Hooping generally refers to artistic movement and dancing with a hoop (or hoops) used as a prop or dance partner. Hoops can be made of metal, wood or plastic. Hooping combines technical moves and tricks with freestyle or technical dancing, and is typically accompanied by music. In contrast to the classic toy hula hoop, modern hoopers use heavier and larger diameter hoops, and frequently rotate the hoop around parts of the body other than the waist, including the hips, chest, neck, shoulders, thighs, knees, arms, hands, thumbs, feet and toes. Also the hoop can be rotated not just on different part of the body but off the body as well. All spaces both within and outside of the hoop can be freely explored. Modern hooping has taken cues from diverse art forms such as rhythmic gymnastics, hip-hop, freestyle dance, fire dance, twirling, poi, and other dance and movement forms.
Hooping is part of the greater spectrum of flow arts, which are playful movement arts involving skill toys that are used to evoke the exploration of dynamic, flowing, and sequential movements. This movement, and the related mind/body state, is referred to as "flow". Technically, hooping is a form of object manipulation and therefore shares some lineage with classical juggling.
In its modern incarnation as an art form, dance form, and exercise modality, the practice is referred to either as "hoop dance" or simply "hooping". Hoop dance artists commonly refer to themselves, and the greater hoop dance community, as hoopers.
The hoop 
Hoopers generally use handmade hoops crafted from polyethylene (HDPE) or polypropylene (1" or 3/4" or 1/2" diameter) piping and wrapped with colorful tape, which serves the dual purpose of providing decoration and grip. These modern hoops differ from the water-filled plastic toys commonly available for children. The heavier weight of these handmade hoops allows for more controlled movement around the body; the larger diameter and heavier rotational mass allows for both slower rotation, and ease of learning moves such as "portal" tricks, where the hooper steps through the hoop while it is still rotating. In contrast, children's hoops are typically made of lightweight plastic, have a very small diameter, and are incredibly difficult for most adults to use.
Typically, an adult will begin with a hoop of approximately 38-44" on the inside diameter. While these hoops may seem huge compared to children's hoops, they are typically required for adults to have success and enjoy hoop dance. Many people eventually decrease the size of their hoops. Advanced hoopers typically use a hoop between 30" and 36" on the inside diameter, although that varies from hooper to hooper. A lighter hoop allows for faster revolutions and more advanced tricks, but also consequently take more skill on the part of the performer.
Many modern hoopers make their own hoops out of polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene, high-density polypropylene, or polypropylene tubing. The size and the weight of the hoop affects style of the hooper. Heavier, larger hoops are more often used for slow hooping and body tricks while lighter, thinner tubing is used for quick hand tricks. These hoops may be covered in a fabric or plastic tape to ease the amount of work in keeping a hoop twirling around the dancer, and can be very colourful. Some use glow-in-the dark, patterned, or sparkling tape, and others are produced with clear tubing and filled with plastic balls, glitter, or even water to produce visual or audio effects when used.
Hoops can be made collapsible for easy transport and versatility: each hoop breaks down into four or more pieces to later be reassembled. Other collapsible hoops are simply twisted down, and folded in half for easy storage.
Fire hoops (see Fire hooping below) comprise of a plastic hoop with four to six spokes radiating outward. The spokes typically extend 6-8 inches from the connection points on the hoop, and are capped with a roll of cotton and Kevlar wicking, which can then be lit on fire. This design keeps the fire a fair distance from the hooper's body, although getting burned at some point is a high probability. Making one's own fire hoop and playing with it while burning can be very dangerous. It is recommended that those who want to make their own hoop proceed with caution and take a fire safety class before lighting up.
LED hoops have internal batteries and are lit with light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and make mesmerizing patterns when spun at night outdoors or in low light environments. These hoops take advantage of the "persistence of vision" phenomenon which occurs when bright lights are moved at high speeds within the observer's field of vision.
History of hooping 
The earliest known incidence of hooping was in ancient Egypt as early as 1000 BC, where children used large hoops made of grape vines, which they rolled along the ground propelled by sticks, or swung around their waists a la the modern hoop. In other parts of the ancient world, hoops were made of stiff grasses as opposed to vine.
Old world 
In the 14th century, recreational hooping swept across England. The records of doctors at the time attribute numerous dislocated backs and heart attacks to "hooping." The word "hula" became associated with the toy in the early 19th century when British sailors visited the Hawaiian Islands and noted the similarity between "hooping" and traditional hula dancing.
Independently, Native Americans developed their own traditions surrounding the Hoop Dance. Native American Hoop Dance focuses on very rapid moves, and the construction of hoop formations around and about the body. Up to 30 hoops may be used in storytelling rituals to create formations such as the butterfly, the eagle, the snake, and the coyote. Native American hoops are typically of very small diameter (1 to 2.5 feet).
Twentieth century 
In 1957, an Australian company began manufacturing bamboo hoops for sale in retail stores. This caught the attention of a new California-based toy company by the name of Wham-O, founded by Richard P. Knerr and Arthur K. Melin. In 1958, Knerr and Melin traveled to playgrounds across Southern California, where they gave away free hula hoops and performed hooping demonstrations for the children. From this humble beginning, over 25 million hula hoops were sold in a four-month period.
Over the ensuing years, hula hoop contests were organized across the United States of America, and over 100 million hoops were sold in total.
In the mid-1990s, the jam band The String Cheese Incident began tossing hoops from the stage into the audience and encouraging participants to groove, thus contributing to the modern hooping movement. The annual Burning Man festival has also served as a melting pot and fertile ground for hoopers from all around the world to share their tricks, techniques, and energy. Ubiquitous grassroots "hoop jams" and "convergences" such as Return to Roots Hoop Gathering (Hawley, PA) happen throughout the world almost every month of the year. These meet-ups, as well as various online communities, are the foundations of the hooping subculture.
An International Holiday World Hoop Day has become the hula hoop holiday celebrating the circle around the world. Every year, in numerical sequence starting from 2007-07-07 and continuing through 2012-12-12 hoopers dance in every city and country to raise money and donate hoops to others who can't afford them.
Native American Hoop Dance has been recognized as a cultural heritage. The most popular Native Hoop Dance competition occurs annually at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. Recent competitions have drawn as many as 10,000 spectators.
The hooping movement vocabulary now includes core or 'on body' moves, 'off body' moves and a multitude of transitions creating the possibility for endless permutations and combinations. When a hoop dancer improvises combinations of movements (usually to music) he or she can get into a 'flow' state where the moves seem almost to direct themselves. The mind detaches from planning or judging the dance and exists in a state of blissful awareness. In order to get to a place of flow more easily and frequently it is advised that one should have a steady practice - daily, if possible. It takes a certain amount of drill to get comfortable enough to get to the flow. Both drill and flow count towards 'flight time' - the actual amount of time in the hoop that is logged.
Hooping and costuming 
Costuming has become an important part of the hooping phenomenon. As with any form of dance, dressing in creative ways can be inspiring.
Fire hooping 
Fire hooping requires the use of special "fire hoops" and, as with all fire dancing, is dangerous and poses a risk of injury.
The construction and weight of the fire hoop, combined with the fact that it is on fire, limits the possible moves, or tricks, to a much smaller gamut than those possible with a standard hoop. Some modern fire hoops have been designed to be much lighter, with smaller diameter tubing and with flexible wick spokes; these tools have begun to close the gap between fire hooping and general hooping trick vocabularies.
It is important that every fire dancer first obtain a lesson in fire safety. Always wear protective clothing made of natural fibers, and always have a "fire safety" (a person with a towel or duvetyne blanket who can extinguish any rogue flames) close by. The "safety" person should be holding the towel or blanket, and paying close attention to the performer.
Hooping and fitness 
In recent years hooping has become popularized as a fitness regimen alongside kickboxing, breakdancing and bellydancing. Hoop dance classes can now be found in gyms, and is often combined with Pilates or yoga disciplines, all of which build strength, balance, and flexibility.
Hooping is widely recognized by health and fitness experts as being a superb form of exercise. Hooping increases muscle tone and strength; it also improves cardiovascular health and burns calories, since it is a type of aerobic exercise. A study by the American Council on Exercise found that a thirty-minute hooping workout burns around 200 calories. Hooping works many muscles in the body and has the potential to build core muscle strength while improving flexibility and balance.
See also 
- Richard P. Knerr and Arthur K. Melin. "Fascinating facts about the invention of the Hula Hoop." The Great Idea Finder. November 22, 2006. Retrieved on December 23, 2007.
- "Effective Hooping - Workout or Child's Play?" By Jordan Holthusen, M.S., John Porcari, Ph.D., Carl Foster, Ph.D., and Scott Doberstein, M.S., with Mark Anders. American Council on Exercise. Alternative link: