Thursday, March 12, 2015

Black Art at the Armory Show

Photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taken by Photographer Stephen Somerstein during a speech in Montgomery, Alabama. 
By Arvolyn Hill

Over the course of five days Piers 92 and 94 are divided into hundreds of galleries housing one of the world’s top art shows. Galleries come from around the world to show their favorite holdings or showcase their favorite artists.

On Thursday, March 6th I trekked through the thickly falling snow to the piers where art has replaced the great ships of Cunard.  Upon entering Pier 92 I realized that this was going to take time.  I saw sculptures by Stella, sketches by Picasso and a Sol LeWitt in almost every other booth. I decided to focus on the art that interested me the most.  I would be drawn to the art dealing with the African Diaspora.  Suddenly the never-ending grid of galleries became less daunting and more of an adventure.  I searched for the most prominent pieces of art depicting the black experience or by the most prominent black artists. I was pleased by what I found.

New York’s David Greenberg gallery had a wall of photos of the Civil Rights Era.  A color photograph by Gordon Parks entitled I’m not used to seeing was a devastatingly beautiful picture of African American children looking through a park fence at white children on a playground.  He was a regular photographer for Life, then the most read magazine in America, published by Time, Inc. 
Im not used to seeing by Photographer Gordon Parks
“Gordon was on staff at Life magazine and took a job photographing segregation in the south during the 60’s down in Alabama,” said Karen Marks, David Greenburg’s gallerist. “When he passed away his material was moved.  It was recently discovered.”

The picture is filled with vibrant colors, the park is lush and green, the African American children are wearing pastel colors but when you realize the photo is a perfect depiction of segregation in America I felt a tinge in my heart. What might make the photograph almost unique is that it’s in color. So many photos of the segregation in America are black and white, but thanks to Parks we get an even more realistic depiction of the vibrancy of this dark time in American history.

The David Greenberg gallery had several photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They showed a Charles Moore of photograph of King being arrested,  two cops with a tight hold. It was a startling image of the civil rights leader.  The gallery has an iconic photo of the back of King’s head as he looks out over a sea of people during a speech in Montgomery, Alabama by photographer Stephen Somerstein.  Marks said that Somerstein was a student when he took the photo.  He went down to Alabama to participate and had amazing access. Somerstein’s work about Selma is currently  at the New York Historical Society.
Dr. King being arrested captured by Photographer Charles Moore.
Marks said “A large part of who we are and what we do is social documentary.  The Civil Rights work is very important to us.  We figured this would be a good fair to work that material in.”

March 7th marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s historic march in Selma, Alabama.

I was pleased to see several works by Romare Bearden shown at the Moore Gallery from Washington, DC. A 1964 collage, Train Whistle Blue No.1, 1/6, a black and white collage uses enlarged photographs depicting black culture through jazz.  Debra Force Fine Art b had a Bearden’s patchwork quilt showing three black women using a variety of fabrics with two birds on top. The quilt, Junction Piquette made in 1972 sells for $850,000.

Junction Piquette a quilt by Romare Bearden 
I headed to Pier 94 and the contemporary art booths.  As I walked down the stairs I  saw the second pier was bigger than 92.  There was no sign saying contemporary Black Art this way.  Once again I had to search for it. I was thrilled to find work by Artist Kehinde Wiley.

Virgin of the Adoption (The World Stage: Haiti) by Painter Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley is a photo based portrait artist, painter who currently has a popular exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, A New Republic. Although I have yet to see the show,  friends said it’s a must,  called Wiley a God.  Several booths had pieces by Wiley and those pieces received a lot of attention.  Wiley is a Los Angeles native with a Nigerian background.  He paints portraits of urban black men and women wearing street clothes - pants sagging, backwards caps, tattoos, fur coats and athletic wear. The backgrounds of the paintings are vibrant patterns similar to Victorian wallpaper. Urban black people are depicted as thugs or poor; through Wiley’s brush he turns them into the kings and queens that they are. Sean Kelly, a prominent gallery,  had Wiley’s Portrait of Jae White made in 2011.  French gallery Galerie Daniel Templon displayed Wiley’s Portrait of Marc Donkeng. California Gallery, Roberts & Tilton had Wiley's Virgin of the Adoption

I had never heard of African American feminist painter Mickalene Thomas. Her collage-like pieces use acrylics, rhinestones and enamels to create portraits. Los Angeles gallery Susanne Vielmetter had a portrait of Sidra made 2011 of black actress Sidra Smith. Thomas’s subjects for her portraits are usually black women in pop culture.
A Portrait of Sidra by Mickalene Thomas
After three hours of none stop art I left the piers with my head buzzing.  The work I saw was strong and powerful. There were some of the most influential black artists like Bearden and Parks and today’s leading artists like Wiley.  I was pleased to see black life being documented in photo, paint, fabric and collage. These artists aren’t just black artists; they are American artists who afford us their view of black life in America. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

10 Black Hoopers is on AFROPUNK!


I am thrilled to have 10 Black Hoopers You Should Know featured on the AfroPunk website last week! This series of interviews started out as an idea and has grown into one of my proudest projects.  Its a celebration of the amazing black women and men out there who hoop because it makes them feel meditated and happy. I am thrilled to be featured on such an amazing innovative digital platform for black culture!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

10 Black Hoopers You Should Know

In honor of Black History month I have put together a series of 10 interviews with black hoopers. 
Nine women and one man all who have brought hooping into their lives wholeheartedly. For a long time I had no idea other black people hooped. I didn’t see any people of color being represented in the hooping community or associated with hoop culture.
After five years of hooping it wasn’t until recently I discovered the extensive black hoop community through the Facebook group Black Hula Hoopers Unite. I was delighted to see that many black women and men were zealously spinning in the circle like me.

Although this is not about history I hope that by compiling these interviews it will be historic. I hope that these interviews educate, fascinate and inspire everyone about the benefits of hooping and the amazing hoopers of color out there. It is my goal to inspire more black women and men to pick up the hoop as a physical repetition in their life. Yet I hope this post inspires anyone to hoop because hooping is for everyone.

Jaguar Mary
Sedona, AZ 

Where are you from, how old are you and what is you ethnic background?
"I was born to the earth in Washington, D.C. I'm old enough. My ancestors are African." 

How long have you been hooping? 
"I’ve been hooping since 2009."

Why did you first pick up the hoop?
"I probably picked up a hoop for the first time, when I was 8-yrs old. Years passed and then I was gifted a hoop as an adult in 2009."

What is your hooping style? 
I would describe my style as sensual, slow and sometimes fast. It really depends on the music and what how I’m feeling.  I enjoy working with a single hoop the most.
What is your favorite music to hoop to? 
"I love to hoop to hip hop, R&B, and ambient electronic music."

Who is your hoopspiration? 
"Currently, I’m inspired by dancers.  The French new style hip hop dancers, Les Twins are a huge inspiration for me right now."

Where do you hoop? 
"I hoop alone in my house or at the gym, mostly. Hooping is a big part of my life. I pick up the hoop to dance to a song every hour to clear my mind when I’m working at home on my computer."

Why do you think it’s important for people to know that black people hoop?
"I think it’s important for people to know that black people hoop so that more black people and people of all ethnic backgrounds actually try it. Sometimes representation is important. I saw an adult hooping for the first time in 2004 and fell in love with it immediately. I didn’t actually start hooping myself until five years later. As much as I loved watching the hooper I saw in 2004, and as strong as the pull was to try hooping myself, I didn’t do it. I believe I would have started earlier if the woman I saw looked more like me."

If you feel people are surprised that you are a black hooper, why do you think they feel that way? 
"If people are surprised about one thing about me, they’re surprised about everything about me. It’s all one package; my nomadic lifestyle, my way of dress, my shamanic sensibilities, and my hooper being-ness can be a surprise to some people and but then again, maybe not."

Do you think that hooping builds self-confidence? 
"If you stick with any creative endeavor that you love, practice it regularly and witness yourself changing and becoming more skilled over time, you become more self-confident. That is a fact."

What advice do you have for someone who is new to hooping?
"My advice is not to freak out when you drop the hoop or have difficulty getting it around your waist in the beginning. It’s a fun thing. Make it fun no matter what make-believe skill level you've assigned to yourself."

What has been your hooping accomplishments and what is your ultimate hooping goal?
"I started a hoop dance and movement meditation retreat in 2010 (a year after I began hooping as an adult) called, Sacred Circularities. It’s been going strong for five years now. This event, which gathers hoopers from all over the world, has become a powerful force for promoting hoop dance as a practice for personal growth and community building. It happens in Bali, Indonesia and Sedona, Arizona."
"My ultimate hooping goal is to merge my multimedia and story-telling gifts with my hooping life to form a production company that produces films, books and other tools for hoopers, dancers and spiritual people."

How has hooping changed your life?
"Hooping brought a daily practice of dance back into my life. I trained as a dancer in high school but stopped formal training after college. Hula hooping has re-ignited the light of my creativity. I can share myself easier. and I can see and have appreciation for my life’s journey. Hooping has deepened my spiritual knowing. I’m really grateful for this practice!"

What other hobbies do you have? “I’m not so much of a hobbyist. I do things in patterns. I have interests that come in, serve their function and then move on. In addition to being a hooper and retreat organizer, I have a Master’s Degree in Film, I am a skilled massage therapist, and I have a love of healthy food, weight training and meditation."

Follow Sacred Circularities Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube  

Laura Charles, 37
Ferguson, MO


How long have you been hooping?
"Two and a half years."

Why did you first pick up the hoop? 
"It looked so fun.  It made me want to experience being a kid for the moment."

What is your hooping style? 
"I'm a sustained hooper with a twist of all styles and variations." 

What is your favorite music to hoop to? 
"I hoop to all genres.  It really depends on the mood I'm in."

Who is your hoopspiration?
"I really don't have one since everyone has their own flow...but I do find Ali Williams to be the most original in the industry.  Her performances are always different and she really knows how to incorporate dance art with her hooping. I love the fact that she's not a "trickster".  Her performances are nothing like majority of performances I see.  Most performances are somewhat the same.  Most hoopers are doing the same tricks...styled the same way, but Ali does her own thing...which exudes originality." 

Where do you hoop? 
"I mainly hoop alone...but when I do have a partner...it's usually my niece or my sisters.  I hoop on my rooftop a lot and in the living room.  I love hooping at the park as well."  

Why do you think it’s important for people to know that black people hoop?
"I feel that black people need to know that black people hoop...so they can understand the wonderful meditative experiences their people are getting from this outstanding form of self expression and meditation.  Also it helps because not many blacks are hooping...so the blacks that are...tend to feel lonely at festivals or in public due to it not being so popular in the black community."
  
If you feel people are surprised that you are a black hooper why do you think they feel that way?  
"When I hoop in front of black people...they love it!  It gives them a reminder of who we as a people used to be.  It's never a surprise to them...same with any other race I guess.  I just wish it was more black flow artist nowadays."  

Do you think that hooping builds self-confidence?
"Totally! Without a doubt." 

What advice do you have for someone who is new to hooping?
"Practice makes perfect.  Also be ready to beat yourself up a little bit...trust the results are worth it." 

What has been your hooping accomplishments and what is your ultimate hooping goal?
"I've been featured on a popular hula hooping website called Hooping.org in 2014. This year I'll be a certified Hula Hoop Dance instructor/teacher in March, which will help with my goal of teaching children's hula hoop dance classes."

How has hooping changed your life?
"I've gotten a second wind in life it seems.  I now have the ability to be motivated, and actually have goals again.  I've adopted a new lifestyle that's wonderful for my mental and physical well being."

What other hobbies do you have?

"I also love to produce music, videos, write and work with levitation wand and flow bow Flow Arts props. I'm the inventor of the "Flow Bow" and I also create hula hoop patterns for Smart LED Hoop performances." 
Follow Laura Charles / Tumblr / Instagram / Blogspot / Youtube

Rachel Symone, 21
London, UK
Where are you from and how old are you?
"I was born in Washington DC, USA, however I grew up in various countries around the world (Germany, England, Spain), so I consider myself a child of Earth."

 How long have you been hooping?
"For four years now, I started January 2011. I started performing a year later."

Why did you first pick up the hoop?
"I went to a festival in Virginia and saw two girls hooping next to the DJ. I had never seen anything like it. I was in complete awe. I told myself, "I have no idea what that is, but I need to learn that!"

What is your hooping style?
"I've always used quite light hoops, so I enjoy to move quite fast and when I perform it is usually very sensual and clean. I love doing freestyle and set routines, they both have their pros." 

What is your favorite music to hoop to?
"It will depend on my mood, but right now Soca / Caribbean music, trip-hop, 90s R&B, but mostly music with a lot of bass and/or funk and at times world music and psychedelic." 

Who is your hoopspiration?
"Lisa Lottie was the first professional hooper I was obsessed with, then Shpongled hoops. When I moved to the UK I found Marawa the Amazing."

Where do you hoop?
"Anywhere. I bring my hoop to parties, hoop at home, bring it to my friend’s homes, perform at various venues, and outside when the weather is suitable. Literately, anywhere there is space, I am not shy with my hoop anymore."

Why do you think it’s important for people to know that black people hoop?
"Honestly, I don't think believe there is any stigma with black hoopers specifically. However racism does very much still exist, so any chance to break stereotypes about any group of minority, whether it be race or gender, is important."

Do you think that hooping builds self-confidence?
"YES!"

What advice do you have for someone who is new to hooping?
"Keep motivating yourself with videos, hoop buddies, and goals. Any trick you set your mind to you can achieve."

What has been your hooping accomplishments and what is your ultimate hooping goal?
"A Guinness world record with a hoop group I work with called Marawa's Majorettes, we're based in London, UK. I hooped 30 hoops at once and there were ten of us that hooped 20-30 at once simultaneously." 

How has hooping changed your life?
"More ways that I could probably remember in one moment. I have met so many lovely people, met a variety of talented individuals, had the opportunity to travel and work in places that I have not imagined existed and challenged myself mentally, physically, and emotionally. What one might consider a simple kids toy has honestly helped me mature."

What other hobbies do you have?
"If I'm not hooping I enjoy roller-skating and pole dancing, I am still developing these skills but overall I just like to be active. I am always reading and focus a lot of my solo time meditating or being in nature. I also travel quite often."

Follow Rachel Symone Tumblr / Twitter  


Jessica Barideaux, 26
Aurora, CO 

How long have you been hooping?
"I've been hooping for a year and four months now."

Why did you first pick up the hoop?
"I was on my Instagram account and saw a short clip of a girl with an LED hoop. I didn't know what it is or how she doing that, but I knew I had to get one and figure it out."

What is your hooping style?
 
"I started out just with a single hoop, then expanded into an LED hoop as well as doubles. My dance style depends on the music so I normally change back and forth from slow to fast paced movements."  
What is your favorite music to hoop to?
"I love hooping to music I've never heard before. It makes me move different ways and open my mind to doing other tricks. And I also love hooping to hip hop."  

Who is your hoopspiration?
"Sarah Aylesworth (Instagram name: beauhemia). She is a curvy; full figured female like myself and her style is very fluid and flow. I love her self-confidence and I definitely look up to her."

Where do you hoop? 
"I hoop everywhere! At parks, in my garage, in my living room, in my friends living rooms, at work on my break, in the snow, in the rain, on a boat and on a train! But seriously, I always keep a few hoops in my car so whenever inspiration strikes I can hoop it out."  

Why do you think it’s important for people to know that black people hoop?
"I think its important to know black people hoop because hooping is just for one type of person or people. Not all of those who hoop are hippies, ravers, or party people; there are a lot of us who consider our hoop to be our sacred circle. It is an art form. It a way of life."

If you feel people are surprised that you are a black hooper, why do you think they feel that way?
"Growing up across the country I've always been a little different...always been interested in things more mature than my age, always been very cultural. So when I started hooping my friends and family were sort of confused by the reason behind it but still supported it. I myself was extremely shocked when I met another black hooper for the first time, Laura Charles. She quickly opened my eyes to a whole world of black hoopers and I fell in love. It's one thing to be proud to be a hoop dancer, its another to be proud to a BLACK hoop dancer."

Do you think that hooping builds self-confidence?
"I definitely think hooping builds self confidence and self esteem. Not only are you watching yourself grow and change just through your dance but also you feel better on the inside. Nailing those tricks you thought you would never get down and looking at how far you've come is such a confidence booster."

What advice do you have for someone who is new to hooping?
"Don't give up. Practice makes progress. Don't base your abilities on others abilities. Everyone's flow is different. We were all just beginners once. If you drop the hoop, pick it up and keep flowing. Don't worry about competing with the flower next you, just bloom!"

What has been your hooping accomplishments and what is your ultimate hooping goal?
"My hooping accomplishments are simply being proud of myself and where I’m at on my hoop journey. I'm happy that my friends and family can also see how far I've come. My ultimate hoop goal is to forever keep on spinning and spreading the hoop love and knowledge."

How has hooping changed your life?
"I've lost weight, gained more energy, most self confidence, and most importantly starting to love myself and being ok with being alone. I don't know what I was doing before I found hoop dance." 

What other hobbies do you have?
"I enjoy yoga, hiking, tarot card reading, stone/crystal therapy, I am a painter, photographer, and also work for a local hoop smith company here in Colorado named JAM hoops Limited."

Follow Jessica Barideaux Instagram   


Ebonie Quint, 28 
Crown Heights, IN 
 

Where are you from, what is your ethnic background?
"I am from Crown Point, Indiana and I have lived here my whole life.  I am multiracial, my mom is black (some Italian on her side) and my dad is white (mostly German)."

How long have you been hooping?
"I have been spinning in circles for almost 5 years."

 Why did you first pick up the hoop?
"I first picked up the hoop mainly due to curiosity.  I got into it due to heartbreak.  Just getting out of a long-term relationship, I wanted an outlet of release.  Hooping became spiritual therapy for me. Once I was able to execute a few simple tricks, I began selling them locally."

 What is your hooping style? 
"I love all types of hoop dance, but I mainly resonate with a faster style, including various yoga poses. Single hooping is still my favorite, probably because I am just getting familiar with doubles."

 What is your favorite music to hoop to?
"The String Cheese Incident is my favorite band in general and my most raw hooping comes out when I play some 'cheesy' tunes."

 Who is your hoopspiration?
"Jonathan Livingston Baxter! He is my hoop guru. After taking his Hoop Path workshop I fell in love with his philosophy of the hoop."

 Where do you hoop? 
"I hoop anywhere and everywhere, trust me.  Sometimes even inappropriate places. Some of my favorite hoop sessions are in my hoop kitchen with my flow friends."

 Why do you think it’s important for people to know that black people hoop?
"I think it's important for people to know that all people hoop! Black people have brought more diversity amongst hoopers and I think that is important to see."

 If you feel people are surprised that you are a black hooper, why do you think they feel that way?
"People can be surprised or not, I choose to look at hooping as a means to not classify myself with anything, I am not a hooper, I am not black. I am a spinning ball of energy, conscious and willing to grow.  I think it's important for people to own who they are 100%, but at the same time 100% lose all the labels entirely.  That is why I hoop."  

 Do you think that hooping builds self-confidence?
"Yes! Especially because of all the health benefits one feels once they get into it, confidence comes once they just have fun with it."

 What advice do you have for someone who is new to hooping?
"Be joyful.  Don't get too serious about hooping, keep it fun and your journey will take you to endless places."

 What has been your hooping accomplishments and what is your ultimate hooping goal?
"I have taught so many lovely hoopers and performed all over my town and in Chicago.  These things seemed almost impossible when I first began.  My ultimate hoop goal is to teach and share my gifts all over the country!"

 How has hooping changed your life?
"Hooping has changed my life for the better in so many ways.  It has given me a sense of direction and security in my body.  I will always enjoy the gift of movement medicine."

 What other hobbies do you have?
"Yoga, meditation, reading, running, hiking, traveling, singing, dancing and making art!"


Follow Ebonie Quint / Facebook / Instagram / Youtube 

Scout Bennett, 26 

Austin, TX


How long have you been hooping?
"I have been hooping for a year."

Why did you first pick up the hoop? 
"I have been seeing girls hoop for a couple of years and toward the end of 2013 I was in a huge emotional rut. I started watching videos on YouTube and finding a ton of hoop inspiration. I finally researched for days and days about different types of hoops and what to order as a beginner. I knew I needed to find a flow. Being a former dancer I wanted to find that fluid artistic expression through the body again. And although I am a yogi, this is something much different in terms of emotion and catharsis." 

What is your hooping style?
 
"I incorporate dance in my flow and I currently flow with a single 31 inch taped polypro. I have dabbled in fire as well as doubles." 

What is your favorite music to hoop to? 
"My favorite thing about hooping and hoop dance is exploring how my flow changes to different types of music, so I love flowing to all music. It mostly has to either emotionally engage me or have a sick beat." 

Who is your hoopspiration?
"I have so many different sources and some of them aren't even hoopers, just dancers. I have always admired Laura Charles. Not only for her hooping but her innovative and creative voice in the hoop community. I also love flow styles of Christina Brittian, Jessica Barideaux I just adore her in every way and I love Yvonne Downing's spunk." 

Where do you hoop? 
"I am lucky enough to have a hoop sister that I live with. My roommate and I have been friends since middle school and when I bought my beginner hoop and told her about it, she mentioned she had been wanting to learn hooping for years but didn't have the nerve to start. Right then and there I bought her a beginner hoop and we started together! We have found we love flowing outside and barefoot if possible." 

Why do you think it’s important for people to know that black people hoop? 
So many areas of culture (especially in America) African American's are left out. When I approach every day people and describe my hobbies, they tend to be shocked. I’m an artist, I love hiking, swimming, painting, designing. I work at yoga studio and I love to hoop. Why is this shocking? Many of these activities are actually "on trend" right now in America, so why is it shocking that as a young, black American that I enjoy these things? Spreading awareness of different types of hoopers is important."

If you feel people are surprised that you are a black hooper, why do you think they feel that way? 
"I sort of explained this in the question above but I think its honestly lack of education and exposure, on both ends. I think that these people must be living under a rock to not think that black women like to hula-hoop, but then again, black women don't have much exposure in the hoop world, which is what I would love to change. And usually the times they are exposed, their videos and photos do not go viral as often." 

Do you think that hooping builds self-confidence?
 
" I have always struggled with self confidence and as someone who has been in recovery from an eating disorder for years now, I am still working on feeling comfortable in my body and its movements. Hooping broke that entire issue open for me and forced me to face it and accept not only my body but how beautiful it can be and how beautifully it can navigate around this beautiful and sacred plastic circle. I also found my sexy, and I think that is important for every girl in there 20s." 

What advice do you have for someone who is new to hooping?
"Hoop all the time and keep learning tricks. When I first started hooping flow was not even important to me. I just started with one trick, nailing it and moving on to the next. I also kept my hoop in an accessible place and any time I was even walking past it in my apartment I picked it up to try a trick." 

What has been your hooping accomplishments and what is your ultimate hooping goal?
"So far my hooping accomplishments have been hooping in public in various different opportunities as well as on stage for a couple of very well known DJs. Personally a huge accomplishment for me as been nailing leg hooping body rolls as that’s something I always aspired to do. I hope to get sponsored eventually, help someone build their hoop company as I build my name as a black hooper in the hoop world, as well as attend sacred circularities one year." 

How has hooping changed your life?
"Hooping has changed my life in every way imaginable. I have an amazing new hobby I barely go three or four days without hooping. I have newfound confidence. I have made new friends and I have a new sector to my identity as a black woman that I love and embrace. I love being a part of the hoop community especially the black hoop community." 

What other hobbies do you have? 
"I love to be outside: hiking, swimming, rock climbing or even just taking a walk with my husband and my dog. I work at a yoga studio and I love yoga. I am also a graphic designer and a childbirth educator. Overall I love educating and helping women find their comfort in their personal journey with their bodies." 

Follow Scout Bennett Instagram / Youtube 

Pamela Crawford
Los Angeles, CA
Where are you from, how old are you, what is your ethnic background?  
" I was born in Chicago, IL but have lived in Los Angeles, CA for the majority of my life. I define myself as African American but I do have Jewish, Native American and Irish in my blood line."

How long have you been hooping?"
I have been hooping off and on for 7 years!"

Why did you first pick up the hoop?
 "I first pick up a hoop when I had finished college.  I was assisting in creating costumes for circus performers at this time and during the show there were 2 fire hoopers during the intermission. There wasn’t a since of awe or amazement that most people see after this type of performance.  I felt more of a calmness take over me (since I was in a hectic scurry making costumes at the last second) and I knew that this was something I wanted to be apart of, and for a long time."

What is your hooping style?
"I am more of a slow and sensual on body hooper. I love to incorporate hip-hop and contemporary dance styles into my hooping.  If I’m alone I could hip and chest hoop only for hours in a meditative state. I teach singles and fire hooping and I use LEDs and doubles for performances."

What is your favorite music to hoop to?
"I make sure that I listen to all types of music because every styles speaks to you and makes your body move a different type of way.  But for inspiration and creativity I usually listen to certain EDM and Hip Hop genres."

Who is your hoopspiration?
"I’m all about body rocking in a hoop!  I’ve always loved styles coming from other hoopers like Anah Aeichenbach, Baxter, Tiana Zoumerand, Brecken Rivera."

Where do you hoop?
"I hoop a lone quite a lot but do meet up with friends to hoop at a park or gym on the weekly basis.  I also teach classes twice a week online and in Los Angeles".

Why do you think it’s important for people to know that black people hoop?
"Its important for black people to hoop for many reasons. To loose weight, build confidence, to experience new things in life, building a stronger community, keeping every generation healthier, etc. Plus every culture has its own unique style and I am waiting for the day to see our culture come together and create a hooping style of their own!"

If you feel people are surprised that you are a black hooper, why do you think they feel that way?
"Hooping for the past 7 years there were many times I would be the only black hooper at a gathering or festival. I think most people are surprised because they didn’t know this sort of thing existed or how to access it.  Once I realized this I have taken on a personal responsibility to share hooping, not only in the black community, but any community that can benefit from it."

Do you think that hooping builds self-confidence?
"Absolutely, I was a very shy and introverted kid growing up. Hooping has changed my life! Every milestone I have had since the age of 21 has happened because of the hoop in some shape or form. Whether it’s making a friend, getting to travel to another country or embarking on a personal journey."

What advice do you have for someone who is new to hooping?
"Be patient with yourself and your body! Just learning waist hooping alone with the proper teaching can take 15-30 minutes.  Even from there every move is challenging, so enjoy the journey and have fun. Find other hoopers for motivation as well.  Also, there are so many hoop styles out there and it is always great to find inspiration, but make sure you take the time to hoop for yourself and create you inside of your hoop!"

What has been your hooping accomplishments and what is your ultimate hooping goal?
"Over my 7 years of hooping I have hooped and taught in 30 states and 10 countries, worked with thousands of hoopers and created Hoop Body Move. My goal is to make hooping accessible to every person possible, so I have just released a hooping DVD and plan to have online classes by spring of 2015."

What other hobbies do you have?
I like sewing, traveling, creating business ideas, going on random adventures, cuddling with friends and taking naps."
Follow Hoop Body Move Website / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

Ismail Naeem, 21
Los Angeles, CA
Why did you start? 
"My old roommate was a hooper."

What's your hoop style?
"Single, dance/flow, lots of chest/back Rolls but also breaks."

What type of music do you hoop to? 
"I love to hoop to either grimy bass music like Phutureprimitive or lighter stuff like Wildlight, Gladkill, and Purity Ring."

Who is your hoopspiration?
"My hoopspiration is my hoop mama Caitlyn, my god mothers Gwen, Tiffany and Isopuppy when it comes to doubles."

Where do you hoop? 
"I hoop at my house mainly but I also travel to festivals and dessert gatherings often and my hoop if always with me there."

Why do you think it’s important for people to know that black people hoop? 
" I think it's important for other black people to know there are other black hoopers out there. I feel that in our community young black men are afraid to be caught doing something often regarded as feminine and that trend should be stopped. I feel as if we need to start adopting new things into our culture and not just ignore something that doesn't fit into the status quo."

If you feel people are surprised that you are a black hooper, why do you think they feel that way? 
"I don't think people are as surprised that I'm a black male Hooper. Since hooping is mainly seen as something white women do it's surprising for people to see the complete opposite."

Does hooping build self-confidence?
"Yes it definitely does."

What advice do you have for someone who is new to hooping?
"Give in completely to it. Don't let anything hold you back."

What has been your biggest hooping accomplishments and what is your ultimate hooping goal?
"Being told by Isopuppy that I was a good Hooper was an amazing moment in my hoop life. I also got asked to teach a hooping workshop at burning man this year. I eventually wish to perform at certain festivals."

How has hooping changed your life?
"Hooping has made me more confident, more exited about life, it's opened doorways and it created many friendships."

What are your other hobbies? 
"I also spin rope dart and play with other flow toys. Hobbies outside flow usually include working on or participating in festivals."
Follow Ismail Naeem Instagram / Facebook
Charlene Jamison, 25 

Ewing, NJ


How long have you been hooping?

"I have been hooping consistently for almost 2 yrs. now. 

Why did you first pick up the hoop?
"I first picked up the hoop after going to a festival. I remember seeing both men and women getting down so effortlessly and I knew I had to try it out for myself. I remember loving and being good at hula hooping when I was younger but nothing like the tricks I saw others do. Also, I have a background in dance and thought it would be pretty cool to incorporate it into my technical work."

What's your hoop style?
 "I prefer a single hoop at a size where I can really incorporate body work however, I have been really loving my 29 inch and all the off body manipulations I can do."

What type of music do you hoop to?
"I really love hooping to the sexy and gritty trip hop, world music, Psytrance/Psybient, electro-swing, Jamtronica/Jam bands and the good old classics (Otis Redding, Queen, Sam Cooke, The Beatles, Grateful Dead, B-52s)."

Who is your hoopspiration?
"My first hoopspiration would be Jaguar Mary, Anah Reinhenbach, and the magnificent Tiana Zoumer. However, this past year Ebonie Quint has been someone I truly admire. I have watched her grown as a hooper and she is blowing my mind with every video she puts up. She really proves that hard work and dedication pays off. However, in all honesty, every single hooper is my inspiration from beginners to the gurus."

Where do you hoop? 
"I usually hoop outside if the weather permits. I like being around the elements and my style tends to eat up space when I can truly flow so I love having all the room in the world, which is why I love hooping at festivals as well." 

I think its important because it's high time that we stop these stereotypes of who does what and who does not. Hooping is for everyone be it black, white, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight, disabled, male, female and those in between. Nothing belongs solely to one group and with the majority of hoopers we see being white and female, I think its important to send out the message that everyone can hoop and to not let the color of your skin, your gender, or sexuality be what holds you back.

"Yes! I believe that hooping can build immense self-confidence. Getting in tune with your body and a manipulative prop, one can really surprise themselves. I study psychology and I plan on using hooping within my dance therapy programs in the future." 

What’s your advice for someone new to hooping? 
"Just play around for a month or so before watching any tutorials or videos of other hoopers. I think that is the true key to developing a flow early on. Hooping should empower you, make you feel sexy and majestic from the start even if you feel less than. They key in the beginning lies in remembering why you picked up your hoop in the first place and always keeping that in mind."

What’s your biggest hooping accomplishment and what is your ultimate hooping goal? 
" Learning how to full on leg hoop this year. Once I was able to put my leg back into my hoop, it was game changer! I can now do breaks, wedgies, catches, and even created some cool tricks of my own. My next goal is to go into inversions, I love being upside down and Ray (Rager Rabbit) and Ebonie's ability to hoop upside inspires me everyday." 

"Hooping has changed my life because it’s reignited my passion for dance. Not to say I was bored of dancing (my style is modern and contemporary dance so there is always room to be creative and expansive) but it gave me something to blend my dancing with which is always a treat for me." 

What are your other hobbies?
 "Dancing, yoga, singing, acting, writing poetry, sewing, crocheting, eating (ha!), reading, hiking, bike riding and camping!"
Follow Charlene Jamison Instagram 
Shani Blueford, 25 
Kalamazoo, MI
Where are you from and how old are you?
"I am from a lot of places, but mostly Michigan. I’ve spent the past 4.5 years in Kalamazoo, MI."

Why did you first pick up the hoop?
Initially, I wasn’t attracted to learning hoop dance; I could waist hoop fine, but really had more interest in making hoops! I loved the tape and customizing each one. When I actually decided to learn more hooping movements, it was mostly because it felt nice. Eventually I learned it helped with the chronic tension I experienced. 

What is your hooping style? 
"I mostly hoop with a single hoop, but I also love spinning doubles. I also have a fire hoop that I love to spin when it’s warmer out. I tend toward slow and sensual hoop dance, and, if not slow, at least chill." 

What is your favorite music to hoop to?
"My hooping music is usually just whatever music I’m into at the time. I love Me’Shell Ndegeocello, SZA, Little Dragon, B.Steady, and Lykke Li. I also like a few African artists like Nneka, Amadou and Miriam and Orchestra Baobab. When I want something with more of a dance beat I find myself moving to Beats Antique, Balkan Beat Box, Chance the Rapper and Bjork. 

Who is your hoopspiration?
"Ugh! There’s so much hoopspiration. I really dig what Baxter has going on with Hoop Path. I love Beth Lavinder’s majestic-ness. I love Baxter’s smoothness. I also love their approach to hoop practice. To thinking about the hoop and exploring all the ways to move in it. I’m also a pretty big fan of Brecken, Tiana, Anah, Caterina Suttin and Ebonie Hoops. I love Jaguar Mary and what she has put together with Sacred Circularities. I also have a lot of admiration for Jocelyn Gordon and Hoop Yogini."

Why do you think it’s important for people to know that black people hoop?
"One of the problems with race, racism, and stereotypes is that we get boxed into so quickly. We even do it to ourselves! I’ve always been a black weirdo, and at times its felt like the worst thing ever, but now I recognize that I get to open people’s eyes. I get to encourage other black hoopers just by putting myself out there and saying “Hey! I exist! We’re here! Keep doing your thing, I’m doing mine."
"It’s also important for black people to know that black people hoop because it can lead them to imagining themselves as a hooper. In addition, a person just getting into hooping might see that experienced black hooper and understand that hooping is one of the ways we can heal and strengthen ourselves in a world where we constantly have to navigate around and through race with all of its complexities, annoyances, and dangers."

If you feel people are surprised that you are a black hooper, why do you think they feel that way?
"I have never had a conversation about race and hooping with any white hoopers yet. I think its just something you don’t see as often, and if you’ve been sheltered or never been in contact with many black people - and your only knowledge of black people comes from TV, news, and other mainstream media outlets - you probably have a very skewed idea of what black people are involved in." 

Do you think that hooping builds self-confidence?
"Exploring what you are, and developing a sense of mastery definitely builds confidence, knowledge and experience."

What advice do you have for someone who is new to hooping?
"Be gentle with yourself. Don’t be overly goal oriented - let go and play. Let your body shed its tension and open up. Practice a lot. Make your practice your go-to state of mind for feeling peace, curiosity, happiness and the satisfaction that comes with hard work.

What has been your hooping accomplishments and what is your ultimate hooping goal?
“Shoulder hooping was one of my first major accomplishments. Making my own fire hoop and fire hooping were big ones after that. This past year at the beginning of 2014, it was starting a hoop business where I make and sell hoops, teach hoop dance workshops, classes and perform. My ultimate goal is share this practice and this way of self-knowledge and self-care." 

How has hooping changed your life?
"In an endless amount of ways. The main way is relationship to my body and mind. It’s helped me learn how to learn. It’s taught me how to be patient with myself and my abilities while also accepting where I am. It’s taught me how healthy it is to play and explore in your own body, but also in my life and our existence altogether."

What other hobbies do you have?
"I have a bachelors with three majors: Art, Photography and Business. Outside of that playing and creating music has also been part of my life for a long time. I have played saxophone and guitar since high school; I also play ukulele, sing and fiddle. For a long time I kept up a YouTube channel (Shanifawni) of all the songs I was learning to sing and play on ukulele. These days I mostly play ukulele while singing, but look forward to when I can learn more fiddle tunes. I still regularly practice figure drawing from live models, and when I have enough time that isn’t being filled with my day job or hoop-related work, I draw or craft. 
"I get to use some of my crafting skills for a local business owner and online retailer who creates extremely cute screen-printed undies from up-cycled T-shirts (www.KoriJock.com “La Vie en Orange”). I’m preparing for my first gallery show in May and mostly shoot Nature or Event photography. I belong to Exquisite Corpse Gallery and Artist Collective and we share studio space in a building in downtown Kalamazoo." 
Follow Shani Blueford Facebook / Vimeo