A few months ago I was looking for a fun dance class to take as an active, creative outlet. While I came across all sorts of interesting class ideas, nothing was really jumping out at me.
Then I watched a hooping video online. I knew I had to find a class soon!
I loved the idea of blending the movement of the hoop with dance. I think it takes me back to my years as a baton twirler – it’s just so much more natural for me to dance with something in my hands! Sometimes I think we can get so focused on getting enough exercise into our day that we forget to find something fun and joyful to do. It’s even better when that something is very active!
I sat down recently with my hooping instructor, Kristina Sutcliffe, of O Dance and asked her a few questions to help explain hooping to all of you lovely readers.
Mindy: What is Hooping?
Kristina: Hooping is a member of the flow arts and is a fast-growing fitness and meditation practice that blends play, exercise and dance into a fun and healthful activity that moves the body, stills the mind, and uplifts the spirit. The hoop is used as a movement tool or dance partner to help access movement and flow of movement. Hooping combines technical moves or tricks with freestyle or technical dancing and is accompanied by music. One may hoop around all parts of the body, not just the waist.
The flow arts are playful movement arts involving skill toys such as hoops, poi, and staff, to name a few. These tools or toys help evoke the exploration of dynamic, flowing and sequential movements. Flow is a mental state of mind in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus and full involvement. In flow one can access a full mind-body connection.
Mindy: When did you start hooping? Why did you start?
Kristina: I found hooping at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival 5 years ago. I made a hoop with my daughter as a fun activity to do with her. Then we went out under the magical blue skies of Colorado, listening to lively fun music and danced our hearts out with the hoops for a number of hours. I was hooked! I loved the rhythmic feeling of the hoop coming across my body and with my new (heavy) hoop I was able to hoop easily. I was unable to before as I always tried with a smaller, lighter hoop. Finding dance within the hoop made me feel joyful, happy and giddy as my daughter and I played and danced together into the evening under the starlit sky.
Being hooked, I had to find out more about this hoop dance thing. I found myself wanting to learn more and more. I took a few classes from one of the hooping world’s best, Shakti Sunfire, not knowing exactly what I was getting into. She moved so easily and gracefully within the hoop. I was entranced and determined to learn more. I found out that I could become certified to teach Hoop Dance from a company in California, Hoopnotica. As soon as I could, I flew out to Santa Monica for the teacher training. Having been a dancer before in my life with ballet and a degree in modern dance from the University of Colorado, I was able to catch on quickly and found that I was a natural teacher. I learned technique, problem solving and ways to trouble shoot for students who may have problems picking up the moves. I was in LOVE not only with hooping but with teaching hoop dance.
Kristina: There are numerous benefits, including:
- fun, creative, personal way of becoming physically fit
- burns 400 to 600 calories per hour
- strengthening of core muscles
- toning of the arms and legs
- freeing up of hips and spine and increased flexibility
- increased hand-eye coordination and dexterity
- soothes the mind inducing joy and calm feelings
- centers the mind and increases focus
- mind-body connection is executed with a feeling of flow through movement
- with practice one may find an expansive place of peace and connection to the present moment
- reconnects us with the greater play of life
- in Hoopdance, fun is a given and transcend-dance is a possibility where it can take us back the ancient connection between spirit and dance
Mindy: Why do you love to teach hoop dance?
Kristina: I love teaching hoop dance as I can see that in every class I make a difference in my students’ lives. There are so many metaphors for life in teaching hoop dance, and I hope that the metaphors I teach in class can be taken out of the hoop and into life. I believe that it does create a positive spin, so to speak, on my and my students’ life, germinating greater creativity, self confidence and community. I can see first hand, and I have had feed back from my students, that my classes improve lives not only in a physical way, but in a mental and spiritual way. My mantra is to keep movement in peoples’ lives no matter what age. In a recent intermediate hoop dance class I had a range of students from 6 to 66 years of age. In this class I realized that every person was meeting their own personal edge and at the same time feeling deep happiness and bliss.
Mindy: Why would my readers want to give it a try?
Kristina: Well, who would not like to try something that will make them giggle and laugh, while keeping physically fit? If you like the form of exercise you’re doing, you are more likely to stick with it. I think it is safe to say that hoop dance holds the possibility of finding bliss, inner peace, physical fitness, mind/body connection and increased spiritual awareness all within the hoop. Over and over again I have seen it permeate outside of the hoop and into the personal world, making life better, richer and more colorful. I call this Soul Play. When we allow our soul to play, we can transform and transcend with grace and then allow ourselves to flow with life.
How about you? Have you ever given hoop dance a try? Please share your experience in the comments!
Kristina Sutcliffe lives in Lyons, Colorado, with her husband and daughter. You can find her teaching hoop dance and zumba classes throughout Boulder. Be sure to visit her website, O Dance, to find specific times and locations for her classes. You can also chat with her on Facebook. Kristina’s mantra is to keep movement in people’s lives through dance no matter what age!
All images were provided by Kristina Sutcliffe.