Hoop dance takes off in Columbia at Peace Park jams

Thursday, December 13, 2012 | 3:01 p.m. CST; updated 7:57 p.m. CST, Thursday, December 13, 2012
Hoop dancer Abi White practices hooping in Peace Park on Dec. 4. White teaches hoop lessons and makes her own hoops, which she sells on craigslist and at the Peace Nook.

COLUMBIA — Abi White studied jazz, modern, ballet and tap dance as a child.

Now 20, White has traded her dance shoes for a hula hoop.


What: World Hoop Day

When: Thursday, doors open at 8 p.m., show starts at 9

Where: Mojo's, 1013 Park Ave., Columbia

Cost: $3

Performing: REqUiEM, Burn Circus, Bass Coma, Bodaleg, The Hulagans, Amanda B, JennuineFire and more.

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She can be found dancing with her hula hoop most days at Peace Park and also gives lessons in hooping, which adds choreographed dance moves to the hip-twisting motions.

"Hoop dance is taking hula hooping to another level," White said.

She and the Hulagans, a mid-Missouri hoop group founded in 2009, are celebrating World Hoop Day, which was Wednesday. On Thursday, the group will perform at Mojo's, 1013 Park Ave. Doors open at 8 p.m., and the show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $3.

Organized as a mission for world peace, the motto of World Hoop Day is "a hoop for every child."

According to the World Hoop Day website, its purpose is to bring "cost-effective toys that double as a portable gym to remote areas of the world where resources are limited." That, in turn, promotes joy, fitness and self-confidence., an online guide to hoops and hooping, reports that the original hula hoop craze began in the late 1950s.

Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin began the Wham-O Company in Los Angeles in 1948, originally selling slingshots. They started to manufacture polyethylene hoops in 1958.

Wham-O passed out free hoops and gave demonstrations in playgrounds across southern California, and a frenzy was born. It is estimated that more than 100 million hoops were sold in the first year.

Philo Hagen, an experienced hooper and operator of the blog, reports that the "second revolution of hooping" is now in full swing.

In addition to the spread of hoop dance in America, more than 15 countries such as Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Finland, Germany, Italy, Israel and Japan have strong and growing hoop communities, Hagen said.

"The hooping community today is truly international and spans the globe," Hagen said in an email.

Hoopers credit The String Cheese Incident to the recent revolution in hula hooping, Hagen said. The band was famous for throwing hula hoops into the crowd during its shows to encourage guests to dance and move to the music.

White and other hoopers in Columbia started spin jams at Peace Park a couple of years ago. Spin jams bring both beginner and advanced hoopers to the park to practice and perform as a group, usually on Sundays.

The spin jams also include rope darts, double hoops and juggling, different kinds of spinning. Although the jams are scheduled for Sundays, White said they hold jams almost any day the weather is nice. From a small group of 15, she said, it has grown to nearly 50 at a typical jam.

"The coolest part for me is watching people explode with all this personality in dance that they might not have known they had before," White said.

Much of her hooping came from lessons on YouTube.

"Hula hoop is an open form of expression, and there isn't a right or wrong way of doing it," White said.

Many hoop dancers use it to stay in shape. According to ACE Fitness, hoop dance can burn a minimum of 210 calories every 30 minutes.

"There's really no better way out there to build core strength and trim your midsection," Hagen said.

Since hooping, he said he has lost 50 pounds.

White also makes custom hula hoops at her home, selling them for $10 to $30 on craigslist and at The Peace Nook at 804 E. Broadway.

To make the hoop, she uses irrigation tubing in various lengths and connects the ends with a plastic connector. She covers the hoop with specialty tape for a better grip and customized decoration.

Her small hoops are generally 28 to 36 inches in diameter for both youth and advanced hoopers. Standard hoops are 37 inches or more.

 "Hooping is for everyone of all ages," White said. "It is one of the best ways to express yourself while having fun, too."

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.

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