BY JEFF FALK
Uninhibited motion. An athletic pursuit. Interpretive dance. Unbridled exercise. Hoop dance is all those things, and more.
What it isn’t is hula hooping. Don’t even go there.
All the rave, hoop dance seems to be taking Lebanon County by storm. Quite frankly, it is the new wave in group exercise, not unlike Zumba was a few years back.
“It’s called hoop dance,” said Gloria Guardiola, who leads/teaches the latest exercise fad at the Lebanon Valley Family YMCA. “Hoopers refrain from calling it hula hooping, just to differentiate, because there’s a lot of misconceptions about what it is.”
What you and I know as ‘hula hooping’ dates back to before the birth of Christ. In that vein, hoop dance is a relative newcomer, possessing more recent roots in the Native American culture.
“Hoop dance evolved from a ceremonial Navajo dance,” said Guardiola. “It’s evolved into a movement art, one that explores the space inside and outside the hoop, and also different planes.”
From the outside looking in, ‘Hooping’ involves gyrating in a way as to cause a plastic hoop to revolve around some part of one’s body – the torso, shoulders, neck, legs, arms, hands, even feet. But for those performing it, it’s much more.
Put to music, it can be an expression, an art form, an uplifting experience, a new way to explore the human body – some even report a feeling of becoming one with the hoop. And it’s exercise benefits, like the burning of calories and the increasing of the heart rate, are almost taken for granted.
“Some hoopers don’t hoop with music,” said Guardiola, a 21-year-old native of New York who was raised in Lebanon. “The main key is about your flow, the continuation of movement. Once you have the fundamentals down, then everyone’s style comes out on its own.
“There’s actually been studies confirming the relaxing qualities of hooping,” Guardiola continued. “It’s a way to get your mind off things. It helps you feel like a kid again, dancing, moving.”
An accomplished hooper, Guardiola herself has only been hooping for nine months now. When she was first introduced to hoop dance, it wasn’t necessarily love at first sight.
“The first time I saw it was at a music festival,” said Guardiola. “I went home and a couple of months later I looked it up. That’s what made me want to learn it.”
As her fascination with hooping has grown, so has Guardiola’s desire to pass on what she has learned to others. She leads three separate hoop dance classes at the YMCA, Monday at 7:15 p.m., Thursday at 4:45 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m..
“I thought I’d show them what I did,” said Guardiola of the YMCA’s decision-makers. “I told them, ‘I’d love to teach it.’ And they said, ‘OK’.
“I really just hope it catches on here,” Guardiola concluded. “Hoopers are mostly self-taught. But so many people are getting into it.
“For me, I didn’t realize how much coordination it required until I started teaching other people.”