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.