August's Hooper of the Month
I am just back home from the New England Flow Festival and filled with inspiration! It was a wonderful festival and the company was fantastic. I am already excited for next year and if I were you, I'd definitely consider going yourself. As I was getting ready to leave for New Hampshire, I realized I hadn't sent my Hooper of the Month a message yet!! BAH!
I already had my August choice set aside, so it was just a matter of contacting her and getting her the questions.... Thankfully, she agreed to the interview right away and completed it so quickly!
I just started following this woman on Instagram and was immediately captivated! She can DANCE! The way she uses negative space and moves in tune with her hoop is incredible. I loved reading her answers and how she is inspired.... This girl transitioned from a world of competition into the amazing hoop community! I'm really glad I came across .....
Here is her interview!....
What is your name?
For a while I tried coming up with a cute “hooper name” but nothing was coming to me. My name is Sami Mangione :)
How long have you been hooping and tell the story of how you got into it?
I’ve been hooping for about 3 years. I got into hooping after seeing it for the first time at Suwannee Hulaween. I thought “that looks fun I want to do that.” About a month later I ran into a couple hoop makers at a street market and purchased my first hoop!
Where do you live and what is the hoop scene like there?
I live in Gainesville in North Florida. The flow arts scene here is pretty special and I’ve gotten to be really involved in it. There are a few local spaces/movement studios that I have had the pleasure of collaborating with to host some really great events where we have workshops and fire spinning. We also have weekly meet ups at a park where we can spin fire. It’s always fun when people (especially kids) stumble upon a few badass fire spinners on their evening walk.
Who is your hoop crush?
Some of my idols are Jonathan Baxter (@hooppatherbaxter), Brecken Rivera (@breckenrivara), Tal Franksy (@talfransky), Cody Hughes (@slinks_), and Lee Jefferies (@photographlee). I’m a dancer and am always excited to see the combination of dance and hooping. I also love when hoop teachers use unique imagery and concepts to get people’s creativity going. At the beginning of my hoop journey I learned a lot from Abby Almaun. She has a hoop business that is so multifaceted and has made a living from her passion, so she’s a huge inspiration to me as well.
What else inspires your hoop dance flow?
Open spaces. New environments. Weird, dissonant sounding music that makes me move in new ways. Watching other people in a flow state. Using imagery and trying to move like the elements or like a certain animal. The spectrum of human emotion. Making choreography. Learning from students in my hoop classes.
What move or technique was the most challenging to learn? Do you remember how you felt after you finally unlocked it?
Head hooping for sure. Now it’s definitely my favorite thing to do with a hoop and I’m glad I pushed myself and mustered up the patience to learn. It’s one of those things you learn really gradually. I started off being able to do one rotation around my head, that turned into two rotations, then 3, etc., until I was eventually able to sustain it for a while. I’m currently working on groundwork while head hooping which is a whole new challenge!
What do you do to get yourself out of a hoop dance “rut”?
I have a few strategies that I lean on. One thing I’ll do is pick a song that inspires me and try to create some choreography. I find that slowing down and being really intentional with creating movement helps me get back into a flow. Other times I find I just have to take a break and pick it up when I’m feeling more inspired. I find sometimes that it’s counterproductive trying to force flow. Usually I’ll gravitate towards another form of movement (a different prop or dance) or I’ll make visual art or write. Taking a break from social media helps as well so I don’t get caught in a comparison loop. Other times changing my environment and getting outside or changing up the music helps!
What do you love most about the hoop community as a whole?
Everyone is so accepting! I love the lack of competition, the willingness to share and the excitement of watching people grow. I came from a competitive gymnastics and dance background where competition and comparison were very prevalent so it was a really nice change of pace. There is such a special energy in the hoop community and I think that kindness is really contagious. I’m a very shy and introverted person but the flow arts community always feels like home.
Do you consider yourself more of a “body rocker” or an “off body wizard”?
I tend to use both styles. On-body for me is home base. I’m not a very techy hooper and instead try to focus on fluidity, full body involvement and the shapes that my body makes with the hoop.
What is your hoop of choice?
Right now I use a 29 inch 5/8 bare polypro that’s extra sanded and scuffed up for grip. I did just order a 32 inch hoop because I’m trying to learn some new things that require a bigger hoop and I want to slow down my flow a bit.
How has hooping changed your life?
Where do I begin?
I’ve always been a mover and for a while I was dancing regularly at a studio. I quit dance because the studio was not a very positive environment (lots of gossip, subtle body shaming and comparison). I was really missing a consistent movement practice so when I found out about hooping I was really excited. Once I got my hoop I started practicing everyday and haven’t really stopped since. It’s so rewarding to watch yourself consistently grow and expand. I love looking back at old videos and seeing the expansion of my movement. Hooping has given me a lot of self-confidence, a healthy community to immerse in, like-minded friends, job opportunities and a form of release and meditation. I’m an empath and tend to take on other people’s stuff, and hooping is a way for me to transmute that energy. Hooping has helped me work through a lot of anxiety as well.
I have been granted opportunities to do paid performances with my troupe around the Southeast at music festivals, weddings and other events, and I teach classes in my local community.
Perhaps most importantly, hooping helped me to be confident in pursuing my passions. Being surrounded by so many passionate, uplifting and hard working artists in the community has helped me realize that I can follow my passion for creating while helping people. I’m currently double majoring in dance and psychology at my university and plan on going into the field of Arts in Health, bringing awareness to the health benefits of dance and the arts, and bringing dance for health initiatives to the community and into healthcare environments. Within the field of Arts in Health, inexpensive arts programs are giving marginalized communities a voice, allowing patients and their families to process grief, and spreading health information in impactful ways. It’s a truly amazing field to be in and I credit my hooping practice for setting me confidently on this path, as it showed me the very real healing potential of creativity and flow states.
What would you say to a hooping skeptic to try and convince them to start hooping?
What have you got to lose?
Anything else you want to say about hooping?
Hooping has been such a catalyst for my life. I think that my whole path would be very different if not for my practice. I’m very grateful for the circumstances that led me to this art form that has helped me to live everyday more creatively and authentically. Csikszentmihalyi says in his book about flow states that after every flow experience, the self becomes more complex. The more I flow, the more aware I become of the complexity of who I am at this time. As my self-awareness grows, the illusions start to be brought into the light, and in comes awareness and the potential for change. I truly believe that flow experiences, hooping and any type of movement can change thoughts, behavior and consciousness in very important ways.
Thank you SO much for taking the time to answer these questions!
Do you want to follow Sami? You can also follow her on Instagram @sami.mangione