A hula hoop is a company toy hoop that is twirled around the waist, limbs or neck. The modern hula hoop was invented in 1958 by Arthur K. Melin and Richard Knerr, but children and adults around the world have played with hoops, twirling, rolling and throwing them throughout history. Hula hoops for children generally measure approximately 71 centimetres (28 in) in diameter, and those for adults around 1.02 metres (40 in). Traditional materials for hoops include willow, rattan (a flexible and strong vine), grapevines and stiff grasses. Today, they are usually made of plastic tubing. 
Native American Hoop Dance was, and is a form of storytelling dance incorporating anywhere from one to 30 hoops as props . These props are used to create both static and dynamic shapes, or formations, representing various animals, symbols, and storytelling elements. The dance is generally performed by a solo dancer with many hoops.
Before it was known and recognized as the common colourful plastic toy (sometimes with water inside the actual hoop), it used to be made of dried up willow, rattan, grapevines, or stiff grasses. Even though the has existed for thousands of years, it is often misunderstood as being invented in the 1950s.
According to author Charles Panati, there was a 'craze' of using wooden and metal hoops in 14th century England. He reports that doctors treated patients suffering from pain and dislocated backs due to hooping - and heart failure was even attributed to it. Panati also says that the name 'hula' came from the Hawaiian dance in the 18th century, due to the similar hip movements.
The hoop gained international popularity in the late 1950s when a plastic version was successfully marketed by California's Wham-O toy company. In 1957, Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin, starting with the idea of Australian bamboo "exercise hoops", manufactured 1.06 metre (42 in) hoops with Marlex plastic. With give-aways 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. Carlon Products Corporation was one of the first manufacturers of the hula hoop. During the 1950s, when the hula hoop craze swept the country, Carlon was producing more than 50,000 hula hoops per day. The hoop was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York, in 1999.
The past few years have seen the re-emergence of hula hooping, generally referred either "hoopdance" or simply "hooping" to distinguish it from the children's playform. 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. Modern hula hoopers can be found among fans of jambands like The String Cheese Incident, Disco Biscuits, Phish and participants of Burning Man and more recently at other music festivals like Bonnaroo, Camp Bisco, The Gathering of the Vibes, All Good, Coachella, etc.
Many modern hoopers make their own hoops out of polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene, high-density polypropylene, or polypropylene tubing. The polyethylene hoops, and especially the polyvinyl chloride hoops, are much larger and heavier than hoops of the 1950s. 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 colorful. 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. LED technology has also been introduced in the past few years, allowing hoops to light up at the flick of a switch.
The hooping movement vocabulary now includes many core or 'on body' moves, many '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.
During the recent revitalization of the hula hoop, its uses have been extended to serve as an implement for fitness. A multitude of websites have been created as a result of this revival, many of which provide links to hooping clubs, online retailers from which to buy specialized hula hoops, and information on workout routines. Hula hooping in recent years has become a more social activity than it may have been in the fifties.
Some companies produce collapsible hula hoops 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.
8-year-old Mary Jane Freeze won a hooping endurance contest on 19 August 1976, by lasting 10 hours and 47 minutes. The current unverified record is held by Roxann Rose of Pullman, Washington in the United States, who went 90 hours between April 2, and April 6, 1987. Rose used her arm to keep the hoop spinning.
Most hula hoops twirled at once
The record for the most hoops twirled simultaneously is 132, set by Paul "Dizzy Hips" Blair on November 11, 2009. The previous record was 107, set by Alesya Gulevich of Belarus, on June 15, 2009.
Records for running while twirling a hula hoop around the waist are:
- 100 m: 13.84 seconds, by Roman Schedler of Austria on 16 July 1994
- 1 mile: 6:40, by Kris Slomin of United States on 20 October 2008
- 10 km, men: 1:06:35, by Paul "Sexy Hips" Blair, date unknown
- 10 km, women: 1:27:25, by Boo Crystal Chan of Australia, 12 March 2009
Hula Hoop dancing
On 12 February 2013, 4,483 people swung hula hoops to dance music for seven minutes. They did this without interruption at Thammasat University stadium in Thailand setting a world record for the most people dancing with hula hoops simultaneously in one place. Guinness World Records was there to confirm the record.
The largest hoop successfully twirled was 13.88 metres (45.55 ft) in circumference, by Ashrita Furman of the United States in September, 2005. The record for simultaneous hula hooping (minimum time: 2 minutes) is for 2,290 participants at Chung Cheng Stadium in Kaohsiung, Taiwan on 28 October 2000.
In popular culture
- On September 6, 1958, singer Georgia Gibbs appeared on US TV's The Ed Sullivan Show to sing "The Hula Hoop Song". Her last (US top-40) hit, it competed with four other songs created in the wake of the huge fad.
- The hoop emerged in the world of circus in the 1960s, with Russian and Chinese artists taking it to extremes. These influenced contemporary circus artists like Australian circus comedian and hula hoop historian Judith Lanigan, who performs the Dying Swan—"a tragedy with hula hoops"—using 30 hula hoops. The Cirque du Soleil shows Alegría, Quidam, and Wintuk have presented hula hoop acts featuring contortionist and former rhythmic gymnast Elena Lev. The Cirque show Zumanity features hoop performer and aerialist Julia Kolosova.
- In June 2006 Angie Mack entered (and won in its own category) a Fatboy Slim competition, hooping to the track "That Old Pair of Jeans".
- Hula hoops are referred to in the 1958 Alvin and the Chipmunks song, "Christmas Don't Be Late". Wayout Toys, under license to Emson, introduced the Alvin Hula Hoop Doll, which dances with his hula hoop and sings the song based on wanting his hula hoop.
- The Coen brothers' comedy film The Hudsucker Proxy tells the story of a mail room clerk who is installed as president of a manufacturing company and invents the hula hoop.
- Around the time when the Pixar Animation Studios film WALL-E was in production, Disney.com released a clip of Wall-E's first encounter with a hula hoop, swinging it across its neck.
- Artist Keller Williams released a song "Hula Hoop to the Loop", dedicated to the toy.
- Rap Group 20Sickness released a song called Do the Hula Hoop, dedicated to hula hooping, and jump roping.
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