1. Tell us your roots - where were you born and raised? I grew up in a rural town in Georgia, where we raised cows and watermelon. I was shy and quiet but I wanted to travel, so I worked hard at school, applied for an early entrance scholarship to go away for college, and started working toward funding for academic conferences and summer programs in different cities across the US. So the first half of my growing-up happened in the middle of nowhere, and the second half happened all over the place!
2. Why hooping? How did the journey begin? I met a hooper at an academic program in 2006. He had giant hoops, and he was playing alone in a park outside the college, looking very peaceful. He taught me to waist hoop, showed me a couple other moves, and told me how to make hoops from irrigation tubing. I liked hooping immediately because it was such a different kind of challenge from what the rest of my life was focused on, in books and classes and part-time jobs, and it gave me down time that I really needed, but it still let me feel like I was learning and achieving something. I was a super workaholic! I hooped to take breaks from schoolwork through my bachelor’s degree and my first graduate program, and by then, I had taught a close friend to hoop. We met with our hoops every morning before taking and teaching classes. She gave me a hoop “assignment” each day (i.e. figure out this cool barrel roll break thing so-and-so’s doing on YouTube) and it was my job to learn it before the next morning and teach it to her. The back and forth was a lot of fun, and it kept me constantly at the edge of my abilities. About that time, I saw Lisa Lottie’s “Slinky” routine, and then I saw a couple multi-hoopers in circuses for the first time. I already loved the activity of hooping, but this glamorous, world-traveling, and apparently superhuman style of hooping blew me away! I started using hooping as a corner of my life each day to play pretend, to try ridiculous-looking multi-hooping tricks and imagine my way to being able to do them. My friend said I was “becoming a circus” and it made me smile, but I never really imagined myself onstage in a tent somewhere with platinum blond pincurls and sequined leotards, spinning five or six hoops up and down my body!
3. What has the hoop taught you about life? Hula hooping eased me out of the workaholic mindset I developed early on, the one that got me into graduate school at 18 but also ate up all my spare time and wore me down. It taught me the very real importance of play, of taking time to follow your fancies and do things you want to do for no external reason, just for yourself, however unproductive they might appear to others. I learned that play actually is incredibly productive, physically, mentally, and emotionally. The years I’ve been learning to hoop have been an education in myself, helping me take better care of myself emotionally, teaching me what kinds of activities and challenges make me feel best on a day-to-day basis, and eventually leading me to ways to form my life around what makes me healthy and happy. I left my PhD program and teaching job to join the traveling carnival sideshow I’m now in my third year with, where I hula hoop, perform old-fashioned stage illusions, and get knives thrown at me for a tent full of fairgoers three or four times a day, and I’ve never been happier!
4. What's next? How is your hoop life evolving? I love working with the World of Wonders Sideshow, and I plan to keep performing and learning here for the foreseeable future. I enjoy putting together a new routine each season based on what I’ve figured out over the previous one, so practice daily, and I sit down every couple weeks and watch lots of videos of amazing hoopers doing things that are still out of my reach. Right now I’m working on six-hoop splits and some other multi-hooping tricks that are new for me, and I’m also trying to catch up on some of the wild single-hoop moves that hoopers have come up with over the last few years! I’m also learning a lot about performance from this job, which is an entirely different type of skill. I feel myself growing as a performer each season, and I can also feel how far I still have to go! In terms of my hoop “life,” I’d really like to make the most of my traveling by getting off the fairgrounds more often to hoop with local hoopers and hoop groups, and I’m interested in eventually coordinating circus-hooping and multi-hooping guest workshops in established hoop classes and communities. Finally--and this isn’t exactly about hooping, but it’s an offshoot of my hoop life—I’m learning trick roping, which feels like a much feistier and more difficult hula hoop, and it’s exciting to start basically the same learning process all over again after a decade!
5. What aspect of the hoop community do you value the most and what do you hope to contribute to the future of hooping? I love how hooping as an art is so dynamic and constantly growing. So many people do so many cool new things with their hula hoops each year, and even though I’ve practiced mostly traditional circus hooping, it’s amazing to me to watch the community as a whole expand what the art is further the longer hooping is popular. I love the growing sense of free play in hooping, that there’s countless ways to approach a hoop and no right path to take, and I’m grateful for the free exchange of ideas and creativity between hoopers in person and online. I’m happy to be able to share what I know and give other hoopers gentle and positive guidance for some of the time-consuming and physically challenging learning processes involved in circus hooping and on-body multi-hooping. I love helping other hoopers build a foundation for their own exponential growth!