What is Hooping? My Personal Hoop Dance Journey

Vaudeville Hippie's guide to hoop dance

Hoop Dance Beginnings

I have been practising the art of hoop dance for approximately ten years now.  This video was made about a year or so into my hoop dance journey, and in fact looking back, I can certainly see progression and development of style.  This, I will discuss in more detail later.

My boyfriend was a poi spinner when we first met.  So I started out learning poi. However, I saw a girl hooping at an outdoor circus meet in Bournemouth.  She looked so graceful and fluid with the hoop, I had never seen anything like it! My partner was certainly keen for me to adopt the sexy hoop girl look and encouraged me to give it a go.  My first adult hula hooping session finally happened at the Southern Lights Festival, 2007 in Dorset.

In the early days, I was totally obsessed with hooping.  Taking every opportunity to learn new tricks. Each day when I returned home from work I would get straight onto YouTube for tutorials, inspiration and even uploading my own videos. In 2010 I took the HoopGirl teacher training course and ran local hoop classes. And of course, back then (2008 – 2011), these were the days before full-length HD videos and Instagram.

Falling Out of Love

Sadly though, as with any new obsession, the honeymoon period eventually came to end as I fell out of love with hooping.  After a few years, I conquered all the tricks, lost my indoor hoop space (due to moving house) and if I’m honest got a bit bored.  I lost interest in watching hoop videos online and my practice faded into nothing. On top of this our circus club closed and other interests, like my doll making became new priorities.

Inspiration Beckons Once More

However, I have recently experienced a desire to return to the hoop.  A new wave of hoopers has emerged on Instagram.  They move and use the hoop in totally different ways from when I was first learning.  Developments in wedgie, wrap (fold), escalator combos have become far more advanced and exciting to watch.

I should acknowledge here, that this is a newer, faster style of hooping to me, which seems very unnatural when I spin. So, I therefore, wanted to re-explore the different styles of hooping and what it means to me.

Hoop Dance Styles

Big Hoop Hooping

Hula hoops were much bigger and heavier when I started out in 2008.  Most hoops were made from the 20mm (or thinner 15mm) blue irrigation tubing.  For newbie hoopers, the diameter was determined by the height of your belly button from the ground.  It was generally considered easier to learn hooping with these heavier hoops. When compared to the smaller lighter childrens hoops, these hoops were more in proportion with the adult body and the extra weight helped to slow everything down, and therefore making it easier to master even the basics like waist hooping.

I love this video from Rayna McInturf, founder of Hoopnotica, because it demonstrations a more sensual form of hoop dance and really inspired the way I liked to hoop.  In fact, as I understand, the name Hoopnotica was inspired by Rayna’s style. She quite literally ‘hoopnitized’ her audience as she performed a lot of on body hoop tricks!  Sadly, and I may just be looking in the wrong places, this form of dancing with the hoop seems to have disappeared.  Instead, it has been replaced with a quicker, more technical form as mentioned above.

Polypro Hoops

Hooping started to evolve when the polypro hoops were introduced, which I believe happened around 2010.  This is because several of favourite hoopers on YouTube were upgrading to this new type of hoop.  Larger, heavier “adult hoops” enabled new hoopers to master the basic tricks, whereas the polypros offered experienced hoop dancers an opportunity to explore more off-body tricks such as isolation variations (iso-pops) and wedgie tricks as previously described.

Down Sizing

Polypro is a much lighter plastic, so naturally spins around the body a lot faster.  When I changed over to the polypro hoops I needed had to re-learn some of the body tricks and adapt how I hooped to compensate for the change in weight and speed of my hoop.


The smaller lighter polypro hoops also gave rise to twin hooping.    This style of hoop dance uses two hoops.  It borrows and adapts tricks from poi spinning and focuses mostly on off body tricks.  This can be a fun alternative to singular hula hooping and certainly increases the level of challenge.

Hoop Dance is Awesome

It does not really matter whether you are an experienced or newbie hoop dancer.  The fact is, this is an amazing skill to have for your physical and mental well being.  As with any creative discipline though, avoid the temptation to compare your style with others because that is when fear and stagnation occurs.  We all have something to offer.  What is your favourite style of hooping?  What frustrates you.  Comment below and share your ideas.

Spinning Poi and the Different Types of Poi Styles

Fire Spinning

Spinning  Poi 

The long and warm summer evenings are upon us.  To make the most out of this weather, we have been down the beach to practise our poi spinning, hoop and slack lining skills.

Cone poi by vaudeville hippie


What is Poi?

Fire Spinning

Poi spinning is a dance based performance. The set of poi are used as a prop to create visual patterns.   They become an extension to the movements of the body and accentuate each move.  The ‘poi’ is a weight attached to a cord or tether.  The weight  is swung in a combination of circles, loops and arcs to create patterns.  These are greatly enhanced and most visible when the poi heads are on fire or made out of colourful LEDs.

Poi light trails vaudeville hippie

I first discovered spinning poi about ten years ago when I met my partner, Steve.  Since I first started spinning, it has exploded in popularity and has developed into many styles.

Poi Origins

Poi originates from Maori culture and is traditionally performed by groups of women.  This is accompanied by traditional songs and dance routines, whilst swinging the poi in unison.  The poi strings are much shorter than contemporary poi.   Simple shapes and patterns are created  and repeated throughout the dance routine.

Poi Dancing

Dancing with the poi is the most spontaneous form of spinning that I know of.  This is my favourite way to spin,  and it feels like a form of moving meditation.  No thinking is required, the spinner just goes with what feels good.  This is often referred to as ‘flow’ and hence the term ‘flow arts’ is also used to refer to poi other forms of object manipulation.

Tech Poi

Tech spinning requires less whole body movement than poi dancing.  So tech spinners tend to be more stationary.  The movement is predominantly in the upper body, especially in the arms and shoulders.  Tech spinners focus upon more intricate and complicated interactions with the poi heads and play with timing and direction, more purposefully.  This video by Russian spinner Ivan [Mel] Gorbunov, was my first introduction to tech spinning.

Contact Poi and Poi Juggling (Poi-ggling)

Contact poi is really a hybrid between poi spinning and contact juggling.  Therefore, practise contact balls, are attached to a thicker tether and weighted handles are used to act as a counter weight. This slows the poi down when thrown.  It provides the spinners with an opportunity to ‘bounce’ the poi off their body. 

Typically, other forms of poi spinning  use a pair of poi.  However, many contact spinners like to use three poi heads because this enables them to juggle with the poi as well.   Traditional poi moves have been adapted and combined.  This has created tricks that require the poi heads to interact with the body.  This includes rolling the poi across parts of the body, like contact juggling as demonstrated in this Keith Marshall poi video. 


Partner Poi

Partner poi is all about sharing the fun.  A pair or group of spinners dance and move together as their bodies and poi interact with each other.  Therefore, new moves and patterns are created in this form of spinning.  German based poi performance group Loooop are masters in creating playful and visually stunning partner poi routines.

Spinning with Fire 

The addition of fire flames certainly brings a magical element to the audience when watching fire spinning.  The trailing fire, enhances the patterns created by the poi spinner.  The moving flames roar as swing through the air. This sound emphasis the danger element of fire spinning.

LED/Glow Poi

Like fire spinning, glow poi are great for spinning with at night and outside.  The light trails momentarily capture the patterns created by the poi heads.  In recent years, LED technology has greatly advanced.  A poi performer can now programme the colours and sequences of the LEDs in their poi to correspond to a track of music.  The technology created by Apixel Toys can also create photographic images as seen in this photographic stills video by Japanese spinner Yuta.

Timing and Direction

To really make the most out of spinning a set of poi, the spinner should  understand how to change the timing and direction of the poi heads.  This knowledge helps to access advanced moves and tricks.  This video by American multi-prop manipulator Noel Yee explains the concept in more detail.

Sharing Knowledge and Expansion of Poi

The poi community has expanded  due to the rise of internet forums.   The popularity of YouTube,  has helped to rapidly grow the knowledge base. This has enabled poi spinners to share and discover new tricks and styles of poi.  It will be interesting to see where this sharing of knowledge takes poi spinning over the next couple of years.