At 4pm every Tuesday, a friendly group of faces sway their hips to music with hula-hoops rotating around their bodies. A few of them bring the hoop to their ankles without breaking rhythm. A few more bring the hoop above their heads then back down around their waste in one seamless motion. Then, a clumsy bunch will watch in awe and attempt to do the same with a look of determination in their eyes.
This scene at Stony Brook University’s Staller Steps, an open lawn for students to enjoy in the nice weather, is where the Stony Brook Hula Hoop Enthusiasts Club makes students fall in love again with a childhood favorite.
“When we were younger, there was a different ambiance and now it’s art,” Secretary Raysa Abeledo said.
The new club was only started a month ago, but Creative Director Lily Nack had known since freshman year that she wanted to help people discover hooping and express themselves.
Though dancing with hoops has been popular in the 60s and then again in the 90s—described by Nack as “beautifully-marketed plastic circles”—the hula-hoop has returned with a new flare.
Nack said the process of starting a club on campus was slow, but it meant there was more time to find the right board members.
Secretary Raysa Abeledo was Nack’s previous roommate and Vice President Ryan Tiss had taken a Women Studies class with her. Treasurer Christian Cann met Lily through a mutual friend, but they were reacquainted after a run-in.
“A little while after I met her, Lily was outside of my window ready to go for a run and then she just asked me to join her,” Cann said.
“I remember he just took off his pants and had gym shorts underneath and he ran with me,” Nack said. They became fast friends and soon Cann was shaking his hips in a hula-hoop alongside Cann.
The more Cann hung out with Lily, the more practice he got with hula-hoops. “I kept picking them up, tossing them around and throwing them at things,” he said.
The varying levels in experience among the board members reflect the variety of hoopers that have since joined the club.
However the group agrees on the following:
1. Beginners may feel like they have it the worst. “It starts off cumbersome but then your body gets used to the feeling,” Cann said.
Vice President Tiss chimed in, “Once you let yourself go, it becomes less about time and more about the flow. You get used to what the hoop feels like and the kind of motions you make.”
2. Anyone can get attached to his or her hula-hoops. Cann’s first hoop was made of black irrigation tubing with red and white tape warping around it. He named it Dr. Hoop, a play on words of his newfound interest with the “Dr. Who” television series.
“Hula hoops can be a personal thing because it all depends on you—you might need different sizes for height or a different kind of tubing for skill level—you get the personal connection from building it and then you just want to use it all the time,” Nack said.
3. Hooping heals. Hula Hoop Enthusiast member Jessica Ronacher said it givers her some perspective. “If I’m not doing well, I pick up my hoop. It centers me and anything that was a problem I can see now as a smaller [obstacle] in the bigger scheme of things,” she said.
“There’s no one right way to hoop, “ Nack said.
“You’re such a hoop mom,” Tiss jokes, referring to Nack’s tendency to foster her love of hula hooping into strangers and friends alike.
“Everybody’s got a hoop mom,” she replied.
Though the Stony Brook Hula Hoop Enthusiast Club has only been meeting for three weeks, no one is sure of the total number of meetings.
“Nack describes meetings as “inclusive” and “informal.”
I like hoop club to run—instead of like teaching a class—set up as an environment where everyone learns from each other […] So, watching someone who just started I can still learn new things,” she explained.
Though a new club like Nack’s has struggled with funding and advertising, Cann believes the solution is all in the hips. “The best way we can advertise is just when they see us hooping,” he said.
Still, Nack has big plans for the freshly formed club. “I’m working on a crazy idea,” she said.