Hoop dreams

RENEW ISSUE: Christabel Zamor's amazing transformation into HoopGirl -- now a national fitness franchise

HoopGirl works it out on Corona Heights


RENEW Christabel Zamor moves like a snake — eyes fixed, lithe body writhing, hips rippling back and forth — which isn't really surprising, considering the number of times she's shed her skin.

Zamor is a hoopdancer — one of those sylph-like sirens who show up at parties and raves and on the playa in order to make the men drool and the women vow to do sit-ups. She credits hooping as the secret to her sensuous shape — but if you're thinking of getting out your snake charmer's flute, let's get one thing straight: in this case, it's the sexy serpent who's charming you.

Zamor is magnetic and incredibly talented, but what sets her apart from other Bay Area hoopers is her avid following, cultivated by Hooping! The Book!, an array of instructional DVDs and 72-hour teacher training program that has certified 570 instructors in 16 countries. Zamor is HoopGirl® — a persona that not only has allowed her to whittle her waist and tone her tummy but to explode into a fitness franchise.

An erstwhile doctoral student and one-time "heavy-set, shy academic," Zamor says she transformed her life — and her body — through hooping's calorie-burning workouts and confidence-building powers. She now travels the world as a fitness trainer and empowerment coach, teaching people that they can do the same thing.

"I wasn't really looking for hooping," she says. At 27, Zamor was a UC Santa Barbara PhD student struggling to find academic support for her interest in ethnomusicology and drumming. Frustrated, she dropped out from her program after receiving a master's degree, traveled to Senegal to study djembe, returned to the States, enrolled in Pacifica Graduate Institute's master's program in mythology and depth psychology, and began working as a personal assistant. Amid the confusion, she says she didn't have the power to envision a life outside her studies. "I wanted to be a healer but didn't know it," she says.

But a simple circle changed all that. At a Gathering of the Tribes conference in Los Angeles, Zamor fortuitously picked up her first hoop — and HoopGirl was set in motion.

Zamor claims she never had a hula hoop as a child, but from the first instant she picked up the plastic ring and it clattered uncooperatively to the ground, she was hooked. Despite the initial "experience of not succeeding," she was captivated by the hoopers around her — "beautiful nymphs undulating gorgeously" — and she was determined to become one.

"I got a hoop and started practicing in the park, in rhythm with high-energy trance or electronic music," she says, and crowds "just started gathering." When a newspaper reporter wrote a story on her weekly spin sessions, "100 people showed up wanting to hoop."

Hooping has provided Zamor with a means of transformation, for her physical body as well as her spiritual self. She describes hooping as the portal that awakened her to underground subcultures like the circus-arts scene and artistic communities like Burning Man.

Zamor found that she could hoop for six hours at a time and that it catalyzed a level of physical and spiritual presence she describes as a "quickening" of the body. She interprets the orbital motion of the hoop as "intrinsically about coming back to your center," a practice that stills mental chatter.

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