Mar 052018
 

On this date in 1963 Arthur “Spud” Melin, co-founder of WHAM-O, received U.S. Patent Number 3,079,728 for the company’s version of the hula hoop. The hula hoop can scarcely be said to be a modern invention. There have been various records of waist hooping for exercise, dance, and recreation from numerous cultures throughout history. Before it was known and recognized as the common colorful plastic toy (sometimes with water or sand inside the actual hoop), the traditional “hula hoop” used to be made of dried willow, rattan, grapevines, or stiff grasses. Even though they have existed for thousands of years, they are often misunderstood as having been invented in the 1950s. According to Charles Panati, there was a craze of using wooden and metal hoops in 14th-century England. He reports that doctors treated patients suffering from pain and dislocated backs due to hooping − and heart failure was even attributed to it. Panati also says that the name “hula” came from the Hawaiian dance in the 18th century, due to the similar hip movements.

The Native American Hoop Dance is a form of storytelling dance incorporating anywhere from 1 to 30 hoops (sometimes more) as props. These props are used to create both static and dynamic shapes, which represent various animals, symbols, and storytelling elements. The dance is generally performed by a solo dancer with multiple hoops.

The hula hoop gained international popularity in the late 1950s, when the plastic version was successfully marketed by California’s WHAM-O toy company. In 1957, Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin, starting with the idea of Australian bamboo “exercise hoops”, manufactured 1.06-metre (42 in) hoops with Marlex plastic. With giveaways and national marketing and retailing, a fad was started in July 1958. 25 million plastic hoops were sold in less than four months, and in two years, sales reached more than 100 million units. Carlon Products Corporation was one of the first manufacturers of the hula hoop. During the 1950s, when the hula hoop craze swept the country, Carlon was producing more than 50,000 hula hoops per day. The hoop was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York, in 1999. The hula hoop craze swept the world, dying out again in the 1980s, but not in China and Russia, where hula hooping and hoop manipulation were adopted by traditional circuses and rhythmic gymnasts.

Recently, there has been a re-emergence of hula hooping, generally referred to as either “hoopdance” or simply “hooping” to distinguish it from the children’s play form. The jam band The String Cheese Incident is widely credited with fostering a renewed interest in hooping. Band members started throwing larger adult-sized hoops into their audiences in the mid-1990s, encouraging their fans to hoop and dance, spreading the word and the fun.It wasn’t until 2003 with the launch of Hooping.org that these small bands of hoopers began to find each other online and a real community and movement began to grow. Bay Area Hoopers began in San Francisco at that time holding regular “hoop jams” with music to hoop to and the hooping group began being replicated in cities around the world. In 2006 Hoopin’ Annie had the idea to create a hooping holiday and the first World Hoop Day was held in 2007. Modern hula hooping is seen at numerous festivals and fairs in the USA, UK, Australia and Europe.

Many modern hoopers make their own hoops out of PVC piping, or polypropylene tubing (known as polypro). The polyethylene hoops, and especially the polyvinyl chloride hoops, are much larger and heavier than hoops of the 1950s. The size and the weight of the hoop affect the style of the hooper. Heavier, larger hoops are more often used for beginner dancers and easier tricks, while lighter, thinner tubing is used for quick hand tricks. These hoops may be covered in a fabric or plastic tape to create more of a visual image and distinguish between the hoop and dancer. Gaffer Tape is also used to line the inside of a hula hoop to add grip or when using a bare hula hoop it can be roughened by using sandpaper. Some use glow-in-the dark, patterned, or sparkling tape, and others are produced with clear tubing and are never filled with materials (usually hoops for children are filled with an array of materials). LED technology has also been introduced in the past few years, allowing hoops to light up at the flick of a switch or a remote control. Programmable ‘Smart Hoops’ are available which provide a range of special effects and some can even be customized through an application on a mobile device.

There are thousands of YouTube videos on hooping. I won’t waste disk space with an embedded one. This is typical: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdIqYbRxldU

Given that hula is a Hawaiian dance, a Hawaiian recipe seems suitable, and since hooping is physically challenging why not try making Hawaiian poi (mashed taro root) in the traditional way? Here’s a video for you.