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A history of hooping - Part 1

From Ancient Greece to the Native American Hoop Dance

Hello, circle lovers and welcome (back) to Planet Hoop!

A couple of crazy months ago I started a blog series called Hoop Dance and Circles. In my first blog I was telling you how much I love research and writing and how I am determined to combine these two loves of mine with my passion for hoops and movement. I am excited to see what is coming out of this marriage and I will be sharing these stories on my Facebook page and in my regular newsletter.

Once upon a time

Where exactly the hoop comes from, nobody knows. This continues to intrigue me, for the way we use the hoop has changed significantly since the ancient times and continues to unfold as we move on. What may come as a surprise is that some of the earliest uses of hoop symbolism was related to what is known as homoerotic and pederastic practices in Ancient Greece. At the same time, ancient greeks were using the hoop as a recreational activity that involved rolling the hoop on the floor for improved fitness but also as a hunting method I am going to learn more about as soon as I start using the library (the one with real books) again.

One very interesting fact is that, although not included in the Olympic Games, the hoops or rings have been "the visual ambassador of Olympism" since 1913.

Africa, Asia and Europe

Do you remember hoop rolling, though? Because I do! Wikipedia is also telling us that hoop rolling, also known as hoop trundling has been documented all over the world since the ancient times and it is probably the oldest and most popular hoop game EVER! Check out this little boy rolling a hoop in Pinga, Congo in 2013 (more about the source and context of this picture right here) or the Wellesley College seniors below still rolling their hoops every Spring!

You have every right to say this has nothing to do with the hoop class you've been attending, but bear with me! People's creativity and need of artistic and spiritual expression knows no boundaries and those who elevated the hoop to a completely different level are the Native Americans.

Native American Hoop Dance: a story of nature and healing

Long before learning about multi-hooping and the origins hoop dance, the intrinsic power of the circle and its endless symbolism (of which I plan to write extensively in the posts to come) were what created the strong emotional connection I have to my hula hoop. Brian Hammill (find more about him here) gives a beautiful account of hoop dance in the Native American culture in this video of his incredible performance.

When everything works together, when everybody comes together the way they should, a very beautiful sacred thing happens: we create the world that we live in. (Brian Hammill, Leader of Native Spirit Dancers)

Weaving elements of nature, animal symbolism, story-telling, exceptional skill, emotion and up to 30 hoops, Native American Hoop Dance has strongly influenced the contemporary style of hooping practised now all around the world, multi-hooping and circus arts. Now formally recognised as a cultural heritage, Native American Hoop Dance is performed by dancers for the larger public with the purpose to entertain and educate, but also as part of various competitions.

hoop dance performance
Nakotah La Rance performing, image by Anderson Gould Jr. via AP

In the past years, people all over the world had the opportunity to witness the magic of Native American Hoop Dance in a series of Cirque du Soleil shows such as "Totem".

Nakotah LaRance, an amazingly talented hoop dancer and former Cirque du Soleil performer, started dancing 25 years ago, at the age of 5. In the years that followed, he became an internationally renowned artist, multiple World Hoop Dance Champion, an actor, instructor and mentor and has performed in front of millions of people. Sadly, the world has lost this beautiful soul earlier this August to an accident, according to Indian Country Today.

On this note and in honour of all those who perpetuated the movement and wisdom of sacred circles, I would like to invite you to pick up your hoop and dance in the memory of those who are no longer with us and with gratitude for all those who shared this skill with us on our common journey.

Thank you so much for reading and I hope to see you again for my next article. Your thoughts and feedback are welcome, so don't hesitate to drop me a message or share this post with someone who likes to read.

Yours truly,

Clara xx

Planet Hoop



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