Her cheeks were flushed bright pink and her smile spread like the Cheshire Cat in “Alice in Wonderland.” But, her eyes were focused as she tried to keep the hoop spinning steadily on her hand.
The bright pink, green and yellow LED lights created trails of color with every swish of the plastic circle.
Alex Dalton, a 21-year-old junior at FGCU, is brand-new to the hoop community.
People from all over the country and various other parts of the world are expressing themselves through hoop dancing.
Hoops come in all sizes and colors.
Most but not all hoopers use hoops made of either polypro or HDPE tubing. These dance hoops tend to be heavier and more durable than the typical hula-hoop you’ll find in a toy store.
“A lot of my girlfriends were getting into it,” Dalton said. “It’s kind of like a fad. I thought, ‘you know, it’s stupid.’ I picked up a hoop. I played around with theirs. I wasn’t good at it.”
Dalton’s friends insisted that she keep an open mind. One day, she was playing with their hoops, and it clicked.
“It was the most freeing feeling,” Dalton said.
Dalton doesn’t know many fancy tricks yet, but she is eager to learn.
“We all learn at a different pace, have different strengths and weaknesses, and we are all at different points of our journeys,” said Sam Traggardh, a 27-year-old hoop instructor.
Traggardh has been hooping for almost three years. She discovered hooping in 2004 at a String Cheese Incident concert, though it took her many years before she truly got involved in the hoop community.
“Being able to connect with thousands of people who share a similar interest or passion is such a blessing,” Traggardh said.
Traggardh is very popular in the hoop community. However, she doesn’t have any friends near her in Southern Illinois who hoop. Her hoop-friends reside on social media. Traggardh has over 21 thousand followers on her Instagram account, @twirlingcircus.
“I’ve built many beautiful friendships with people I’ve never even met that go beyond hooping,” Traggardh said. “It’s pretty unbelievable.”
For many, hooping is more than just a fun way to keep busy.
Ericka Bloch, a 22-year-old student in Puerto Rico, said she was in a huge depression and struggling with an eating disorder and a breakup.
“I was questioning whether it was even worth it to continue trying,” Bloch said. “Hooping was what gave me life again. When I was hooping, it was the only time when I could lose myself.”
Bloch learned about hooping through exercise. However, she benefited from the sport in ways that go beyond her physical health.
After joining the hoop community, Bloch blossomed. She’s had about twenty friends that have hooped with her. She has worked as a fitness instructor and also got offered a job in a circus. She politely declined the offer in order to finish school.
The hoop community is known for its supporting, inspirational attitudes. It’s common for more experienced hoopers to post tutorials on Instagram and YouTube to help those who are new to the art.
One word that circles the hoop community — pun intended — is “flow.” But, what is flow?
“I don’t think it’s about having ‘flow;” it’s about being ‘flow,’” Traggardh said.
Dalton turned off the bright LED lights on her hoop and set it down. She sat for a while, thinking about the word: flow.
“I would interpret it as moving with the hoop, allowing it to flow with your body,” Dalton said.