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By Edward M. Eveld

RISMEDIA, Sept. 10, 2008-(MCT)-It happened at a music festival, as you probably could have guessed. “There was a girl who let me borrow her hoop, and I haven’t put it down since,” Sarah Noelle Dettmer said.

She doesn’t mean that literally, of course, but the hoop has become a big part of Dettmer’s life. Actually, she said, it’s changed her life.

Hooping is dance. Hooping is meditation. Hooping is exercise. To modern hoopers like Dettmer, hoops aren’t toys, although they’re fun. So what’s a good place and time to hoop, besides an outdoor festival?

“Anytime,” said Dettmer, 21, a vocal performance major at University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music. “Like I just hooped before I started making lunch.”

What hooping is not, so much, is Hula Hooping, although the rise of the modern hoop, a conversation piece at festivals and a star on YouTube, comes at an interesting time. This year is the 50th anniversary of Wham-O’s Hula Hoop.

Today’s hoopers mostly make their own hoops, usually out of irrigation tubing and often decorated with colorful tape. The hoops generally are heavier and bigger around than the plastic kind of the 1958 Wham-O craze.

Such hoops are easier to keep up and keep moving, especially for the novice, hoopers say. So if your only experience is the light, plastic kind, time to try anew.

Tim Walsh, author of “Wham-O Super Book” due out in October, said nostalgia might have something to do with the rise of hooping.

Walsh’s book chronicles 60 years of Wham-O, the colossal toy company that brought us the Hula Hoop, Frisbee, Super Ball and Hacky Sack, to name a few classics.

Some 100 million Hula Hoops and Hula Hoop knockoffs were sold in a very short period. As the story goes, Walsh said, Wham-O got the idea from a 1950s trend in Australia, where cane and bamboo hoops were all the rage.

Wham-O went plastic, got the California kids on board, scored a spot on TV’s “Dinah Shore Show” and the rest is toy fad history, he said.

“Once something is that big, it’s almost inevitable it will come back,” Walsh said.

Today’s hoopers, though, are reaching much further back than 1958. The hoop is a ring, an unbroken circle, ancient and sacred, they say.

And hoopers are reaching out.

Dettmer is back from teaching hooping to youngsters at New Hope, a camp near Seminole, Okla., for children who have a parent in prison. Campers made hoops and learned enough moves for a performance at the end of the week.

Brie Blakeman, a Kansas City Art Institute student, is a member of Kaivalya Hoop Dancers, a troupe based in Colorado that spreads its hoop art internationally. Blakeman returned earlier this month from a Kaivalya tour in India.

“It’s funny to think I didn’t even Hula Hoop as a little kid and now I’m 20 and making a living from hoop dance,” she said.

Blakeman learned her first hoop tricks at a String Cheese Incident concert. The band is owed credit for the hoop revival because back in the 1990s it started tossing hoops out to the crowd. Blakeman, besides traveling and performing, also spreads hoop dancing through her classes at Bella Dance Studio in Westport and Sunshine Yoga in downtown Kansas City.

“The classes really help people to express themselves,” she said. “A lot of people don’t think they can dance, or they’ll say they don’t have the right body type for it. The hoop frees your body, and that helps you start moving in ways you didn’t think you could before.

“Once they step inside that hoop, they’re suddenly laughing, they’re free-spirited, they’re springing around in circles. It’s a complete transformation.”

Kansas City even has a connection to World Hoop Day, an international celebration and creation of Annie O’Keeffe. She’s a 1991 graduate of Shawnee Mission North High School and recently moved from New York to San Francisco.

Besides world peace, the goal of World Hoop Day is to give away hoops to underprivileged children. The second World Hoop Day was Aug. 8, or 8-8-08 to participants. The first was July 7, 2007. The next will be Sept. 9, 2009, or 9-9-09.

“There’s nothing that lights up a kid’s face like a big, shiny hoop,” O’Keeffe said.

“We’ve given away 10,000 hoops,” she said. “It’s growing and growing. I’m getting e-mail from L.A., Las Vegas, Sydney, about how people are moved by this.”

O’Keeffe figured that other aid organizations offer food and medical relief for children. She would concentrate on hoops to spread joy and exercise.

“They’ll be able to play with them their entire lives,” she said.

Dettmer plans to keep “playing” with her hoops, for herself and for others.

At a Widespread Panic concert on the Fourth of July, she was hooping with her LED hoop, focused on the music and her dance.

“I was so lost in the moment,” she said, “and when I looked up I had this crowd of people all around me, watching me. And I realize I’m sharing it with all these people.”

How to Hoop

Use the right size hoop: Stand your hoop in front of you. It should reach your belly button or even a few inches higher. Most hoops in the toy aisles are for small people. A bigger, slower-rotating hoop is easier to keep going.

Use the right moves: Don’t frantically move your waist in a circle. Instead, place one foot in front of the other and rock, shifting your weight from foot to foot.

Use your arms and legs: And more than one hoop. For tricks, dance moves and more ideas, check out the videos at

How to Make Your Own Hoop

Irrigation tubing has been the material of choice for custom hoops. It’s available at home supply stores.

Common sizes for hoop-making are 160 psi at ¾-inch diameter and 100 psi at ¾- or 1-inch diameter.

Cut the tubing to make a hoop that will stand about as high as your navel. Use a tubing connector to join the ends. Heat from a hair blow-dryer will make the ends pliable enough to fit over the connector.

Use colorful duct tape or electrical tape to decorate your hoop.

Not a do-it-yourselfer? Other options include Hoop Mamas ( ), to get a custom hoop made for you or to buy online from Kaivalya Hoop Dancers at

© 2008, The Kansas City Star.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.