My first video.

Drum roll please ... here is my first hoop video. My first video ever, actually. I have been wanting to do this for a long time and, thanks to some savings + a small unexpected windfall, I at last have the technology to video myself hooping.

As you can probably see, it is a dark and gloomy day here in my little corner of the world, my hands were numb by the time I'd finished! Midwinter approaches us, and our days are so short now that every chance for fresh air is welcomed.

You'll see Monty off to the side there - he is my ever-present hoop companion. Even when he is accidentally hit with a flying hoop [sorry baby!] he sticks around. Clearly he was bored or cold today as he trotted off half-way through.

I have to be honest and say I hate this video. I hate how awkward I look, and the mistakes I make. I hate that as soon as the video camera is on, I completely lose my hooping mojo!! Hopefully I'll get used to it and will improve the more I video myself.

Happy hooping,

Monday, 3 June 2013

On making mistakes.

Something I am working on a lot in my hoop dance practice right now is fluency.
I’m not great at making mistakes. That is, I make plenty of them while I’m hooping but I don’t deal with them well. They interrupt my flow. I feel like I’ve failed. I stop and sigh and wish for the day when I’m a great hooper who never makes mistakes…
But the more I watch hooping videos [and I’m watching a lot these days] the more I realise great hooping is not about not making mistakes. It’s about taking mistakes in your stride and learning to incorporate them into your flow – or, at the least, not allowing those mistakes to interrupt your flow. One of the videos that helped me come to this realisation is this one of the beautiful Tiana Zoumer, who hoops with grace, speed and passion.
I love this video because although Tiana’s hooping is spectacular, it’s not perfect. She makes mistakes and she recovers from them. She doesn’t get upset that she’s made a mistake; she just keeps on moving.
So, inspired by Tiana, I am determined to keep moving through my mistakes. When the hoop slips I change direction. When the hoop hits the floor I pick it up and carry on. It's not easy - old habits die hard - but when I do keep going, I’m surprised at how right it feels.
Happy hooping,
PS. I wonder how many of the moves that are now part of the modern hooping repertoire came about because of mistakes?

Saturday, 18 May 2013


Releasing into knee hooping.

I’ve started learning from an arse-kicking set of tutorials over at Hoop City. The series is called “Waves” and it’s taught by a famous hooper called Brecken Rivara.

I describe the tutorials as arse-kicking because they are unlike anything I’ve learned in hooping before. They are, as the name suggests, full of waves, wobbly moves and twists and melting from one plane to another. I tend towards the big, energetic moves, like throws and tosses; so I’m taking Brecken’s classes to challenge myself. And because I adore her hooping, and if I could take a class with her in person one day it would be a dream come true.

If you are not familiar with Brecken, here is one of my favourite examples of her extraordinary dancing:

In these tutorials, Brecken often talks about the call and response nature of her moves. How the hooper begins the move, then has to release control and let the hoop take over to complete the move. 
Her comments bounced around in my head for a while, as things sometimes do. And then I realised that I’ve already encountered many hooping occasions when I, or my students, have had to RELEASE to make any progress. In my classes, some of my best students have a tendency to overthink new moves. They are focused on putting their hand there and turning the hoop there, and they must control every step of the hoop’s journey. Consequently the move they’re trying to do evades them. Because sometimes all they need to do is starting the hoop moving and let the hoop do the rest of the work.

“Don’t overthink it!” is something my students hear me say a lot.

I often need to take my own advice. Knee hooping is a great example of this. It’s not a difficult move but for some reason I found it impossible. Every day for the best part of a year  I would strain and struggle with knee hooping. My practice was certainly consistent – the hoop dropped to the ground every time! Then one evening in March while John and I were watching a football match on television I stood up to stretch, picked up a hoop, and threw it straight onto my knees. It took a few minutes for me to realise I was knee hooping.

These days, when I’m struggling with a move, I will work on it for a while then put it aside and come back to it later. Maybe a month or two later ... and it's amazing how releasing the need to nail that move, right now, can bring success. A word needs to be invented for that magic moment when you stop straining and allow the move to happen. That moment when you stop wondering, “Am I doing it right?” and realise, “Ah-ha, that’s it!” It’s a wonderful moment.

I'm not saying you shouldn't work to get things right. But there is such a thing as trying too hard, and the trick is knowing when to push through and when to release.

I’m sure there’s a life metaphor in all this :-)

Happy hooping,

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Adventures in hoop making.

These are the hoops that Anne-Marie made. Well, a few of them.

Not long after I began teaching, I started to think about making hoops. I expect a lot of hoop teachers have these thoughts. My first class had ordered their hoops online from a company I recommended - because I'd used their hoops as a beginner myself and found them good - but this time they weren't good. My students' hoops didn't actually fall apart, but they came close to it.

There are a couple of hoop-makers in New Zealand but none of them sell hoops I consider suitable for beginners. [You can read my post about choosing a beginner hoop here.] With a tiny population and hooping still very much a fringe past-time here in New Zealand, there's not much on offer. The hoop situation was starting to look rather difficult for my students ... and that's when I wondered, "Could I make my own hoops?"

Turns out, it's not that easy to make hoops in New Zealand either. I read with envy tales American hooping bloggers tell of going down to their local hardware store and coming back loaded up with HDPE, connectors, deco tape and gaffer tape. That is not the universe I inhabit. I must have clocked up hundreds of hours on the internet, researching the right materials and how to get them to my door as cheaply as possible.

Because, you know, I can order anything I want online but boy do those American companies charge to post anything to New Zealand. And I'd like to offer at this point a brickbat to the Australian company that wanted to charge me A$45 to send one roll of deco tape. That is definitely not an example of Anzac spirit from our trans-Tasman cousins!

Any way, I am at last making progress. I have wonderful suppliers of wonderful tape. I have connectors. Pipe has been something of trial and error. The first material I used was lovely to hoop with but the hoops would not keep their shape. Now I'm experimenting with something more rigid that is holding its shape better. My more experienced students have been test-driving this new material, and they like it.

Hoop-making does put me in some funny situations, though. Last weekend I went to watch John play football and I was chatting on the sidelines with one of his best mates, who is a plumber. So he knows a bit about pipe. Never did I imagine myself having a 20-minute discussion on the pros and cons of alkathene versus blueline MDPE, but that is what happened.

"Geez, girl, you know what you're talking about!" said John's mate, with a grin.

I love making hoops. It's a really satisfying feeling to finish taping a hoop and look at this beautiful thing that I have made. I love seeing the delight on someone's face when I hand them the hoop I've made just for them. [I've sold 14 hoops in two months, which isn't a bad start.] And it's fantastic to be earning a little bit of extra money to supplement my family's slender income.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Teaching versus practice.

Sarah practising a new move during a break in class.

I've written before about my love of teaching hoopdance. I find teaching deeply satisfying. I love the delight and astonishment on a new student's face when she realises she can get that hoop spinning around her waist. I love the laughing and joking that accompanies my intermediate class. Some of my students have become good friends.

But I've realised I've fallen into what must be a common trap for teachers of all stripes: my teaching is threatening to swamp my own practice.

It seems like a long time since I had an intense hoop session on my own - so much of my hoop time now is taken up with teaching, or preparing for classes. [I've also started making and selling my own hoops, but more on that another day.] This term, I have classes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and the past few weeks I've also had Saturday morning classes. This wouldn't be so bad if I was hooping full-time. But I'm not. I have a full-time job and a family who also need my time and energy.

I could, I suppose, allow myself to focus solely on my teaching, but I don't want to do that. It's important but it's more important that I keep my own practice going. I began hooping for the love of it, and it will always be my first love. Besides, how can I expect my students to learn and grow if I'm not learning and growing myself?

I've decided to cut back one class next term. And I'm saving up to rejoin the gym - having a dedicated space in which to concentrate solely on hooping was fantastic for me last year. I'm also fitting in practice where and when I can. I've started going to my classes half an hour early so I can practise before my students arrive. Sometimes I hoop while I'm watching television. Every little bit helps.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Meet Monty.

All my life I’ve wanted my own dog, the way some women want their own child.

I grew up with dogs – when I was a child my family had an Australian terrier named Syd and a beagle named Josh. But by my early teens they were both gone, and ever since then there’s been a doggie-shaped hole in my heart.

Until a couple of years ago, my lifestyle was too transient to allow me to have a dog. I have lots of canine friends, and I love them. But it’s not the same as having my own dog, one who’s there when I get up every morning and when I come home from work in the evening, who depends on me for food, walks, cuddles and visits to the vet.

John and Sona and I had been discussing adopting a dog for a while. John had even built a fence to make our property secure for a dog. But we had made no definite moves towards getting ourselves a dog until one evening I received a text message from my dog-loving friend Steve, suggesting we get ourselves down to the local pound and take a look at the male west highland terrier there.

And that’s where we found Monty. He looked like this:

He had been horribly neglected and abused. He was filthy, skinny, infested with fleas and worms. But he sat in his cage and quietly wagged his tail whenever anyone went near. He had bright, intelligent eyes and a wet button of a nose. Despite his awful condition I found him irresistible. 

After a week, we were allowed to take Monty home with us. We gave him a bath and took him to the vet, who pronounced him to be in good health apart from the obvious. He needed to put on a lot of weight - he was just over half the weight he should have been - but the only real concern the vet had about Monty was a heart murmur.

Monty’s been with us for a month now, and we can barely remember life without him. We’re all besotted with him and he has to put up with being cuddled constantly [fortunately he has a high tolerance for cuddling]. The psychological scars he had from his previous life seem to be wearing off.

He recently had another vet visit; his heart murmur is gone and he’s put on 400g [he needs at least another kilo before he’s approaching a healthy weight].

Looking at him now, you would not believe just a month ago he was a scared, timid, lethargic dog who cringed at any unexpected move or noise. He’s now bouncy, energetic and sweet-natured … he loves to beat up his toy bunny, play with his doggie friends Oscar and Zella and snuggle in bed between John and I. My days always start off with a giggle when he gallops down the hall ahead of me, snorting enthusiastically because he knows it’s nearly breakfast time.

Thank you, Monty, for making me the happiest dog-mama in the world.

And thank you for being such excellent hooping company!!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

One year of hooping.

Teaching a community hooping class at Moutoa Gardens as part of La Fiesta women's festival
Photo credit: Aydie Holland

This week marks one year since I began hooping. Like all significant events that happen in our lives, I can remember in great detail the moment I became a hooper.

I had ordered a hoop online after reading about hoopdance on several blogs. It seemed strange to me that grown women would use a hula hoop - but the idea intrigued me, too. At the time I was trying to find an exercise routine that I could stick too. I enjoyed swimming and yoga but found it hard to motivate myself to actually do them. I also felt ground down by my job and wanted some passion in my life.

One day a woman whose blog I regularly read posted an entry about the most epic hooping video of all time. I watched the video, and immediately ordered myself a hoop. Oh, how I wanted to dance, to feel that joy. But at the same time I was afraid my hoop would languish in a corner, gathering dust - like every other exercise equipment I'd bought.

The first day my hoop arrived, I hooped all day long. I was on leave from work and spent several days going through the instructional DVD that had come with the hoop. Something about the rhythmic movement of the hoop had me hooked from the first moment. And I've been hooked ever since.

It would be fair to say hooping has changed my life. I have a new way of praying, new friends, a new wardrobe [all clothes I buy must now be hoop-friendly], a new perspective on my physical self [my body is a miracle, with out it I wouldn't be able to hoop], a new self-confidence. Teaching hoop has brought me joy. Making hoops has satisfied my artistic side. I've never been the sort of person with a strong determination, but when it comes to hooping I am really driven to be the best I can.

While hooping did not prevent a bout of depression, it brought me hope and joy in the midst of that depression. And for the first time that I can remember, I went an entire year without catching a cold.

I am so grateful to God for bringing hooping into my life. I wonder what my second year of hooping will bring?

Sunday, 24 February 2013

HoopFest 2013.

It's been more than a week since I came back from New Zealand HoopFest 2013 but I'm still trying to process it ... so fun and inspirational.

HoopFest was different from Under The Spinfluence because it was solely about hooping. No workshops on poi, fans, acrobalancing, etc. It was smaller, more intimate. I loved that the entire weekend was about hooping and about community. It was held in the same place as Spinfluence - at a scout camp in the hills behind Wainuiomata, near Wellington.

I shared a cabin with my friends Richie, Nicky and Tony [the west coast crew] as well as two other guys. We had our own little shady lawn to hoop on, surrounded by native bush and with a little stream tinkling past just a few steps from our cabin door. Three delicious meals a day, amazing workshops by gifted teachers, a performance show by said gifted teachers, and dozens of other hoopers to spin with at any hour of the day or night. All this for just NZ$95. Phew! It doesn't get any better than that.

Another reason HoopFest was different for me was the teachers. Spinfluence was mostly about community – it was my first experience of hooping with other people, and I revelled in it. I only took a couple of workshops because I was so busy jamming with my new friends. While the community was just as wonderful at HoopFest, it was the workshops that blew me away. We had some great Kiwi hoop teachers and even a few from overseas – Emma Kerr from Kenna Hoops [Britain], Lisa Lu [Germany] and KaytiBunny [United States]. We had workshops on multiple hoops, performance, elbow folds, jumps, floorwork, and others. I loved them all, but the last workshop was my favourite: Lisa’s delightful instructions on “throwing the hoop away”. It must have been a sight to behold, 20 or 30 hoopers finding creative ways to twist, flick and pop their hoops away!

HoopFest was a humbling experience for me, too. Everyone I hoop with in Whanganui [students, family, friends] thinks I’m amazing at hooping. I know I'm not, but being constantly surrounded by people praising my hoop skills can give me the wrong idea. Yes, I'm almost certainly the best hooper in Whanganui ... but having a late-night jam session with Emma Kerr at HoopFest puts that into perspective! It doesn't discourage me - it just makes me more determined to learn, learn, learn.

Here's an article I wrote for hooping.org about HoopFest 2013, along with some great video footage: New Zealand HoopFest spins it up.

Happy hooping,
Anne-Marie x 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Lilac Glow.

I've never been that interested in men who hoop. Some female hoopers get all excited by male hoopers, but I'm not one of them. I would rather watch a woman hoop than a man any day. Men - and I'm generalising a lot here - tend to hoop faster and more technically. Women seem, to my eyes, to have more flow.

However, I did discover this video, which is of a man hooping. And he is rather gorgeous. But I posted the video because the whole thing is amazing. I love all of it - the smooth, chilled hooping, the hoop, the glow pants [!] and that wonderful tree.


Sunday, 27 January 2013

Hooping with the kids.

It's been a sociable summer for us this year. Nearly every weekend John and I are invited out to parties, drinks or barbecues. Being an introvert, I have a limited tolerance for social gatherings but I do enjoy getting together with friends on a sunny evening for some good food and good conversation.

We had a barbecue for some friends at our house on Friday night, and afterwards I reflected on how much hooping has changed my social interactions. Most places I go I take hoops with me, and I often end up hooping with a bunch of kids on the back lawn. On Friday night I spent at least an hour hooping with my friend Brendan's 11 year old daughter, Laura [she's wearing the white t-shirt in the photo above]. I showed her hooping tricks and while we hooped we talked about her favourite books, her school, and her family.

I used to be the person who talked to the women about their children, and the men about sport and politics [and yes, I still do that]. I never took much notice of the kids. But kids - both boys and girls - adore playing with hoops and usually don't have the inhibitions their parents do.

So that's where you'll usually find me at parties these days. Hooping with the kids.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Summer ... and some goals

Ah summer ... I love you so.

My summer break was all too brief – six days off at Christmas – but it was enough to spend a couple of days with my love at a bach in Himatangi, just across the road from the sand dunes.

We ate simple meals, turned our phones off, read a lot, slept a lot, walked on the beach, and watched a thunderstorm at sunset from the top of the dunes. We even had our first surf of the season. Bliss!

And, of course, I hooped and he kicked his football around.

My hooping has been spasmodic over the past few weeks. I’ve hooped every day but it might only be five minutes when I first get out of bed in the mornings. My gym membership has run out and at the moment I can’t afford to renew it. So I’m limited to hooping indoors [mind that television!] or in the garden when the weather’s fine and not too windy. When I do hoop I feel quite unfit!

I’m not worried. These past 10 months I’ve thrown myself so utterly into my hooping that it’s good for me to have a break. I’m hooping purely for the fun of it and that's exactly what it is.

Soon enough my classes will begin for the year, and that will be the time to start my practice again.

These are my hooping goals for 2013:

+Attend New Zealand Hoopfest 2013

+Complete Level 1 of Hoopnotica Teacher Training

+Expand the range of hoopdance classes I teach

+To give a hoopdance performance [eek!]

+Learn how to make my own hoops and sell them

+Master knee hooping [my nemesis!]

+Master shoulder duck-outs

+Complete the Budding series of hoop tutorials