ROCKLAND, Maine — What started as a reading of a blog quickly developed into an obsession that led Maria Randolph, 42, of Warren, to dancing in a hoop of fire.
After perusing the Internet one night, Randolph happened upon hula-hooping blogs. It sounded fun. It sounded more fun than, say, an exercise class. Soon enough she was shopping for a good hoop. Then she was making hoops. Then she was leading hooping classes. Then she was making a business plan for her hooping business.
“I was immediately addicted,” she said.
It started in her back yard. Randolph taught her friends. But eventually, winter set in and her yard filled with snow and hooping became impossible. Since hooping was not an option, Randolph’s husband encouraged her to check out local community centers where she could teach. At the first one, 28 people showed up. She knew three of them.
”A business was born,” she said.
Some people come for fitness. Some want to learn awesome tricks. Others find the rocking motions soothing and meditative.
“In an hour you can burn 500 to 600 calories in a low-impact cardio workout. In the creative aspect, kids between 16 and 30 go to music fests and hoop. It goes down this creative line about performance — there are a lot of ways you can take it,” she said. “It’s a creative dance form. It’s more than just cool tricks. You can do a lot of cool tricks with a hoop, but each person brings their own history and own movement to hooping. People can do the same trick and it looks completely different.”
Other people like the motion. “It’s very, very soothing. I hear this over and over. It’s restorative,” she said. “If you had told me that a year ago, I would have laughed — hula hooping for stress relief. There is just something about that circular rocking motion that’s soothing.”
And for others, the hand-eye coordination, the balance and the coordination practice can be a sort of therapy. This was the case for Randolph’s young daughter. “It gets your mind and body working together,” she said.
Randolph teaches beginners and admits she’s new to the hooping world. Right now she’s getting into fire hooping, which involves lighting the hula hoop on fire and twirling it about your body. She doesn’t teach that yet.
Her big goal is to connect people on the midcoast who want to hoop with each other. “If I’m out there hooping — I do it in public, on the beach — people approach me and say, ‘You hoop, too?’ A lot of people are doing it quietly on their own, but there is no community,” Randolph said. “I’m trying to build that community.”
Randolph is the founder of Hoop ME. She teaches classes for about $10 in Rockland, Camden and Union. She also leads informal hoop jam sessions 5:30-6:30 p.m. the second and fourth Fridays of the month at Harbor Park across from the library. For more information visit http://hoopmeonline.com.
But be warned. “It’s addictive. That’s how hooping is once you start it. When I first did it, I could go around my waist. Then I wanted to make it go above my head,” Randolph said. “Then I added music. I was so excited I could actually do it. I thought there was no way I could dance in a hoop — come on, I’m 42. You just want to keep going.”