In Hula Hoop Rebirth, A Fad Comes Full Circle
Saturday, July 19, 2008
The ponytailed photographer pulled up to the Tidal Basin. He wheeled a sound system out to a shady spot, whipped out three giant blue-and-purple rings, turned up the techno dance music and started jamming. Jamming and gyrating. Gyrating and jamming. Two gyrating friends joined him -- hips moving, wrists moving, legs moving.
A summer evening "hoop jam." Two days later, they'd meet again to gyrate at Rock Creek Park.
Fifty years after the Hula Hoop became a summertime sensation, the hippest toy for tots is enjoying a renaissance among adults. Fueled by YouTube and social networking sites, an underground community of adult hoop dancers -- or hoopers -- has blossomed.
On Aug. 8 -- 8/8/08 -- cities around the globe, including Washington, will celebrate World Hoop Day, on which hoopers spread their love of hooping by giving away Hula Hoops.
These are not the Hula Hoops you bought ages ago and stashed against the garage wall, next to the rickety red tool cart. Or the Hula Hoops collecting cobwebs in your attic alongside grandma's wooden console television.
We're talking about modern hoops: oversize, heavy and handmade by hoopers, customized with neon-bright electrical tape in crazy-colored patterns.
"There certainly are people who are literally living the hoop life," said the museum photographer, Max Reid, 39, of the District. Reid is among the latest converts. Since he first picked up a Hula Hoop as an adult two months ago, he has attended hooping classes every Monday night at a studio in Mount Rainier.
The students learn how to dance and do figure eights with a hoop. They learn how to spin a hoop on their arms, thighs and neck, to move a hoop between their right and left hands. They learn how to gracefully pick up a hoop when it falls, as if no mistake was made. In short, they become performers.
At the end, instructor Noelle Powers puts on Mozart and teaches them to stretch with their hoops.
Powers tells her students that hooping is a meditative exercise, a workout for the body and mind. The hoop creates a sacred circle around them, she said, and can be a metaphor for life.
"You're in the middle of this circle, and you're the center, and whatever you decide to do and how you decide to act inside of that will either keep things up, or perhaps the hoop will fall," Powers said. "Then it's up to you to just pick it back up and start moving again."
"It might sound silly," added Martine "Hoopzilla" Koissy, 31, of North Bethesda, "but I feel like the hoop is spinning away the negativity that I have inside."