Hula hoops, journey from the playgrounds to college campuses

Story by Da’Sha Tuck, Staff writer

Hula hoops have been around since the early 1950s, but now hula hooping is being used as flow art, the use of a variety of movement such as dance and object manipulation to achieve a mindful clarity.

“Flow arts have been around for a long time and are super prominent in the music festival world,” said Melanie Davis, sophomore from Mt. Vernon, Indiana.

Hula hoop flow art is about stretching your mind, Davis said, and thinking about what can be done with it. Creativity and patience are key.


“The hula hooping community revolves around a principle of unity,” said Jen Smith, senior from St. Louis. “We try and spread love and positivity to each other.”

Smith said it is not about competitions. She said each hula hooper has his or her own original flow and other hula hoopers just respect and appreciate that they all have a passion for the same art.

Although there are not competitions to attend, hula hoopers gather at events such as Bonnaroo and other festivals throughout the year.

When there is not a festival, hula hoopers stay connected through social media.

Smith said she is a part of a Facebook group with over 40,000 hula hoopers. There they share videos, memories, hooper bloopers and anything hula hoop related.

“You can learn from each other but should never make it about who has more skill, it is honestly just about having fun,” Smith said.

Davis said the flow arts community is one of the most accepting and open groups she has ever known.


Smith and Davis are friends and now involved heavily in hula hoop flow art.

The women agreed that, to be successful in this flow art, creativity and patience are key.

Davis said if there is anyone who thinks they may be interested in learning this art, they shouldn’t hesitate. 

“I don’t think I know a single hooper who wouldn’t love to help someone start their flow journey,” Davis said. 


Smith said the hardest part is keeping hula hooping interesting. She said it is possible to experience burnout when there isn’t something new and exciting to do.

“You can get really into your flow sometimes, and it’s nice to let your body move with the hoop,” Davis said.

Both Davis and Smith said they spend countless hours practicing their art.

Sometimes Smith substitutes hooping for the gym. She said hooping can be a great workout.   

Smith enjoys practicing her hooping around campus but especially behind Alexander Hall. She blares her music and loses herself in her art.

“She made it look so beautiful and effortless,” said Emma Franklin, senior from Alton, Illinois. “It’s an artistic expression of emotion.”

This type of hooping is becoming more and more visible on social media. Davis said the act of hooping is both energizing and relaxing, so it is a win – win.

Hula hoop flow art is not just about spinning a hoop, it is about exploring the mind and body in a different way.

“It is all about self-expression,” Smith said. “You can match your flow to your mood and nobody can take your individuality and nobody can cop your style. It is just you expressing yourself in any way you like and I love it.”