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Let’s take a moment to think about what hula hooping is and how it is different from (sports) hooping. We will try to give s a short but comprehensive overview of  both hula hooping and the hooping subculture.

What is hula hooping?

A hula hoop is a toy hoop and probably one of the oldest toys that are still used at the present day. The first hula hoops appeared around 500 B.C. So children have been playing with it for thousands of years! Ancient hula hoops were constructed from flexible woods, grapevine or even stiff grasses, while their modern relatives are most of the time made from plastic tubes.

wham-o hula hoop logoThe hula hoop became really popular in the 1950′s when the California based toy company Wham-O successfully marketed a plastic version and distributed it around the world. Millions and millions of hoops have been sold to children and adults world wide. And hula hooping became one of the most popular leisure activities among kids.

After the 50′s the popularity of the hula hoop faded away slowly as it was replaced with other more sophisticated toys. However in street fairs, circus attractions and other spectacles, people still used the hula hoop to perform dancing and tricks.

native american hoop danceAnother form of traditional hooping is the native American hoop dance. This is a form of dancing with the means of telling a story. Usually there is only one performer and he uses from 1 to up to 30 hoops to represent animals, symbols and other elements of the story.

The hoop dance is usually performed by a male, but in recent years more and more female dancers emerge. This hoop dance has been recognized as a cultural heritage and there is even a yearly world championship among the native American performers.

What is hooping?

The last few years we see a re-emergence of hula hooping, as it’s being introduced in dance, fitness workouts and weight loss exercises. However this new trend is merely called “hooping” or “hoopdance” instead of hula hooping to clearly distinguish it from the hula hoop toy, initially marketed by Wham-O.

Many followers of the hooping movement make their own hoops (often referred to as a DIY hoop) or buy weighted hoops which are much heavier and larger than their classic relatives. These hoops are becoming more and more sophisticated, making it for example possible to disassemble them for easy travel transportation. Others fill the tube of their hoop with water or other materials to produce a special sound while swirling around, or use LED’s and glow-in-the-dark duct tape to make hooping a real nightly spectacle.

The hooping movement is a very social crowd sharing thoughts about their passion on various websites on the internet or gathering in hooping clubs. These hooping clubs are sometimes an extension of fitness clubs incorporating the hoop in their workout programs and exercises. Sometimes hooping classes are combined with Yoga or Pilates.

Some special forms of hooping have emerged as well:

  • Led hooping, which uses a hoop that glows in the dark thanks to LED technology. Depending on the movement different lights may light up.
  • Fire hooping, in which fire is attached to the outside of a specially constructed “fire hoop”. Practicing this variant is of course not without risk and requires a lot of skill and experience. This is not for beginners! And even the professionals will wear special fire protective clothing.

The new born hooping movement has become a success thanks to several music and dance bands encouraging it’s fans to pick up hooping. These bands contributed to the fact that hula hooping became cool again.

As today, hooping is widely accepted as a valid fitness exercise and marketed by many sports companies, dance studios and video studios, selling exercise and workout DVDs.