Hip Swingers

The latest trend for fun and fitness is an update on an old idea—hula hooping!

Adam Ewing

Hip Swingers

Quickly, name the toy that emerged in Australia in the late 1950s, was transplanted to the U.S. by a California company later that decade, became a worldwide sensation, lost favor for 25 years, but now is back in a big way? The answer is the hula-hoop, and it is trendy again.

“Hooping” has become an underground fitness and social craze, with hooping groups taking over public parks and other venues, creating fitness classes and even participating in major events like the Richmond Folk Festival and the National Night Out. On the social front, hoopers have created dozens of “meet up” groups around the state, whose members preach the gospel of hooping to anyone who’ll listen. “I take my hoop with me to cookouts and parties, whatever,” says Guinevere Teagarden, office manager at a Richmond engineering firm by day, and hooper and belly dancer by night. “It’s a cool ice breaker…a very social thing.”

Today’s hula-hoops are bigger and brighter than the ones you spun on your waist as a child. Crafted from PVC irrigation tubing and often decorated with brightly colored “gaffer’s” tape, LED lights and even sequins, they are often as wide as four feet in diameter and weigh up to two pounds. According to Stacey Guard, executive director of RVA Hoop House in Richmond, hooping starts with the basic spinning of the hoop around the waist and hips, and “moves outward from there,” she explains. Experienced hoopers can “halo” the hoop, or raise it up their bodies to spin on their arms above their heads. They also can “travel” the hoop from above their heads, down to their feet, and even spin them out onto one foot or hand. There is also “vertical” hooping, where the dancer leans her body over and spins the hoop perpendicular to the ground, and multi-hooping, with several large and small hoops going at one time.

It can take weeks or months to master the more difficult moves, but hooping can become addictive. Says Guard, who teaches three fitness-based hooping classes a week at Richmond’s Dogtown Dance Theatre, “People come into class and they are quiet or meek, but at the end of six weeks, they’ve got a flaming hoop spinning around them and they’re screaming like a child.”

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