DIY Ideas & How-To GuidesHoopmakers University

Emma Kenna

Emma Kenna

I am originally from a town in the middle of England called Corby where I stayed until I finished school, safe in the knowledge that I was the sort of child and teen that couldn't hula hoop, handstand, cartwheel or any of that other 'active' stuff. My career choice of Scientist took me to Nottingham to do my Genetics degree. When not studying I was going to music festivals like Glastonbury Festival and became obsessed with watching the amazing fire spinners there. It took 2 years of me sitting by the fire circle every night before one of my mates said to me 'emma, why don't you just learn how to do it?' and the lightbulb switched on! The next year I was IN the circle with my fire poi rather than on the sidelines. :) This was way back in 2000! I spent the next 7 years studying while occasionally spinning my poi at festivals.

So it's 2007, I'm in the second year of my Immunology PhD living in Bristol and I'm asked if I'll teach some poi and do some fire spinning at festival called Secret Garden Party. Why not? So I went along for the weekend. I was set up next to the hula hoop girl, the amazing Anna Hulagan and I soon realised no one wanted to do poi and everyone wanted to hoop with the giant hoops.

Ahhh except I can’t hoop. Never was able to. I'm not even going to try.

Yup I was one of those people.

Anna just hooped and looked awesome and after about 2 days of watching her and wishing I could do it I picked up the courage to have a go and what do you know?.... seems my 'broken hips' weren't so broken and the 44" hoop worked pretty well. I then spent the rest of my festival hooping at my waist and make every passerby join in. Teacher from day 1 :P That night at the fire show, I was feeling pretty good about my poi until Anna rocks up in her leather chaps and a fire hoop and that was it. Decision made. THIS is my new thing!

But I didn't buy a hoop then... "what £25 for a hoop?? I'll make my own"

Yes, I was also one of those people :P

I made myself a 42" hoop a few weeks later and couldn't really do it that well and got completely discouraged. It wasn't until the following January when I saw Beth Lavinder's "Hooping to Nick Drake" video in her dance barn in North Carolina that I completely decided I was "going to be able to move like that". I went online and bought a 44" spongy taped Hoopnotica travel hoop (anyone remember those :P) which I hooped to death over the next dew months in my living room, curtains drawn so noone could see me! Then I got another one and hooped that one to death too :P All I wanted to do was hoop :P

At around this time, my mum passed away after a long 6 year battle with cancer. I was writing up my PhD thesis, working on my postdoc research, working in an undergraduate student residence as a warden to afford rent, the grief was always there... honestly it was a hard time. Hooping kept me sane, kept me happy, kept me dancing and I can never be grateful enough to have had it :)

I started my first hoop class in the winter of that first year for some friends who wanted to learn. This quickly escalated over the next couple of years it turned into multiple regular classes and some of my advanced students starting to teach for me and 'Hooping Mad' was born!

I managed to finish my thesis and get my PhD but I was only 6 more months in the lab before I decided I wanted to teach more than research so I was looking into teaching positions when I thought 'why not try the hoop stuff full time?' So that's what I did :P

And since then it's been a whirlwind of world travel, great friends, dusty firey festivals, sparkly outfits, under over pants, crotch emphasis, van dwelling, workshops, SWhoops, comedy thrusting, personal development, sofa surfing, ohm-ing, TWEEKs, ohmadonna-ing and obviously a lot of hooping! It's not been all roses, there's been some heartbreak, money dramas, loneliness and lots of random pets sitting on my head or licking my face in the mornings (one of those things when you’re a professional couch surfer :P) but I can live with that! It's been an amazing journey so far and I can't wait to see what the next stage holds.

The biggest thing hooping has taught me is that I can do anything if I put the time in. I’ve taken ‘can’t’ out of my vocabulary. It may have taken until I was 30 but this realisation means I'm 35 and new at learning handstands, cartwheels, ukulele, speaking german and I've literally just got into pole dancing.... I reckon I'll be a master by the time I'm 50 :) More things!!

I've been lucky enough to gain support from some amazing companies such as Hoopologie, Bendy Wicks, Fancy Tapes and Astral Hoops as well as individual support via my patreon page which is a new-ish venture but has been really well supported.

Other than the pole dancing and yoga, I'm currently working on organising my crazy amount of online hoop resources to one place, making more online workshops and doing week intensives in Bali and Turkey. I’m loving instagram and have just started doing the 15sec instatutorials which are fun. This year I’ll be teaching in Bali, Hong Kong, Turkey, Dubai, Germany, Holland and Austria :) I would like to work on a street show which includes my comedy character and over-under pants and ukulele and hoop and I’m also working on a heavy technical hoop act for the hoop conventions this year. This year I’ll be performing (and teaching) at the The Hoop Dream Retreat in Bali, the German Hoop Convention in Hannover, Heart Hoop Dance in Holland and the Austrian Hoop Convention in Vienna.

Life is good.