Why make a film about hula-hooping? Hooping provided a great pretext to delve into the essence of what makes us feel truly alive. I also have always been interested in supportive communities, and at large, what brings people together. My previous feature, EAST OF A, echoed my commitment to the theme of community as a transformative tool. It told the story of an alternative family and its evolution as it responded to the needs of an HIV positive baby.
In THE HOOPING LIFE, the hoop becomes the object that coalesces the community. Seven years ago, I started noticing young people walking around with big colorful hoops where I live in Venice California and began to interview them. They identified as hoopers, and came from every walk of life. Hoopers are like hoops, they come in all sizes (big, small, light, heavier) shapes (newbies, pros, young, old), and colors. For some, hooping is about pioneering the art of liquid dance, for others it is about getting fit, or engaging into a spiritual practice. For a happy few, it is a full- time job. The film started to take shape around the questions that the hoopers’ lives were raising: is there something you really dig doing? Regardless of how crazy it might seem to others, commit to it and who knows what may transpire… It’s definitely worth finding out. Hoopers all enjoy a very vibrant world of creativity with year-round meetings and gatherings where they share their techniques, crafts, choreographies, fitness programs, cutting-edge apparel lines and accessories in different locations around the world. Many of them go by a hoop moniker, much like in the hip-hop world: Hoopalicious, HoopGirl, Groovehoops, the Hoola Monsters…They are genuinely community oriented: from local incentives such as free hoop jams across America to nationwide endeavors with World Hoop Day (a non-profit organization that donates hoops to kids and families in need). There is an astonishing hooping world percolating around us.
But it’s not easy to quantify with figures. When I started filming in 2004, hooping was mainly seen at music festivals and nightclubs. There are now close to seven million results on Google for “hula-hoop”, hundreds of thousands of YouTube videos about hoop moves, hoop making, hooping at gyms and hoop jams, thousands of Facebook groups and websites from all around the world (matahoops.com in Finland, hoopempire.com in Australia, hooptokyo.com in Japan and many more). Two online hooping platforms, hooping.org and hoopcity.ca where everything hoop can be discussed drive daily traffic of thousands. If hooping is bumping up against the pop culture ceiling with music videos (Beyonce “Work it out”, Pink “Raise Your Glass”, Justin Timberlake “What goes around comes around”…), commercials (Coca-Cola C2, Target), and video gaming (Wii Fit), hooping as a trend has not yet reached the tipping point. I believe most hoopers would like it to tip. As long as the current ecosystem of small hooping companies can thrive (hoops are made by hoopers and by mom and pop companies), I think that it does not matter. The world economy started tanking while we were in post-production and my producer pointed out that more than ever, THE HOOPING LIFE needed to be told: here we were in the doom and gloom of foreclosure and unemployment, documenting a community who is entrepreneurial, vibrant and who found a way outside the tried-and-true to have a livelihood, to have meaning and the support of a community… What could have been a long and tedious process (editing down hundreds of hours of footage to a 70-minute feature film) became something everybody was looking forward to. We were coming out of the editing room some times past midnight, still fresh and upbeat. And I hope that the film just does that.
Like the hoop itself, our film is constantly in motion. I trained and encouraged the hoopers to make use of video recording equipment to parallel the do-it-yourself grassroots mentality of the hooping community. They were my partners in the film. The video camera became a confident that allowed their stories to be recorded in the most intimate, uninhibited manner. Anah and Christabel took theirs on their world hoop tour. Sass documented on her own her return to South Africa. The very process of having a film made about their pioneering adventure encouraged them to dream bigger and articulate their vision.
The hoopers knew from the beginning that it was a harebrained scheme to put their souls into hula-hooping. Yet they strive for their dream with great determination. I was touched by their unflinching commitment to pursue what makes them fully alive.
They taught me to dream with perseverance.
With a hoop and a dream, they changed my world.