Get hooked on the hula hoop

Dubai's fast-growing hooping community is drawing people for reasons bigger than just fun or fitness. Instead, Alkhudairi believes, they are attracted to “a hoop movement”.

Teeba Alkhudairi founded flowground, a school and forum for adults who want to learn about hula hooping. Courtesy Teeba Alkhudairi
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Teeba Alkhudairi fell in love with hooping after watching a professional troupe perform at the Burning Man festival in America’s Nevada desert in 2011.

“The look of happiness and serenity on the dancer’s face was unforgettable,” she says. “She changed my life without knowing it.

“I wanted to try it, but I lived in Dubai then and couldn’t find any hoopers. I bought a hoop from a sports store, but it barely stayed on my waist.”

Months later, after a move back to Toronto, Alkhudairi tried her first hoop class.

“Little did I know that hula­ hooping is not only about the classes, it has a whole aspect of community, and I have made the best of friends through it.”

The Harvard Business School graduate, who has since returned to Dubai, started teaching a year ago. In December, she launched her local hoop school and forum, flowground, which has more than 100 active adult hoopers – children's classes are next on her list – in Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

Her regular Monday hoop jams at The Fridge in Al Quoz come complete with live DJs, but Alkhudairi is gearing up for the launch of her six-week, more intensive course starting on Monday.

Next month, from May 21 to 23, she is bringing in the American hoop dance pioneer and performer Anah “Hoopalicious” Reichenbach for an intensive workshop titled BodyRocking with Hoopalicious, which will be held at Al Mawakeb School in Al Barsha.

Reichenbach, who will soon be the subject of a full-length documentary, The Hooping Life, has starred in the HoopBody series of workout DVDs with the Hollywood actress Marisa Tomei.

Dubai’s fast-growing hooping community is attracting people for reasons bigger than just fun or fitness. Alkhudairi believes they are drawn to “a hoop movement”.

“I started teaching hooping in the first place for this very reason: what is learnt inside the hoop is even applicable outside of it – in everyday life,” she says. “It allows for openness of truth, purity of voice and frees us from self-judgement, often a bigger barrier than the judgement of others.”

While initially hooping was attracting a more alternative crowd – festivalgoers, for example – Alkhudairi says lately it has been attracting “everyone ... those looking for an alternative type of fitness, or self-expression and fun, or just to make new friends”.

A head-to-toe toning exercise that helps you burn up to 250 calories in 30 minutes without even realising it, hooping is also a great antidote to the screen-obsessed, fast-paced modern lifestyle. There is a reason why the circular movement, which proponents say is calming and relaxing, is favoured by the Sufi Dervishes, who use it as a form of active meditation, says Alkhudairi.

Her top tip for hooping? Don’t think, just do. That’s how the “flow” comes, she says.

“Flow is not something you try to do. It’s about not thinking, not planning, just doing, feeling and being really in the moment. Like wind or waves. That’s flow.”