Hi! It’s been a while since I’ve posted- sorry! With Ramadan and Eid (and a bunch of other things), I have been barely able to catch my breath! But I promise you the wait is worth it as in this post I present to you Sheila! A phenomenal woman, a federal worker, and a grandmother of five!

You MUST see the awesome collaboration videos she has been involved with, inspirational!

Thank you Sheila for sharing your experiences with us.

1) Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from? Where you grew up? What is your profession?-   I am employed as a federal worker for the Dept. of Research and Development and have been there for 30 years. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, but reside in New Jersey where  I have for almost 30 years. I have three beautiful adults., (I call them adults because they’re grown and on their own) lol!., and 5 beautiful grandchildren.

2) How did you start hula hooping? – As with most girls growing up, I used to play outside with my friends.  We would jump rope, ride our bikes,  play other street games and hula hoop as well.  One day my boyfriend and I were walking through a park in New Jersey, and saw a woman with beautiful hoops all around her.   We walked over to her and asked about the hoops and she told me that she gave classes on Monday evenings.  I couldn’t wait to start taking classes with her and purchased my very first hoop that she made just for me which I still use from time to time.  I had no idea that adult women were into hooping especially since I hadn’t really seen or paid any attention to hoops since I was a child., and so my journey began. 

3) What does hooping mean to you? How does it influence your life? What positive changes did it bring about?

I began taking dance classes with Sharon Sutera, the woman I purchased the hoop from who is also an excellent hoop dancer as well as belly dance instructor.  During the summer months I attended hoop jams that were given by her and, I meet my friend Robyn Rosen who introduced me to the hoop groups on Facebook.  I had no idea that hula hooping had become such a beautiful art form.  Once I was accepted into one of the New Jersey Hoop Groups, I began to view and see so many others who had perfected this beautiful art form.  I was completely blown away after viewing video after video of magnificent hoop dancers.  It was then I became determined to really learn this art form and formed an addiction to hooping. 

I came up with an idea to start a group of my own,  entitled, “You Know You’re Addicted to Hooping When…?”. I had no idea that things would ex grow into where things are today.  The group has grown to over 1,200 members from all walks of life from all around the world.  I wanted to take this group and make it something unique and original and show the world exactly what this art form is all about.  I had a vision, but no idea of where to start, so I decided to have the members submit video clips and I would compile a collaboration of the clips put to music to create a story.  To date, the group and I have performed over 14 international hoop dance collaborations.  My first video being “No More War”.   With all that’s going on the world today I wanted to make a statement through dance and performance and to show and encourage unity. 

All the videos that I have produced are near and dear to my heart.  One video also acknowledges Miriam Akhter, “World Hoop Ambassador” who passed away last year at the age of 19.  Her journey from child to her death was very inspiring, and I wanted to present the group in a way that shows the art form of hoop dance as well as collectively paying our respect to such a wonderful young woman. 
Another video that seems to be a very popular one with the most video viewing is “The Male Hoopers Revue”.  I selected 23 of the most popular male hoop artists in 2015 and put a video collaboration together that really shows that hooping is not just for woman, but for men also.
Our most recent video collaboration pays tribute to the late “Prince” who just recently passed away.  This was another heartfelt collaboration that paid respect to an amazing entertainer and musician.
All of the groups video collaborations can be viewed on the groups Youtube Channel here.
4) How much time do you spend hooping daily/weekly? I try to spend as much time as possible, at least three to four times a week, at least 30 minutes to an hour in the evenings when I come home from work.
5) What is your favorite music to hoop to? – I love all types of music, but I tend to lean more towards house music, mixed with a fusion of Brazilian, Latin and African beats.  I love exotic music.
6) How many hoops do you own? – At my last count, I believe I own 22 hoops in various sizes.  I started with a 40″ hoop and have worked my way down to a 33″ poly pro 5/8 inch hoop, but I always go back to my beginner hoop when I’m trying to learn an on body move.

7) What is your favorite hula hoop to hoop with and why?– I would have to say my 34″ 5/8 inch hot pink polypro from Kemmithoops.  There’s just something about that hoop that I really love.  For one its the color (hot pink) and secondly it just seems to move right with me and my off body movements.

8) Who is your biggest hoop inspiration?– All of the hoopers, in my group, and throughout the industry are extremely inspiring to me.  I’m extremely fond of Paige LaWall and Ali Williams.  They have a different flow than most, extremely graceful.  The list goes on, and I would be writing for days about all the artists who I admire and respect: Caroleena Mabry, who gave me the inspiration and guidance to start producing group videos and who has been a real mentor to me; Jamie Torres, who has been a true friend and someone who always provides me with good advice and direction,  but if I had to select one individual person hoop dance inspirer,   I would have to say Deanne Love.  Her tutorials were some of the first on Youtube that I started viewing and hooping with.  It actually feels kind of cool to have Deanne right in my living room with me.

9) Have you gone to any hoop retreats? If yes-can you share your experiences with us? Do you have a favorite retreat and why?
Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to attend any of the hoop retreats yet, but I hope to do so in the near future, but I do attend as many workshops as possible, and I did have the opportunity to attend Return to Roots last summer.  It was an absolutely awesome experience and the workshop classes were fantastic.
10) What is your most memorable hoop memory? Tell us the story. – I think the most memorable for me was participating in the New York City Dance Parade in 2015.  That was the most awesome thing I have ever experienced.  We were the last to come out and to hear the crowd applaud and roar was something like I have never experienced.  I had no idea that hooping in a parade was such an event.  There were so many people when we all turned the corner and started hooping and walking down the street.  The music was pumping and the adrenelin was kicking in.  It was kind of intimidating as a new hooper but none the less exciting.
11) Have you faced any challenges hula hooping? If yes please elaborate. – Absolutely.  Paddles and breaks and knee hooping have been very challenging for me. Shoulder hooping was actually at one time and now I got it, so it’s just a matter of time before I achieve success with these moves as well.  I attended an event in NJ a few weeks ago and a hooper friend, Agnes Carbone really broke (paddles and breaks down for me) as well as taking Skype Lessons with the wonderful Ali Williams.

12) Have you tried any other flow arts? If yes- which one(s) and how was your experience? If not, which flow art would you be interested in trying? – Not yet, but Buugeng staff’s are definitely on my to do list.  I’ve been looking on line and have had several conversations with members in the flow arts community on these., (where to purchase, etc.)  I absolutely love the way they look and I’m completely mesmerized by them.  I’m looking forward to trying them.

13) What advice would you give someone who is new to hooping and just starting out? – I would say “Never Quit”.  Hooping isn’t easy, but if you want to become successful at this, you really do need to practice and have play time with your hoops as much as possible.  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the move the first time. Certain moves have to be embedded into your muscle memory in order to get it. Some moves come easier for others than most and some are really difficult, but don’t give up.  Frustration is natural, just put them down, and go back to them the next day. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve knocked myself in the head, eye and nose trying to get a move, and it hurts, but the persistency in me will stop for a minute and then tell myself out loud, “Ok, let’s try this again”.

14) What quality do you most admire in a hooper? – I would say, the ability to flow with the hoop and make each transition look perfectly flawless.  I know that this is a difficult task which takes lots of practice, but once this is achieved, it looks so beautiful.

15)  What hoop move are you currently struggling with/trying to perfect? – Paddles and breaks, and knee hooping and really dancing in the hoop.  Tricks are beautiful, but when you can move inside of your hoop and just let it flow in either current fluently, that is such a beautiful thing to visualize.

16) Do you have any current or future projects you would like to share with us?

In addition to the group video collaborations, I also came up with an idea in 2016 to feature a randomly selected member each month within the group as a “Spotlight Hooper of the Month”I really enjoy producing these videos.  On a daily basis we all view videos and pics of members, not really knowing anything about them other than viewing the videos that they post.   What I try to do is to present a more personal side of the individual that brings interest to the members and gives everyone a chance to get to know them on a more personal level.  Everyone is into an art form “hooping, poi, fans, buugeng, etc.”, but we’re all individuals with a story to tell.  Members of the group get to experience the journey of a randomly selected member and get to know them on a more personal level.  Once I select the member, I contact them and inform them that I selected them and  I work with them by phone/email or messaging to create their story and their journey. The members of the group really seem to enjoy this, and look forward to what will be presented on the first of each month.  No one knows who the “Spotlight Hooper of the Month” will be until the video has been presented. It makes things fun and enjoyable.  In addition, I continuing to practice as much as possible to become a better hoop dancer, as well as continuing my education in the film industry by studying and taking classes to perfect my craft.   I find this industry extremely fascinating  and also challenging.  I enjoy a challenge, it helps me to grow and  blossom as an artist.  I look forward to future collaborations and eventually producing a movie which is one of my goals