Hula hoops are back in a big way with hoop dancing.
It’s something longtime beach resident Valentina Martin is capitalizing on with The Hoop Unit, a 13-member dance team comprised of students from hula hoop classes that she teachers regularly at Liberty Station in Point Loma.
Martin is an “apostle” spreading the gospel of hula hoops — and what can be done with them in dance and exercise.
“There’s been a resurgence of popularity in hula hoops the last 15 or 20 years,” said Martin, noting a new dance/exercise craze known as “hooping” has developed with adherents called “hoopers.”
“It’s a hobby, it’s a form of exercise, it’s a form of expression of art,” said Martin, adding hooping “can be very meditative for people.”
Martin said the new dance craze is not only a throwback to earlier times, but has been perpetuated over the years by bands throwing hoops out to patrons who’ve danced with them at festivals while the music was playing.
Chel Rogerson, one of Martin's students and a member of her hoop unit, is a convert to the cause, noting Martin and her dance troupe are world-renowned.
“I traveled around Thailand and Bali hooping and taking workshops, and her name and her associate’s would come up again and again by respected teachers and performers,” Rogerson said, adding, “I recently moved to San Diego from the East Coast, partly because I would have the opportunity to take classes with them.”
Rogerson said she auditioned for The Hoop Unit because “it provided me the opportunity to take my hooping to the next level. I had never performed before and now I have mentors and friends who inspire and encourage me.
“Hooping is not just a healthy and challenging activity,” said Rogerson. “It's an inspiring way to be creative and playful, which is good for the soul. Playing and creativity is something that as adults, we forget or get too busy to do. At the end of the day, it's all about having fun.”
Martin got her start performing hooping 17 years ago when she was living in Ocean Beach. She’d been belly dancing since age 12. She admitted she was hooked on the new sport from the get-go.
“I needed to figure out how to do all the tricks — and there are a lot of them,” she said. “I was determined to learn them. A year later, I started to teach people.”
Martin claims hooping has not only given her a new career direction, but changed her outlook on life.
“It’s really transformed my life,” she said. “I do it full-time teaching it, performing it and making and selling my own hula hoops.”
A hula hoop is twirled around the waist, limbs or neck. According to Wikipedia, the modern hula hoop was invented in 1958 by Arthur K. "Spud" Melin and Richard Knerr.
But children and adults worldwide have played with hoops, twirling, rolling and throwing them throughout history. Native Americans use hoop dancing as a form of storytelling, incorporating anywhere from one to 30 hoops as props. There was even a "craze" of using wooden and metal hoops in 14th-century England.
The hula hoop gained international popularity in the late 1950s, when a plastic version was successfully marketed by California's Wham-O toy company. With giveaways and national marketing and retailing, a fad was started in July 1958. Twenty-five million plastic hoops were sold in less than four months, and in two years, sales reached more than 100 million units.
Recently, there has been a re-emergence of hula hooping. Modern hula hooping is seen at festivals and fairs including Burning Man in Nevada, Bonnaroo, Camp Bisco, The Gathering of the Vibes, All Good, Lock'n, Camp Euforia, and Coachella.
Martin’s Hoop Class is taught 6 p.m. Wednesdays at Dance Place San Diego, 2650 Truxtun Road in Room 204. Cost is $15 for a drop-in, or $12 per class for the whole eight-week series. Sign up at unityhoops.com/classes
The Hoop Unit’s next performance, "Sizzzling Circus Sirens," runs July 23 to 28 at the Lyceum Theater Space for the San Diego International Fringe Festival. More info at: unityhoops.com.
Visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIfOlmxn6_c to watch a video of The Hoop Unit hooping in Ocean Beach.