Hula-Hooping Goes High-Tech
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because now, your mad hooping skills can be turned into a light show.
By Zara Stone
When Lauren Shaw starts hula-hooping, jaws drop. But it’s not her sinuous motions capturing attention, it’s the flashing light show created by her spins. Dazzling lightscapes and hip-swirling rainbows transform her movements into an art performance. This is the next generation of high-tech hoopery: LED “smart” hoops.
Five years ago, then-real estate agent Shaw was bored and decided to try hooping as a hobby, and she soon tapped into the online communities — 20,000-plus people in the Unity of Hula Hoopers Facebook group and a big YouTube hoop scene. With their encouragement, she kept improving her “flow,” which is what hoopers call their dance style. A moment of inspiration struck one night when she saw flashing red lights atop a movie theater. She had an engineer mount LED spokes on a hoop and program them to project words that glow when the hoop is in motion. “It uses [the] persistence of vision phenomenon, where the light goes so fast that it’s created in front of your eyes,” Shaw explains. The positive response to this creation encouraged her to launch her company, SpinFX, which is dedicated to high-tech hoop solutions.
The hoop can be controlled with its Android app (yes, a hula hoop with an app).
Her first version, the SpinFX Pro Hoop, became the flagship model; it’s customizable for corporate events and music videos, such as Vanessa Hudgens’ music video. For consumers, there’s the Phoenix. With 150 embedded LEDs, the Phoenix is programmed with 200-plus patterns, which create dynamic circles, spikes and trails of light. Extra patterns can be created at home, and many people in the hooping community share theirs online for free. And they’re a little crazy; think wildly spinning pizza slices and neon Mario Bros. The hoop can be controlled with its Android app (yes, a hula hoop with an app), which connects via Bluetooth.
At $495, the Phoenix hoop is not accessible for everyone. For hoopers on a budget, Astral Hoops owner B.J. Nolletti suggests using irrigation tubing and colored tape. But if you want that extra sizzle, he loves LEDs. “Hooping with crazy, colorful lights all around you can drift you away to a place of dancing with light,” he says. Nolletti’s hoops range from $125 to $379, and the company offers payment plans. His luxury hoop is the Atomic Evoke, which is completely customizable, including the size, material and color, and it lets you save your favorite pattern combinations to your hoop and computer. Astral Hoops also offers users the choice to download new designs: Bart Simpson, Hello Kitty or a ghost from Pac-Man.
Do you need an LED hoop to be considered “modern?” No, says Tilly Whirls hoop instructor Leslie Perales. In fact, one of her favorite, well-known hoopers doesn’t even own an LED model. The key is to enjoy the experience, whatever hoop you use. “One of the fun things about hooping is that it’s not about just doing a series of tricks,” Nolletti says, “but being able to create your own LED light show does make hooping extra magical.”
Just be prepared to fight off the little girls who will beg you for a turn.