April's Hooper of the Month!
I keep seeing snow fluttering by here in Toronto, but that is not stopping me from getting overly excited about spring and summer! Siiiigh... Warm weather... a northern hooper's winter dream. The lamps and decorative glassware can come out of hiding! The TV and plants are once again safe from potential demise at the hand of a flying plastic circle. Bye, Living Room. I'm going OUTSIDE! *angelic music*
Ok... So I am still wearing a parka, but I can smell spring! It is close....
Speaking of Northern Hoopers, there is one not too far around Lake Ontario that I'd like to announce as HooperSonic's next Hooper of the Month! This hooper has inspired me in so many ways. His commitment to fresh and creative showmanship leaves me smiling ear to ear. I have great respect for the way he uses his talents as an opportunity to educate children and adults about important topics such as Drag and Veganism. He is also a talented hoop instructor whom I have personally had the pleasure of learning from... Big Congrats to:
Here is his interview:
What is your name?
My name is Benjamin Berry, which happens to be the name that my parents gave me! People often assume it's a stage name because it's kinda fruity and has alliteration. I used to sell hoops under the company Fruit Hoops, but decided I wanted to go by my own name in case my art ever extended beyond the world of hoops, plus I didn't really desire to someday find a cease and desist in the mail from Kellogg's. I also sometimes do hoop/circus style drag performance under the alias "Flo Leeta."
How long have you been hooping and tell the story of how you got into it?
In the summer of 2013 I was in my friend Emily's backyard and we were bored out of our minds, so we decided to mess around with some hula hoops she had lying around. I had just lost a lot of weight following a breakup, and thought "maybe this could be my *new* thing." She told me that people sometimes did tricks with them, so when I went home I researched and found that one video of Lisa Lottie (you know the one, with the blonde dreads next to a carousel) and I was so captivated by her dramatic circus style that I just had to learn for myself!
Where do you live and what is the hoop scene like there?
I've always been based in Western New York State (the "Other New York," not the City), and I moved to the Buffalo area last June. The hoop scene here is very friendly, and mingles with the circus/acro scene to create a stellar community of people.
Who is your hoop crush? Do they have any social media channels so we can crush too?
Oh boy, I have too many to list in different fashions but since we recently had some girl talk about him in Toronto, I'm going to list Geoffrey Szuszkiewicz (@gszus911 on Instagram). His vogue style hooping, intellectual side, and nomadic spirit have all made me swoon from afar, though I haven't had the pleasure of meeting him yet in person. Some other honorable mentions include my Hooping Idol sis Courtney Fagras, Steve Bags, Phil Illy, the ladies of Double McJuggle (@doublemcjuggle on Instagram), Bencirka (@bencirka on Instagram), Chris Gogler/C-Section, (@c_section_hoops on Instagram) and seriously just too many to mention them all. I will say one who I had the pleasure of meeting recently at HooperSonic Turns 3 is Krysten Hagedorn, a fellow drag hooper!
What else inspires your hoop dance flow? Modern/Contemporary dance, drag queens, circus arts, burlesque performers, vintage styles, all of the great campy cult classics (a la Rocky Horror, John Waters, Barbarella, etc.), my queer community,
What move or technique was the most challenging to learn? Do you remember how you felt after you finally unlocked it?
One that I had to drill for a looooong time was shoulder rolls with three hoops (commonly called "Bramson Rolls"). I think I spent at least a year working on it, and was serious about it for at least a few months before I flashed it (ran through a single catch with each hoop). Now I can do them consistently enough to use in my act. I still get a little excited when I nail them during a performance, but as with most things the feeling is fleeting and I mostly want to keep improving it and learn the next trickier variations.
What do you do to get yourself out of a hoop dance “rut”?
Dance like a maniac! I also love the blindfold technique a la good ol' Baxter. Sensory deprivation helps one return to doing what feels good rather than what looks good. Taking a dance class and adding a hoop to whatever sequence you learn can also be a fun, playful experiment.
What do you love most about the hoop community as a whole?
The people themselves. It really is a huge love fest, filled with so many interesting, supportive, creative, and incredibly generous folks!
Do you consider yourself more of a “body rocker” or an “off body wizard”?
Probably off body, especially since hoop juggling became one of my favorite things to practice. I have a great appreciation for on body hooping and still love it, but it's not what I spend my time drilling these days.
What is your hoop of choice?
I recently upsized a bit with my off body/multi hoops from 5/8" 28" OD polypro to 3/4" 32" OD polypro because the new LEDs I got (HulaLab Acrobats) don't come in 5/8" and I wanted to be able to on body hoop when rocking out with one. I have grown to love the size! For a single "everything" hoop that I'd on and off body rock out with, probably a 3/4" 33" OD polypro.
How has hooping changed your life?
Well, when I first began hooping I was studying law in hopes to be a paralegal and maybe attorney someday. Now, I am a full time hoop instructor and performer! Additionally, hooping gave me a ton of confidence, ignited a lot of creative explosions, and connected me to literally thousands of incredible people. Needless to say, I am very grateful for all of these changes.
What would you say to a hooping skeptic to try and convince them to start hooping?
Most of the time, it's not YOU, it's the HOOP! With an appropriately sized hoop, some practice, and maybe a little technical coaching, I can guarantee you will get the hang of it. What do you have to lose?
Anything else you want to say about hooping?
My advice for leveling up fast is to get a collapsible one and bring it EVERYWHERE! That way you can practice whenever you get the urge, plus it's a great icebreaker and you may even meet other hoopers in your community just by strutting out and about! Lastly, try to remain intentional with your hooping practice and ask yourself "Why am I doing this? What motivates me to continue?" Hopefully, this will help ensure that you are doing it for reasons that feed your own soul.
For more info on this AMAZING hooper, visit his website:
Or follow him on Instagram @fruit_hoops
Thank you Benjamin for taking the time to answer my questions!
Canada loves you!