Tools Of The Trade
It's pouring rain in Bloomington, so the Hudsucker Posse has to move this evening's hoop jam indoors, to the Stonebelt gym. The group is ironing out some choreography and picking music for an upcoming performance.
"When I'm dancing I like to synch the hoop with the beat, so like a record. I actually think of myself as a 3D DJ sometimes in my own mind," says hoop dancer Clara Kallner.
She brought two of her hoops with her today, both of which are plain black with no tape. Like anyone who makes their own, she can recite the specs of her hoop on command.
"The bigger one is 36-37 inch diameter. It's 125 inch psi irrigation tubing that you would just find at the hardware store."
Not Too Big, Not Too Small
Kallner may enjoy her minimalist hoops, but the different colors and patterns of tape is what gives them character. Taping is also one of the trickiest parts of constructing a hoop. The tape often gets tangled as you simultaneously pull off the paper backing while wrapping it around the hoop.
Paula Chambers makes hoops at her store The Dance Circus. She's the creative director and co-founder of the Hudsucker Posse. She's recorded the dimensions and colors of all the hoops she's ever made in a thick binder, which is getting thicker by the day. During the summer, custom hoop making accounts for the majority of her sales she's made dozens already this season.
Chambers says dime store hoops aren't good for adults. They're too light and flimsy. If you're really interested in getting into hooping, it's best to get a hoop that fits with your body's dimensions.
She measures the hooper's waist and multiplies that figure by 1.2 (for a small hoop, good for dancing), 1.3 or 1.4 (for a slower, heavier hoop appropriate for exercising).
Craft Before Dance
Now the real work begins.
The tubing is the same stuff you buy at any hardware store. It comes in 100-foot increments, which makes 10 hoops. She can choose between four different types of tubing polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, cross-linked polyethylene or polypropylene. She uses tube cutters, a drill press and a heating tool to bend and connect the hoop.
For plumbers, psi is an indication of how many pounds per square inch of water pressure the tube can hold. For hoopers, that's how they determine weight 100-125 psi is a good figure for beginners.
Hoops Pays For Hooping
Back at the inception of the Hudsucker Posse, they made hoops out of necessity because there was nowhere to buy the hoops commercially.
"Before we could even learn how to hoop, we had to make our own hoops. So, talk about reverse engineering," she says. "We realized quickly there was definitely an art to it."
They made 10 hoops at that very first get-together and then they taught themselves how to hoop dance. They now hold two public hoop jams every week, both of which are free of charge. Chambers says this makes Bloomington unique in the hooping world because most troops have to pay for a venue. (On sunny days, the troop gathers at Bryan Park.)
With that basic need covered, she uses some of the cash from her business to cover the cost of the Hudsucker's website, print media and costumes.
"I figured out early on that if I saved a portion of my hoop sales, I was then able to support the troop," she says. "So, hoops pays for hooping."
On the group's wishlist is a new P.A. system. Six or so more orders of customs hoops and that's paid for.