Grant MacEwan Article

Hooping not just a fun fad for one Edmonton group.

Macewan Journalist

There is a group of woman in Edmonton that do something a little unusual on Monday nights. They whirl around what’s most often seen as child’s play. They gather to learn how to balance colorful rings around their waist, chest, arms, and legs. They dance, learn tricks, and laugh. They’re hula hoopers.

“Grab a hoop!” was the first thing hooping instructor Sandra Sommerville said as I walked into the chaotic class. Three girls were trying to learn the hooping trick of the day, often loosing control of the hoop and accidentally throwing it to the other side of the room. The girls are part of a beginners hooping class, which takes place Mondays at 6 p.m. at a dance studio on 80 Avenue and 110 Street. For some, hooping is a hobby that they just want to get to be good at.

“I would like to get pass the point of look awkward,” noted Kaylin Betteridge. For Sommerville, Hooping is a lifestyle that is growing into a career. Her recently launched hooping community website is getting attention from around the world.

She launched the SaFire Dance website in January, and there are already over 600 members, with new ones joining each day. The website features instructional videos on hooping tricks, a forum, and an online shop. All the shop items, which go from spiral equipment to funky hooping clothes, are handmade or modified by Sommerville.

She said that the site is successful because hoopers want to talk about hooping. She wanted to create an online community that serves exactly that purpose.

“I know exactly what it’s like to be really, really excited about something and have no one to talk to about it with.

It’s a lot of work to moderate the website, she said, because she records her own video tutorials, answers e-mails and messages, and sells her products. She also teaches online hooping classes and does hula hooping performances at various events, including private parties. Prices vary, and she does not have a day job, but she is really working 24/7, she said.

And she couldn’t be happier.

I really don’t think I could have a regular job again.

The 25-year-ol had no idea her passion would bring her here. She was a “Hoopie Award” in 2008 for outstanding hoop instructor of the year. The site gives out the Hoop Awards every year, and Sommerville was nominated for three other categories.

Sommerville moved to Edmonton from Fort McMurray a year ago to take a trapeze class and to make a living as a hula hooping performer. She had no set plan, but she believed hooping was something she could success at.

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