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Hula with MU Hoop Groop

Professional hula hoopers twirl into summer

May 8, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Think back to fleeting summers spent jumping rope and playing Marco Polo in the neighbor’s pool. Remember the friends who swirled their waists in rhythmic rotations while you stood in awe of the number of times a plastic hoop spun around? Well, they’re not kids anymore. The amateur hoopers have traded neighborhood barbecues for sweltering music festivals.

People everywhere are taking up hula hoops and making them move around their bodies to the beat of their favorite tunes. Fox News, The New York Times and are just some of the news organizations to report on this trend in the past couple years. Hula hooping can be seen anywhere from Peace Park to weddings and prenatal fitness classes. Brent Doering of The Hulagans, a local troupe, has performed at the True/False Film Fest’s March March parade. This fall, he will hoop to the tunes of the Roots ‘N’ Blues ‘N’ BBQ Festival, including the much anticipated performance by The Avett Brothers.

“I think the greatest part about hooping is that it’s a circle,” Doering says. “There are 360 degrees and infinite possibilities about what you do in that circle. It’s not about how good you are; it’s about what you put into it. However much you practice, you’re going to get that much better.”

Doering, who first saw professional hula hoopers at Cirque du Soleil, says hula hooping offers numerous health benefits. The summer activity is a great cardio exercise, and the heavier the hoop, the more the workout strengthens the abdominals. Hooping also helps with breathing and meditation.

Sara Shabany, a member of the Mizzou Hoop Groop, got into hula hooping when she saw hoopers at parties, raves and festivals. She says that whenever she feels upset, she has to “hoop it out.” Her practice has paid off among strangers who appreciate the quirkiness of her craft.

“(Hooping has) done a 180 for my confidence,” Shabany says. “I’ve always been a weirdo. Hooping has made me proud of who I am. I’m not afraid of weird because a lot of people think weird is cool and like what we’re doing.”

If you want to try hooping yourself, check out the Mizzou Hoop Groop Facebook page. For members of group, hula hooping is more than a child’s activity during warm summer afternoons. Hooping is a form of self-expression and a way to build a community with strangers and spread the natural, uncomplicated “hoop love.”

Brent Doering shows off his skills during a Mizzou Hoop Groop meeting. Doering is the group’s cofounder and vice president, and he hoops professionally. Photos by Melissa Fogarty

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