Hula Hooping

Joe's Movement Emporium Offers Hula Hoop Classes

Noelle Powers, right, leads Kate MacDonell, left, and others in a hoop jam at Joe's Movement Emporium. Joe's next hoop session is Saturday.
Noelle Powers, right, leads Kate MacDonell, left, and others in a hoop jam at Joe's Movement Emporium. Joe's next hoop session is Saturday. (By Susan Biddle For The Washington Post)
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Friday, April 24, 2009

It's an icon of warm weather and youth: a circular hoop that, when you rock your hips just so, goes round and round. Remember those rotations? Competing with other kids in the neighborhood to see who could keep the hoop up longer? What simple, satisfying bliss that was.

Flash forward 25 or 30 years. Maybe you recently picked up your daughter's hula hoop or you tried the Wii version, only to realize your groove is gone.

It doesn't have to be. On the last Saturday of each month, Joe's Movement Emporium in Mount Rainer hosts a hoop jam. About 15 people (mostly women of varying ages) drop in during the two-hour session to get a workout and act like kids. They take their pick of large, colorful hoops, find enough space to hula and get to shimming to the beats of Outkast, Missy Elliot and Beyoncé. There are looks of intense concentration as hoops inevitably hit the floor, but for those who keep at it, smiles emerge when the right rhythm is achieved.

The secret to hula hooping? Use a bigger, heavier hoop.

"Size and the weight gives you more to push," explains Brooke Kidd, the director of Joe's, who can swing the hoop around her hips, arm and neck. "I could never do it when I was younger."

Noelle Powers, a hooping teacher at Joe's, flits through the room offering suggestions: Try putting one foot a little in front of the other. Rock back and forth faster if you feel it falling. Try doing something with your hands so you don't look like a T. rex. She moves her waist effortlessly, and the ever-turning hoop never falters. Sometimes she goes so far as to grab the hoop mid-motion and, without missing a beat, swings it over her head.

Powers learned about hooping while living on the West Coast, where it is more common. After a move to the Washington area and a chance encounter with Kidd, Powers began teaching hooping classes at Joe's. When those proved popular, two-hour hoop jams were started as a way to get more people into the fun.

The act of swinging your hips from side to side can be a surprisingly good aerobic workout. Several people at a recent jam worked up a sweat, and even 8-year-old Ahmari Williams (who seemed to be more worried about enjoying herself than about getting a workout) noticed.

"It gives you a lot of muscle and exercise," said Williams when asked about the benefits of hooping.

For Silver Spring's Ann Poritzky, hula hooping is a way to add other exercise options to her walking regiment. Of course there is the fun factor, too.

With a hint of satisfaction in her voice, Poritzky said she hadn't been able to hula hoop since she was a kid.

She enjoyed the afternoon so much that she decided to treat herself to an orange, red and green hoop. She happily walked out carrying a little piece of reclaimed childhood in her hand.

-- Amy Orndorff

WHEN IS IT? Hoop jams are the last Saturday of each month (the next is tomorrow) from 5 to 7 p.m.

WHERE IS IT? Joe's Movement Emporium, 3309 Bunker Hill Rd., Mount Rainier.

HOW MUCH IS IT? Suggested donation is $10.

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION? Call 301-699-1819 or visit

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