Hooping generally refers to artistic movement and dancing with a hoop (or hoops) used as a prop or dance partner. Hoops can be made of metal, wood or plastic. Hooping combines technical moves and tricks with freestyle or technical dancing, and is typically accompanied by music.
In contrast to the classic toy hula hoop, modern hoopers use heavier and larger diameter hoops, and frequently rotate the hoop around parts of the body other than the waist, including the hips, chest, neck, shoulders, thighs, knees, arms, hands, thumbs, feet and toes. Also the hoop can be rotated not just on different part of the body but off the body as well. All spaces both within and outside of the hoop can be freely explored. Modern hooping has taken cues from diverse art forms such as rhythmic gymnastics, hip-hop, freestyle dance, fire dance, twirling, poi, and other dance and movement forms.
Hooping is part of the greater spectrum of flow arts, which are playful movement arts involving skill toys that are used to evoke the exploration of dynamic, flowing, and sequential movements. This movement, and the related mind/body state, is referred to as "flow". Technically, hooping is a form of object manipulation and therefore shares some lineage with classical juggling.
In its modern incarnation as an art form, dance form, and exercise modality, the practice is referred to either as "hoop dance" or simply "hooping". Hoop dance artists commonly refer to themselves, and the greater hoop dance community, as hoopers.
Hoopers generally use handmade hoops crafted from polyethylene (HDPE) or polypropylene (1" or 3/4" or 1/2" diameter) piping and wrapped with colorful tape, which serves the dual purpose of providing decoration and grip. These modern hoops differ from the water-filled plastic toys commonly available for children. The heavier weight of these handmade hoops allows for more controlled movement around the body; the larger diameter and heavier rotational mass allows for both slower rotation, and ease of learning moves such as "portal" tricks, where the hooper steps through the hoop while it is still rotating. In contrast, children's hoops are typically made of lightweight plastic, have a very small diameter, and are incredibly difficult for most adults to use.
Circus hoopers such as Elena Lev (of Cirque du Soleil fame) typically use lightweight hoops made of aluminium, or, in earlier days, wood.
Typically, an adult will begin with a hoop of approximately 38-44" on the inside diameter. While these hoops may seem huge compared to children's hoops, they are typically required for adults to have success and enjoy hoop dance. Many people eventually decrease the size of their hoops. Advanced hoopers typically use a hoop between 30" and 36" on the inside diameter, although that varies from hooper to hooper. A lighter hoop allows for faster revolutions and more advanced tricks, but also consequently take more skill on the part of the performer.
Many modern hoopers make their own hoops out of polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene, high-density polypropylene, or polypropylene tubing. The size and the weight of the hoop affects style of the hooper. Heavier, larger hoops are more often used for slow hooping and body tricks while lighter, thinner tubing is used for quick hand tricks. These hoops may be covered in a fabric or plastic tape to ease the amount of work in keeping a hoop twirling around the dancer, and can be very colourful. Some use glow-in-the dark, patterned, or sparkling tape, and others are produced with clear tubing and filled with plastic balls, glitter, or even water to produce visual or audio effects when used.
In the mid-1990s, the jam band The String Cheese Incident began tossing hoops from the stage into the audience and encouraging participants to groove, thus contributing to the modern hooping movement. The annual Burning Man festival has also served as a melting pot and fertile ground for hoopers from all around the world to share their tricks, techniques, and energy. Ubiquitous grassroots "hoop jams" and "convergences" such as Return to Roots Hoop Gathering (Hawley, PA) happen throughout the world almost every month of the year. These meet-ups, as well as various online communities, are the foundations of the hooping subculture.
An International Holiday World Hoop Day has become the hula hoop holiday celebrating the circle around the world. Every year, in numerical sequence starting from 2007-07-07 and continuing through 2012-12-12 hoopers dance in every city and country to raise money and donate hoops to others who can't afford them. Starting in 2013 the event will take place on the first saturday of October every year.
Native American Hoop Dance has been recognized as a cultural heritage. The most popular Native Hoop Dance competition occurs annually at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. Recent competitions have drawn as many as 10,000 spectators.
Most recently, hooping has been promoted into the mass consciousness through various dance studios and videos which promote it as a fun, practical path to whole-body fitness and wellness.
The hooping movement vocabulary now includes core or 'on body' moves, 'off body' moves and a multitude of transitions creating the possibility for endless permutations and combinations. When a hoop dancer improvises combinations of movements (usually to music) he or she can get into a 'flow' state where the moves seem almost to direct themselves. The mind detaches from planning or judging the dance and exists in a state of blissful awareness. In order to get to a place of flow more easily and frequently it is advised that one should have a steady practice - daily, if possible. It takes a certain amount of drill to get comfortable enough to get to the flow. Both drill and flow count towards 'flight time' - the actual amount of time in the hoop that is logged.
In recent years hooping has become popularized as a fitness regimen alongside kickboxing, breakdancing and bellydancing. Hoop dance classes can now be found in gyms, and is often combined with Pilates or yoga disciplines, all of which build strength, balance, and flexibility.
Hooping is widely recognized by health and fitness experts as being a superb form of exercise. Hooping increases muscle tone and strength; it also improves cardiovascular health and burns calories, since it is a type of aerobic exercise. A study by the American Council on Exercise found that a thirty-minute hooping workout burns around 200 calories. Hooping works many muscles in the body and has the potential to build core muscle strength while improving flexibility and balance.
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