Hooping comes around: More hips swinging in Boston area
If you’ve seen a group of Hula Hoopers in Cambridge Common every Wednesday evening, you’re not dreaming. The group of 20- and 30-somethings, who all have day jobs, have been practicing in the park for the past four years, whiling away hours spinning colorful hoops and listening to a combination of house and trance music.
The Boston Hoop Troop, as they’re collectively known, has been around for years, but has only recently been getting some attention for their skills. They’ve posted videos of themselves hooping in Central and Harvard squares on YouTube and performed at the Boston Burlesque Expo this year (they were one of the few PG-rated acts).
“Once in a while, we’ll do a renegade hooping session,” said Marria Kee, a 26-year-old graphic designer who lives in Cambridgeport, referring to her gigs around the squares. Kee and her fellow hoopers have used flashy lighted hoops and a small, grey boom box pumping tunes to dazzle crowds at night (“If there’s no music, it feels like you’re naked hooping.”).
Kee and some in her group also host a party, filled with electronica music, once a month at the American Legion Marsh Post on Gerrys Landing Road.
“The park is more just for practicing moves and skills,” said Kee, who makes her own hoops out of irrigation tubing and couplers and sells them for $30 a hoop (for the record, Kee doesn’t like to call it “Hula Hooping,” just “hooping”).
Hula Hooping wasn’t always this popular. What started out as a popular toy for children in the 1950s — courtesy of Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin, founders of the Wham-O Company — has experienced a resurgence once thought unthinkable.
Wham-O (and its Hula Hoop) is still around, but the golden age of the Hula Hoop hadn’t really resurfaced. Enter the String Cheese Incident, the bluegrass jam band that featured Hula Hoops in their shows. Other music festivals, including Bonnaroo and Burning Man, featured hoops in all their glory. Soon, adults caught on at the West Coast. Then it spread east, catching on slowly in New York and Boston.
“I knew there were other people out there,” said Jose Acosta, an MIT employee who has been in hooping scene for years.
The Boston Hoop Troop isn’t that formal. Anyone can join in when they’re practicing, Kee said. And they do.
“We’re just hanging out,” said Ammon Embry-Pelrine, a 28-year-old DJ and woodworker who’s a Central Square resident. “It’s just a collective of friends who enjoy hooping.”
Embry-Pelrine, who has a background in martial arts, makes hooping seem easy, but it takes skills. His specialty is speed and hooping as close to the ground as possible.
The group is already hosting its own hooping class at the Dance Complex in Central Square.
“We had to convince them that hooping is in fact a dance,” said Kee.
So far, the enthusiasm for the group is growing. They’re preparing to launch their official Web site soon (bostonhooptroop.com) and have a myspace page already (myspace.com/bostonhooptroop).
Newer group members are thrilled at being able to revive their childhood hobby.
“I was the best hooper in school,” said Patricia Wright, a 37-year-old Brighton resident who works in human resources.
— Cambridge (Mass.) Chronicle, email@example.com