We’re all spinning
Written by Katrina Andaya
Photo & Video by Tony Santos
She looks up just for a brief moment as her green and yellow hula-hoop spins effortlessly around her slim body. Her movement graceful and elegant, a testament of her background in ballet. She tosses the plastic hoop into the bright, overcast Oakland sky and catches it nonchalantly continuing where she left off, the hoop still spinning.
“It’s not just a toy. It’s my dance partner,” says thirty-two-year-old Hoop Artist Tiia Maaret, referring to the hula hoop she personally crafted.
She is not only swinging the hula hoop around her waist, but the hoop swings around her entire body as she implements various techniques, dancing with the hoop.
“I think it really allows for a lot of personal expression and a lot of how you want to represent yourself and who you want to be,” Maaret says. “Its not so defined. There are no rules. The possibilities are endless, just like the hoop itself is infinite.”
Hooping, made popular in the 1950s, has made its way back into mainstream culture, especially in fitness where larger, heavier hoops are used, but more recently has popularized itself in the dance and flow arts as well.
While hoopers can be found all over the world, the Bay Area is known to be the Mecca for hoopers and flow artists.
Maaret has tried many different types of dance including ballet, folk dance, belly dance and hip-hop, and has been hooping for three and a half years now. She also teaches hoop classes and workshops as well as makes her own hoops.
She explains that when people think of hula hooping they think of the plastic children’s toy that they swing around their waist, but it’s more than just that.
The spirituality of hooping is subjective and every hooper has their own inherent beliefs, but many share the concept that the hoop is a circle and is spinning connecting the dancer with everything else in the universe which is also spinning.
“So I am adding another dimension to it by adding an object that is spinning and creating flow,” says Maaret. “So being able to tap into that and to tap into the idea that everything is spinning and not even just the physical part of the world we live in, but seasons, cycles, the life cycle, the death cycle. Everything is connected. So it’s a dance that connects all of it.”
Antonio Gomez, a forty-six-year-old hooper and SF State graduate, is a member of Bay Area Hoopers in San Francisco and explains that Native Americans use hula hoops in a lot of their ceremony dances and that the circle is an important part of our world.
“There is something about when you’re inside the hoop or the flow as they call it,” he says. “There is an existential expression of your physical self and your mental self with the actual ring and the hoop.”
Hula hooping has not only physical, but mental benefits as well. Many hoopers talk about feeling an energy or high when they hoop.
Twenty-one-year-old SF State student Amelia Depue has only been hooping for six months, since she moved to San Francisco discovered the art, but has already reaped many benefits from it.
“I can push myself and challenge myself and also have a good time,” she says. “It is very stress relieving. So whenever I am hooping, if I am having a kind of down day, if I am having too much going on with my life, I can pick up the hoop and turn on some jams and just kind of forget about things and just jam out. It is pretty sweet. It is a great feeling.”
Sporting a brown, suede pirate hat with a pink feather, forty-six-year-old Jim Hendrickson of Bay Area Hoopers has been hooping for four and a half years. He wears his pirate hat whenever he hoops and it has become his persona as a hooper.
He says that before he started hooping he held a negative stereotype of hoopers, but that quickly changed when he joined Bay Area Hoopers, a group that meets at Inner Mission on Sunday and just hoops.
“I thought it was going to be all these flighty people, one type of people, but you come out here and realize there’s people of all ages and different walks of life,” he says. “It is just that nice blend that really makes the group something special because you can not just define it by one individual.”
Hooping is continuing to grow in the community and San Francisco is in the center of it all. There is so much more to the plastic children’s play toy that goes far beyond what an outsider may see.
“I guess with hooping it has kind of made me realize that everything is centered and you really get that flow with the hoop,” Depue says. “It is a pretty cool moment when you can just be in a flow and just forget about everything else and just be in that moment. You are having a good time. You are hooping and you are expressing yourself. It is kind of a beautiful thing when you can do that. You see other people and other people watching witness it as well.”