Campus art comes full circle
Hula-hooping, previously thought of as a toy for children to play with, has taken on a life of its own as a rapidly growing form of performance art for men and women of all ages.
“With hoop dance, which is what I am doing, is basically doing tricks and illusions with a hula-hoop but made with better material, more professional performance, and its dance, its performance, but it also helps with exercising and strengthening the body,” senior and graphic design and advertising major Brooke Ramsay said.
Ramsay began hooping a little over a year ago and since then has worked with senior and psychology major Brian Cullinane to spread their interest in this blossoming hobby to Towson’s campus through the creation of The Towson Hoop Club last spring 2014.
“We would hoop lot together, and we got a bunch of friends in the Towson area and we just decided that we should make a club about this and to get more people into it,” Ramsay said. “Because there are not a lot of people in the area that we know who do it and since we started we have been finding more people who have been doing it for a long time so its a really cool gathering of hoopers that had no idea each other existed.”
Ramsay first discovered hooping through her participation in raves as well as a go-go dance team where she first met other hoopers and began to have a growing interest in it.
“I have been dancing my whole life so it was something different that I wanted to try and I guess it just kind of clicked with me and I really liked it for some reason,” Ramsay said.
She believes that the recent popularity of hooping is due to the growing electronic dance music scene that supports many performance arts similar to hooping known as “flow” art.
“A lot of people are listening to that music and with that comes the hoopers and the flow artists who use poi and fire and all that stuff, more people are seeing it,” Ramsay said. “That and the whole express yourself movement, and people who can’t dance can hoop. That’s kind of a cool thing that you don’t have to know how to dance to do that.”
In addition to its popularity at raves, hooping is also beneficial to ones mind and body according to both Ramsay and Cullinane.
“At first you don’t realize what a simple plastic circle can possibly teach you, but for me it was something that changed my life full circle and I am so grateful for that,” Cullinane said.
He was first introduced to hooping about four or five years ago at the Grassroots Festival in the Finger Lakes of New York and began hooping himself two years ago.
“Hooping has taught me how to break my personal barriers, how to accept and love myself by dismantling my prior inhibitions and finding comfort and confidence in my own body and mind. It was a tool that helped me find simplicity amidst chaos, teaching me to calmly focus on the present moment in an increasingly positive way,” Cullinane said. “It has taught me how to embrace challenges, be more confident and patient about making mistakes and furthermore, it taught me to be persistent on trying to fix those mistakes. It has given me a positive escape from many of the stressors that most of us encounter on the daily.”
Hooping is considered to be both an aerobic exercise that strengthens the body as well as a meditative practice that calms and focuses the mind, a combination that can be said to be similar to yoga.
“I know a lot of people who use yoga poses with the hoop while they are doing a dance or tricks and it is like meditating because you don’t have to think about anything else but what you are doing with the hoop,” Ramsay said.
This state of deep focus where the body and mind are working in synchronicity is what hoopers refer to as flow.
“Flow to me is kind of when you are in a moment and you are doing something you like to do, like your brain kind of turns off and your body just does what it wants to do and it’s kind of like a trance almost physically. It feels really cool when it happens and when you snap out of it you are back to reality and its really cool,” Ramsay said.
In addition to individual benefits, both Ramsay and Cullinane feel that hooping has helped them to meet many interesting and inspiring individuals.
“Although hooping in itself can be a very intimate and personal practice, I think that having other people share in your experience is essential to both advancing in your own skill set and learning about different styles of flow,” Cullinane said.
Learning from your peers, teach others how to improve from your own experiences and building a strong community of performers have been goals of the Towson Hoop Club since their creation.
To learn more about Towson’s Hoop Club and see photos and videos of their hooping visit facebook.com/TUhoop.