Mollie Hogan is HoopDazzle. With blond, Gretel-like hair tied up with black lace, she's dressed in sneakers and a cabaret-meets-yoga ensemble, her face lights up as she describes her "hoop path" to me. Mollie has logged over 500 hours of "flight time," and has decided to share the transcendence of hooping by teaching classes at the Tulen Center, and hosting workshops with world-renowned Hoopers.
"I truly believe that playing with the hoop can really release a person's inner joy," Hogan says.
This night's clinic is taught by a man from North Carolina named Baxter -part grown-up club kid, part guru, but all hoop. While hooping isn't a mainstream activity, it is gaining popularity. Like poi spinning, juggling, and other circus endeavors, hooping is known as a "flow art" and has developed its own terminology, aesthetic, and curriculum. One of the developers of that curriculum is Christabel, founder of HoopStar, a San Francisco-based hoop certification class. Christabel, glowing in bright purple bell-bottoms, refers to the hoop as a catalyst for life change.
"I left a very masculine, intellectual academic world to do this," she says. Not only has she fostered her femininity and health through hooping, she has also created a successful business.
The flow art stereotypes paint practitioners as dirty hippies or blissed-out ravers, but that's not the case here. The attendees range from your typical Bendite LaDeDa lady, to tweens sporting "Bob the Tomato" t-shirts. But the common denominator is the hoop. Pam, a local teacher, describes hooping as her creative outlet: breaking out in spontaneous dance in your back yard might make you at best self conscious and at worst a crazy person, but add a circle of brightly colored plastic around your waist, and you immediately have permission to get funky. Acupuncturist Donna Stancil tells me brightly, "I've suggested hooping to my patients as a way for them to get back lost physicality, lost femininity. And besides just the movement, the weight of the hoop acts like a massage."
As the music shifts to a hip-hop track, Baxter hands out black strips of fabric. The hoopers, well into an hour of constant gyrating, pull blindfolds over their eyes, tuning into the rhythm of the hoop. Baxter is sharing his skills and tricks, as well as his philosophy. He talks about hooping like a yogi describes asana. The hoop has healed him physically and emotionally, speeding recovery of an atrophied shoulder and lessening depression. He is a charismatic ambassador and a confident hoop geek.
"You come to these things, thinking everybody is watching you. No one is watching you...we can't take anything too seriously here," Baxter says.
As Baxter continues to motivate the group, he mentions the idea of the tribe. I get the feeling that this clinic is as much about hooping together as it is about learning new moves, sharing in the connection between movement, play, and well being. Watching the group swirl freely, it is evident why they call this "flight time."Get your hoop on!
HoopDazzle is offering classes in March and April at both the Tulen Center and COCC. For a detailed schedule check out www.hoopdazzle.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.