There was a time when catching a wave, skating a pipe, emceeing a scene was off the radar. Now there’s a new kid on the block. Hooping a.k.a modern hula-hooping is emerging as a liberating form of self-expression. In the same way that skateboards, once relegated to the straight and narrow world of sidewalks are now flying machines, hoops have become dance partners, a form of moving meditation, and a way of life. Michelle Obama hoops at the White House to show how fun it is to move and be healthy.
Filmed over six years and introduced by hooper/hooper Shaquille O’Neal, The Hooping Life documents the early days of a subculture predominantly spearheaded by women. For a Hollywood raver, an inner-city teacher, a transgender performer, a television actress, a Southern male preacher, the hoop is a muse. And in turn, their commitment to the hoop transforms them.
The film opens in the underground club scene of Southern California where Anah, an androgynous hooper known as “Hoopalicious” begins to shape an identity for the movement, def jamming from head to toe with her hoop, dressed up in superhero attire with furry leggings and colorful dreads. She introduces her hoop to Tisha, an after-school mentor in South Central, who creates a hip-hop-hoop program to build self-esteem and keep kids off the streets. When her gifted student Jeffrey gets in trouble, Tisha takes him in and together they start a hoop-making workshop.
Having himself survived gang-ridden streets in Los Angeles, performance artist Karis finds courage hooping. Now a burlesque dancer with the popular Mexican wrestling show Lucha Va Voom, Karis puts on a show that defies the bullies of his youth by pulverizing gender stereotypes within the hoop.
Across the country in the land of professional wrestling, Baxter is a straight white guy who hoops blindfolded to avoid the stares of his neighbors. Hooping saves him from suicide. The son of a preacher, he creates a spiritual practice “The Hoop Path” that enlivens the lives of many others. Similarly, South African actress Sass finds resilience when she joins “The Good Vibe Hoop Tribe” hoop troupe with Hoopalicious and begins to fire-hoop away the trauma of a brutal rape. Also performing with the Good Vibe Hoop Tribe, Christabel an overweight grad student in debt teams up with Hoopalicious and the two take their “SpinBabes” act on an international tour. In this partnership, sparks fly as commerce and art collide. After a difficult separation, Hoopalicious struggles to maintain relevance in an ever-evolving community while Christabel’s entrepreneurial spirit and new babelicious body thrive as HoopGirl.
Filmed in part by the hoopers themselves, THE HOOPING LIFE recognizes that the artistic path is an arduous one, but in the end one worth taking. British electronic duo BASEMENT JAXX provides the buoyant score that captures the free-spirited nature of hooping.