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Becoming a Hoop Master: Tips and Stories from an Old School Hooper

February 27, 2015 - by Molly Sinclair


You can call it an art, a sport or a dance - either way, "hooping" is spreading like wildfire. What began decades ago as a type of performance art in Los Angeles has exploded in popularity the past few years in tune with the rise of dance music and festivals, with the main demographic of hoopers being young women.

However, most hoopers do not know the origin of hooping, who the founders were, or how the dance was originally performed. Of course, there is no right or wrong way to use your hula hoop, but after speaking with Hoop Teacher Chika Shin a.k.a. Hooplur, who came from the L.A. Hoop scene, I felt compelled to share this valuable insight with other avid hoopers like myself.

Her story is very interesting - and she also shares several tips with us on how to become a hoop master. Since she first hooped eight years ago, she now teaches her own Hoop Class in San Diego and Japan, creates and sells her own hoops, and even performs in multiple events like the San Diego Mardi Gras parade last week.

From being lost in the rave scene to becoming a hoop master, Chika shares her inspiring story. Scroll down if you'd like to skip to her helpful tips, although the origins of hooping may give you a surprisingly new perspective on your new favorite activity.

Molly Reports: Tell us what you know about the origins of hooping and its founders.

Chika: The two women that made hooping popular in the states are Christabel Zamor (Hoopgirl) and Anah Reichenbach (Hoopalicious), about thirteen years ago.

Christabel is my mentor. She and Anah were friends and expanded hoop dance all over the world. They were located in Los Angeles and San Francisco. They made videos, books, and did teacher training, and the instructors they trained would teach their style of hooping all over the world.

I was one of the instructors because I loved her workshop. I can't find any teacher like her. She is a very spiritual person and she changed everyone's life. Her principle was to make women confident. When I went to teacher training for the first time, she was glowing. It made me cry, just looking at her. And in her workshop, she doesn't only teach tricks. She teaches you how to read minds, how to read the energy of the room.

That's my dream. Be like her. Because these days, young people don't know about them... They started it, but they don't know that. It's kind of sad.

What was the scene like when hooping first started?

There weren't really hoop performers back then. Girls started to bring their own hoops to dance with in the clubs, like at Circus in Hollywood. There were also no LED hoops, so they would attach glow sticks to their hoops. With hooping you don't need background in dancing. Anybody can do it and create their own style.

How did you get into hooping?

Eight years ago, I didn't know what to do with my life and I was depressed for a while. I discovered hooping when I saw a girl who brought a hula hoop every week to a club in Hollywood. She showed me some tricks and how to dance with the hula hoop. When I got home, I googled hooping and became inspired by Christabel and Anah's performance videos. I ended up going to see them and I took their lessons. I started to go by the name Hooplur.

Before I started hooping I was insecure; not confident. I was a negative person. After hooping I changed a lot. Before I hated myself and was doing drugs in the rave scene but then I quit. Hooping became my ecstasy.

How did you start performing?

A promoter in the L.A. club saw me hooping every weekend in the crowd and asked me if I wanted to perform. After performing for the first time in 2006, people started asking me if I taught a class. So I took teacher training from Christabel in San Francisco.

I didn't have anything. But after I started hooping, people became inspired from me. Now I have something I can do to make people happy.

Do you think hooping is a sport or an art?

It is not just a sport. When I went back to Japan where I'm from, I went to teach a class. But the Japanese didn't know how to express from inside themselves; they just do it as a sport. I want to tell them that hooping is not just a sport. It is a spiritual thing.

What's the best way to get good at hooping?

Take classes from local teachers. You can find any moves on Youtube, but in person is much better because Youtube cannot tell you what your body is doing.

Film yourself and watch it over and over. This is how I improved.

Get inspired from different hoopers. And practice a little bit each day, even five or ten minutes, so you can acquire muscle memory.

Sometimes it might seem like you don't get any progress for two weeks, so I take a break from hooping, for about a week. Then I get it instantly. So if you're struggling, take a break. Don't get discouraged, because your body is trying to memorize the movement little by little.

What are the most important moves to work on?

Chest hooping, waist hooping and legs, because they are the hardest. On-the-body moves are harder than off-the-body tricks. Chest hooping is important because after you master hooping on your chest, there is so much you can do, and it opens up the possibilities to a whole different world!

What should we know about Off-the-body moves versus On-the-body?

Before, we didn't really have off the body moves, and we didn't have lighter hoops. We used to use a big hoop, like 40 inches, which made it easier to get chest hooping and the right form. But these days, young people want to go to a light hoop right away. That's why it's harder to get the chest hooping down. So I recommend a big hoop for the chest and legs because those are the hardest moves. It takes time.

What's your favorite kind of music to hoop to?

House music, because it has a good beat.

I used to hoop to psychedelic trance which is really fast. But later, I got a gig in L.A., where I had to hoop to slow songs. The music was totally different, and it was really hard for me. So I recommend listening to all types of music, like slow jazz, anything, because it opens up a whole world. When I hoop to slow songs, I use a large hoop, and when I hoop to fast songs I use a smaller hoop.

What kind of hoop should I use? What size is best?

For beginners, I recommend heavy tubing and as wide as the ground to your belly button. It depends on the person, but sometimes it is 39 to 41 inches. When you can dance around on your waist and do chest hooping, then you can change to lighter and thinner tubing. You can do more off-the-body moves.

Polypro material responds really well to breaks and fast tricks. The material is softer and it goes faster.

Tell us about the hoop retreats you attended.

There's a hoop retreat in the states. It's a hoop camp 3-5 days where all the instructors come. You can take their workshop and inspire each other. It's kind of pricey, but it's really fun to make friends. It's all about hooping. At night they do fire hoop and play music and share stories and performer. The food is vegan and healthy. In the morning there is yoga. You can do circus hooping, acrobatic, etc.

Are there any local hoop gatherings if we can't make the retreat?

Yes, there are a few. In San Diego I know there is Hoop Jam on Sunday mornings in Ocean beach and there is an Oceanside hoop jam.

What's the best way to give a great hoop performance?

Interact with the crowd. You can do moves like booty bump where you hold someone's hand in the crowd. Definitely use eye contact, they love it!

Some hoop performers are in their own world. That looks cool too... but I like more interaction.

Any advice on selecting an LED hoop?

The LED hoop, even if you get Polypro material, still gets heavy because of the lights. So I get a smaller and lighter one, and you save some money too.

What about fire hooping?

Take a fire safety class where they explain all the safety stuff. They don't really teach tricks. At fire hoop workshops, we always have a fire blanket. A lot of people died while they were doing fire hoop or poi, so you have to wear cotton or certain fabrics so they don't melt.

Don't underestimate the power of the fire. Some young people do fire hoop on drugs, without safety person... Don't. It's dangerous. I always wear a hat and put my hair inside. It's hot!

How is your hoop class different from other classes?

My class is fun [laughs]. I teach moves and put it together. I make a flow and teach them how to do a move while they're dancing. That's the hoop dance - doing tricks while dancing. These days, people just do tricks without dancing, and it's not really fun for me to watch. I'm kind of old school.

How can hoopers sign up for your class in San Diego?

I teach a class at the YMCA Mission Valley in San Diego. I teach Level 1 (Beginner) and Level 2 (Intermediate). The series starts at the beginning of the month and is once a week. You can sign up by contacting me at hooplur@gmail.com. It's $30 a month for beginner and $65 for my 5-week intermediate course. You can also drop in either course.

How do I know if I'm Level 1 or Level 2?

Level 2 is more off the body and combinations are more challenging. If you can chest hoop and dance with the hoop around your waist, you are ready for Level 2.

Do you make and sell hoops?

Yes, I design and sell hoops. I can also resize hoops.

You can come to my class and try different sizes as well, before you're ready to invest.

Any more advice?

I always tell students, Believe. Whenever I say I can do this, I can do this, I get it. Eventually.

When I drop the hoop I say yes. Because when you drop the hoop you get discouraged, right? But dropping the hoop means you are learning. It's a celebration!

For more information on Chika's story, her class, buying a hoop, or any tips on hooping, check out her website at www.HoopingWithChika.com or contact her at hooplur@gmail.com.

--Molly Reports




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