"Wowza, how'd you get that gnarly bruise?" wide-eyed oglers at the office, in line at the taquería, or on my MySpace blog would ask with awe after peeping the five-inch-long trophy wound on my hip.
"Oh, this old thing," I'd sniff. "No big deal. Just picked it up in hula hoop dance class."
"Hula hoop dance class?" my friends back home would reply incredulously, their tiny brains atrophied by played-out calorie burners like hiking and cycling. "You got that from hula hooping? [Guffaw, guffaw, insert joke about pitiful lack of physical endurance here.]"
"Yes, friend, you see, I'm doing an article about this new fitness trend, hoop dance, and ..."
"HULA HOOP DANCE CLASS!?!? Only in California, dude, only in California."
Well, yeah, bitches. That's right: California. Utopian birthplace of an endless array of revolutionary fitness regimens. Jazzercise. Tae Bo. Heck, according to Wikipedia, Jack LaLanne invented the jumping jack right here in California.
It's true, though, that when it comes to wacky-sounding physical fitness, it's been a while since the Golden State unleashed any new trends upon the world. Opportunities for women to get their saucy swivel on have been dwindling — spinning's hardly saucy, girlfriend — with nary a Curves-free shimmy in sight in some parts of the country.
So yes, indeed, I say thank heavens for the hula hoop, God's sexiest training wheel. Not only is the hoop helping to polish the state's tarnished gym-class cred, it's also spawned hoop dance, a swayin' and slithery new workout aimed at squeezing the inner juiciness out of average dames like you and me (or possibly your girlfriend or even your mom).
The practice has already gained a healthy following in San Francisco, thanks to inspirational instructor Christabel Zamor, a.k.a. HoopGirl (winner of the 2006 Guardian Best of the Bay Award for Best Personal Trainer). But what about my hoop-deprived friends back East? When and how will they ever get their jaded swivel on?
Good news for all: having wisely determined that despite her effervescent charm and spiritual buoyancy she simply can't be everywhere at once, HoopGirl's now passing her hard-earned knowledge along to a bevy of women from all over the country who seek opportunity in this brand-new industry. After all, what better way to sneak erotic exercise into the red states than via the seemingly innocuous hula hoop, Trojan horse of the fitness world?
The 10 women who attended Zamor's first weekend-long teacher certification workshop in June formed a broad career spectrum: a nurse, a raw food chef, an elementary school teacher, a massage therapist, an architectural assistant, and, of course, a handful of professional fitness instructors. All possessed the requisite hoop skills, and a few even had teaching experience.
What they came to learn, however, was the nitty-gritty of the hoop dance biz, something that Zamor did not have the benefit of knowing at the beginning of her own career. In fact, Zamor's first exposure to hoop dance came while she was pursuing a career as an anthropology professor at UC Santa Barbara.
"When I was studying anthropology, I loved teaching, but I was really interested in ethnic dance and music traditions," she says. "The academic environment only contextualized these things in terms of their own preestablished academic jargon. I had been very naive going into graduate school. I really thought it was about exposing myself to the beauty of dance."
She found herself entranced by hoop dancers at a rave outside of Los Angeles. Disillusioned with the academic environment, she committed herself to learning hoop dance. She returned to Santa Barbara with a hula hoop and started practicing in the park.
"It was a new field, based on no other cultural dance form," she explains.