(Hula)hoop dreams

Hulahooping is no longer just for children on a playground or circus performers. The hobby can be seen in a variety of events, including music festivals, dance recitals and fitness centers.

The physical hoops range from plastic (commonly seen in children toys), aluminum (circus tools), PVC pipes (homemade hobby hoops), and even hoops made for LED/light performance and fire dancing. With Egyptian, Native American and Hawaiian origins, hulahooping is both culturally and physically stimulating.

The fun and relatively easy physical activity of hooping comes with many health benefits. Chicago Hoop Dance, a collaborative online-based group of healers and teachers that promote health, exercise and dance through hooping, advocates many health benefits of hooping through a variety of exercises. The exercises include a core-strengthening routine and an easy cardiovascular workout. The workouts enhance stamina and motor skills as well as strengthen the posture points in your back, arms and hips.

DePaul sophomore Kelsie Caldwell hooped as a young girl and recently took up the hobby seriously. She says, “I [hoop] whenever I get a chance and if I want a fun way to work out.”

Professional “hooper” from the National Institute of Circus Arts in Melbourne, Australia, Elisabeth Gifford (Dizzy Lizzy Delicious) teaches and performs in the Chicago area. Gifford praises the positive impact of hooping on health.

“Hulahooping is a good, low-impact workout that provides a little cardio and a lot of core-strength work without being too hard on the joints,” she said. “It’s also good for coordination and confidence. Anyone of pretty much any age or physique can do it.”

As a freelance artist, Gifford often performs independently, but she also performs with numerous Chicago-based organizations such as Aloft, the Actors Gymnasium and Vaudezilla. Her talents focus on hooping routines that feature multiple-hoop tricks and skills. In some workouts, she also utilizes the trapeze, aerial silks/Tissu, the aerial ring/Lyra and stilts.

Physical and visual impact aside, hooping can also positively affect the mental state of those who practice the art. Hooping is a skill that can be shared with many other participants and encourages social gathering and collaborative interactions.

Gifford works for an organization in uptown called CircEsteem, teaching hula-hooping and other circus skills to children from “all walks of life.”

“The program benefits underprivileged and at-risk youth, and aims to foster self-esteem through circus arts,” said Gifford. “Learning circus skills (including hula hoops) helps kids feel better about themselves and have more faith in their own abilities.”

Chicago Hoop Dance lists several mental benefits on their website. These include the calming of the mind, the promotion of creative expression and the development of a “healthy outlook on life.”

Caldwell finds encouragement in hoopers who have established their talent, “I appreciate the people who are really good at hooping because it is beautiful to watch – like a dance. I have respect for people who can do crazy tricks (I hope to be able too, soon) because it takes a lot of practice.”

In the Chicago area, there are many groups and organizations that focus on the hooping community. Chicago Hoop Dance offers frequent classes and workshops for both hooping enthusiasts and potential hooping teachers. Additionally, another organization called Chicagoland Hoopers offers single hooping classes and continuous workshops. Their most recent event, Outdoor Hoop Class 101, occurred on Saturday, May 28 in Downers Grove, IL.

With summer quickly approaching, hooping might be just the activity to get people off their couches and into the sun, knowing that the activity can benefit your physical, mental, and social health.

Gifford said, “I think seeing hulahoop moves makes people curious about physical motion and what the body is capable of. Hoops can be used to tell a story, to make people laugh, or to just to inspire awe through intricate levels of movement.”