Last week I got to sit down (virtually) with famous male hooper Lars Carlson. If you don't know who he is, you are missing out on some cutting edge hooping from one of the most dedicated athletes in our field. I enjoyed picking his brain. Now if only I could pick up his no-handed step-through....
How long have you been hooping for?
5 years :)
When did you start hooping? Who introduced you to it?
On April 5, 2010. My best friend Jenny gave me a hoop after I had gotten back from a vacation. I was a senior in high school and became hooked, very quickly, carrying my hoop to school every day and hooping nearly every second I had free until school was out.
Do you have a background in another flow art or dance?
No, I don’t, and this often surprises people. I’m a raver, however, and have been dancing since I was 15 and started going to raves...street dancing, nothing professional or formally trained. I believe I had at least a bit of an intro to movement flow from the many hours spent dancing until the wee hours to all forms of rave music. Other than that, it’s just been hoop, hoop, hoop :P
Who are your biggest inspirations in the hoop world?
Do you watch a lot of videos and tutorials?
The first youtube hooper to blow my mind was Mona ShpongledHoops. She remains one of my most favorite hoopers and will aways hold a spot in my heart as being my first true hoop inspiration. After Mona, I discovered Sharna Rose, who has captivated me since I saw five seconds of her hoop. She will be a god in my eyes, forever. I’m also very inspired by Caterina Suttin. I love her magic techy style that I could never recreate anywhere near the same.
You have been seen to eat cheeseburgers and spin records while maintaining a hula hoop. Do you feel that this multitasking while hooping enhances your ability?
Yes, I think it absolutely does! It can be a very fun way to distract yourself from the drilled details of the hooping you’re doing and it also has possible performance value. I like to have as much fun as possible while hooping, despite the serious face I usually have on. It makes me smile inside to geek around with other activities while hooping and really puts me back in the silly shoes I wore as a toddler. It’s playtime for me, a chance to forget all about being an adult.
Speaking of ability, you are well known for your unique style and mastery of some of the hardest hoop tricks out there. Which trick was the hardest for you to learn? Can you tell us a bit about your learning process?
It was the no-handed step through or sliding door. It involves leaping back and forth sideways through the hoop, vertically, with your thighs bouncing the hoop from left to right at very precise times. It took me five years to master, and is extremely aerobically demanding to perform, so that made sustained practice challenging. My learning process involves a lot of conversation with myself and is pretty abstract. This may be a bit long to describe, so bear with me. I deliberately wage a mental war with myself and fight the habits I’ve developed when I’m learning something foreign. What exactly is this? It’s my process of breaking through the physical AND mental patterns I’ve grown into and changing factors in the system I’ve become familiar with. I don’t believe growth is possible in any other way than by destroying the walls you’ve constructed around your mind and thinking of things in different ways. When I can’t get a movement, I analyze myself hooping in a conceptual grid using each joint in my body as a node in the system. Think of a mannequin- I manipulate different pieces of the mannequin at different times in order to change the overall permutation of my body and meet the physical necessity of that motion. To move so freely in your body is a challenge, however, and your mind subconsciously stops you from making many of these motions. That’s why I say it’s necessary to wage a mental war against yourself to break down the barriers, quit tricking yourself into repeating the actions that you’ve grown accustomed to and explore the extremely vast range of motion you possess!
What are you working on right now? What can we expect to see more of in the future?
Right now I’m working on a lot of foot tricks, which I’ve avoided practicing heavily for quite some time. I want to be able to hoop standing vertically with my foot above my head, rotating horizontally on that foot. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to be that flexible, but I think it’s worth a shot! It’s not something you see many guy hoopers do, that’s for sure. I’ve played a lot with floor hooping and foot hooping on the floor and have some ridiculously fun breakdance-style tricks I’ve been playing with. I’m always working on about 30 things, so progress can be slow, but I’m somewhat ADD with it and jump around too much…
In the future you can expect to see me with a more circusy repertoire. Acro is something that’s intimidated me over the years, but it’s so dang fun I’m just gonna have to suck it up and learn it already!
How could someone best support you in the desire to earn a living from your incredible talent with hooping? What appeals to you most - workshops and lessons? Selling hoops? Performances? Hoop porn? (lol)
Workshops, lessons and performances appeal to me most, but I do love selling hoops and am doing fairly well with the small word-of-mouth hoop business I currently operate. I’d like to sell DVDs at some point and cover a lot of in-depth hoop theory that I haven’t seen taught too often, but that’s far down the road. End-game? I hope to make hooping my career. It’s cheesy, and everybody says this, but I have truly been able to bring hooping to a large number of people who have enjoyed it and taken it up, and now have seen betterment in their lives because of it. I suffer from a rare neurological condition and experience chronic nerve pain but have found solace from the suffering in hooping. I think that a $25 hula hoop can do so much more for somebody’s health than a $150 doctor’s visit during which the doctor simply tells the patient to exercise, which they don’t. I want my hoops to be covered by health insurance and I have the healing stories to prove that it is viable in the field of health care. So, someday, I want to take my hooping full-scale and start a nonprofit that gives the gift of hooping to those suffering from serious physical and/or mental health conditions. I think it could be a huge change in the world if it hit full popularity within the global circuit. (I couldn't agree more. -Caro)
Much of your hoop style involves feats of cardiovascular endurance and extreme flexibility. What do you do besides hooping to stay in such excellent shape?
I pretty much only hoop! I try to bike everywhere in the summer and I’ll dance my butt off at a show, but I love to dance most of that time with my hoop or hoops. I love all physical activity, but hooping is my favorite. I have gone to a gym maybe four times in the last five years and am in the best shape of my life.
Do you have any advice for someone who has seen your videos and is inspired to start hooping?
Take it exactly your own way! Learn what feels right to you, and don’t let other people define your journey. Find inspiration in others but always maintain your own sense of integrity. There couldn’t be a better way for you to truly connect with yourself but I’d recommend having fun with it as you go about this. Just go do it, and don’t compare yourself to others. Through this approach will you find the most comfort to hoop just like you do best.