It was way back in 2008 when I first started noticing that the hula hooping fad was making a comeback in Buffalo (see here). At the time, I wasn’t aware that there was one person who was taking the hoop and rolling with it, but in hindsight, it was hoop enthusiast Kristin Damstetter (learn more) who had come onto the scene and was rallying people to join her in her passion for bringing back the art of hula hooping.
Since that time we’ve seen hula hoopers at public parks, festivals… even at Larkinville. Some Hula hoopers have even taken the recreation and turned it into a form of exercise – people such as Kristin who can be found teaching people the health benefits of being outdoors and getting the body moving.
Recently, Kristin reached out to me to shed some light on the hula hooping scene here in Buffalo. She wanted to share some thoughts as they pertain to the Buffalo Hula Hoop Group and its involvement with the community.
Right off the bat, the topic of “having a better understanding of the free-spirited nature of the group” was broached. Kristin felt that it was important to create a discussion about hoops being allowed, or rather disallowed at local music events, as the hoops are essentially traveling dance props that many have come to expect to see when attending outdoor concerts. Kristin went on to tell me…
“We are a huge part of the creative community and I have noticed that the promoters/venues, both indoor and outdoor, are starting to prevent entry into events unless people leave their hoops outside. We are being told that the hoops are unnecessary toys, and in some cases could be uses as weapons. Leaving hoops outside of a show is not an option, especially when expensive LED hoops are in question. I had a security guard scoff at me once at the The Harbor when trying to explain that I could not leave my $300 hoop on the curb only to hope it would be there after the concert, while there was plenty of room on the grass (inside the concert venue) away from the stage for me to quietly dance in peace. Many Buffalo Hula Hoop Group members including myself have been rudely dismissed when walking up to a number of venues, being told “Those aren’t coming in.”
“While I think this is certainly understandable for small indoor venues, it’s not as understandable for large outdoor events such as Thursday at the Harbor, especially since they used to allow hoops at The Square (which was much more crowded). There is a major point of contention within the group, that some venues do not allow hoops, while other venues such as Larkinville and ArtPark actually embrace the culture.”
At this point, Kristin is looking for feedback from the community, while at the same time, she is attempting to dispel any notions that hula hooping is anything other than a fun and healthy way to contribute to Buffalo’s music and dance scene. I must say that I find it enjoyable to see people hooping at events around town, and personally see no reason to ban hula hoops from events when they appear to be causing no harm.
Kristin Damstetter is a local artist, hoop dance instructor, performer, and the community organizer for the Buffalo Hula Hoop Group. She is a New York State certified art teacher and certified Hoopnotica instructor. Hoopnotica is a fitness company based out of Los Angeles that provides training for hoop dance and hoop fit. She has taught hoop fitness classes at the BAC for Women, the Williamsville Community Education program, Canisius College and currently teaches at Buffalo Yoga. Kristin coordinates, plans and hosts hoop jam events in Delaware Park (see photos) to gain community involvement and awareness. She does this in order to spread the joy, and to educate people about the physical and mental benefits of hooping.
Kristin started the Buffalo Hula Hoop Group in the Spring of 2008 after moving back to Buffalo in 2007 from Los Angeles where she learned to hoop from one of her best friends. Not many people in Buffalo Hooped then, and she wanted to get more people to join in, so that they too could learn about the joy of hooping. Currently the group has over 300 members, and are very active and growing everyday. Hooping is accessible to people of all ages and body types. The group includes college students, young professionals, mothers, their daughters and even grandmothers. Kristin has seen first hand the positive effects it has on people and the community. She feels that the hoop gives people the freedom of self expression they yearn for, allowing creativity to flourish while improving body image and overall mental and physical health. As they become more connected with their hoop and their practice, they increasingly become more outgoing and friendly, there is no judgement on skill level or style. Some of the physical health benefits include improved strength, balance and coordination.
The Buffalo Hula Hoop Group meets every Monday night for Hoop Jams (started Memorial day and goes until Labor day). Hoopers meet in front of the Rose Garden at Delaware park from 7-9pm. There they collaborate, make new friends, learn new skills and network with other groups in the area (buffalo jugglers, acroyoga, etc). They also meet one Saturday a month at the Saturday Artisan Market at Canalside where Kristin has a booth selling handcrafted hoops – there are also hoops for people to enjoy while they are at Canalside.
Buffalo Hula Hoop Group members perform at local events such as the Elmwood Festival of the Arts, Tri-Mania, The Infringement Festival, BackLotBash, and many others. One of the group members, Holly Rutkowski, recently taught a workshop for GoBike Buffalo’s Playstreets (6/2). Kristin will be teaching an adult hoop dance workshop for GoBike Playstreets on August 4th on Allen Street.
People can learn more about Kristin’s classes, workshops and other offerings by visiting her website here: www.tokyosunshine.com or like her at www.facebook.com/tokyosunshine. Join the facebook group here: www.facebook.com/groups/buffalohulahoopgroup/.
If you’re a fan of seeing hula hoopers out in the community, and at public events such as Thursday at The Harbor, then support the group via social media sites. Groups such as this, looking to promote free-spirited recreational pastimes should not have to jump through any hoops other than the ones they bring to local shows.
Lead image: By thinkincolor photography