You know that moment when you find something special? I felt that as soon as I stumbled upon the Instagram page for this month's Hooper of the Month!
....Sometimes, I hold back on commenting on a women's smile (or at least leave it until last, since there are so many more important things than having a beautiful smile....RIGHT, LADIES?!) but in this case, it needed to be mentioned. It's straight up - infectious! It pairs well with page full of wonderful videos and images. Her inspirational messages and willingness to share her deep (not always positive) emotions make her easy to connect with and love.
Watching her hoop videos are a treat. SO much energy and skill! From one hoop to 4 hoops, she'll have you wanting to jump in your own hoop!
I'd also like to mention the lovely colours all throughout her Instagram because it was one of the extra things I thought I wanted to mention about her in this post. Then, I received her AMAZING interview back and each answer is in a different colour!! I, of course, giggled because it was as adorable as she.... I am going to do my best to post each of her answers in the colours she selected but sometimes, due to some technical stuff, it won't always allow certain formatting on all devic,ess....s.s.df'slmfd.....zzzzzz OOPS! Sorry.... did you fall asleep??? I don't blame you.... BORING! Why am I talking about technical stuff when I SHOULD be announcing the Hooper of the Month for March!?!
Sending BIG congrats ALLLL the way to India to:
RAJNI RAMACHANDRAN (AKA: INJAR88)
What is your name?
My name is Rajni Ramachandran. I don’t have a stage name as such & I usually get introduced by my full name. However, I’d like to share how @injar88 came about. injaR is my name the other way round, and 1988 is the year I was born in. 88 also coincidentally makes 4 hoops. What once was an email address I created in middle school (which is also coincidentally the time I got introduced to my first hoop) is now my social media name. When I look back at my journey & how many times I’ve been reintroduced to a hoop, I realized at multiple occasions that maybe the universe has been conspiring to align hooping into my life, & everything since 1988 has been leading me here & onward. Hence, injar88!
Where do you live and what is the flow/hoop dance community like there?
After having been brought up in many countries all over the globe, I have been living in India since 2006. I currently live in Noida which falls under the Delhi NCR region in India. Even though the flow/hoop dance community here in India is at quite a nascent stage, I believe that flow artists spread across the major cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, etc. are making an effort to create more awareness of flow arts in their own way. There is a small flow community here in New Delhi that meets occasionally at a park in the city for flow jam sessions. Even though a number of flow artists made the initiative to meet every Sunday, it doesn’t materialize as often as that. In all honesty, I haven’t been the most regular with turning up at community jams myself. However, the few that I have attended had a very good vibe to them & I would like to push myself more in this aspect in the years to come. Social media definitely serves as a tool to help spread awareness of the flow arts. A flow community may take its own course of time & a lot of dedication & initiative to build, as everyone is focused on charting their own path simultaneously, but looking at the growing enthusiasm people have shown, I am hopeful that the community will grow in the years to come.
How long have you been hooping for and how did your journey begin?
I first got introduced to a hula hoop as an activity during physical education class in 7th grade in the International School of Geneva, Switzerland. I was instantly hooked! This was back in the year 2000 & I can’t quite trace who taught me but I recall 13-year old me rushing back home from school to hoop every day. Being able to hoop on my waist at a stretch for 11 minutes just within weeks of practice was my biggest achievement back then. Yes, I timed it & was ecstatic about it! As I carried on with schooling, my first yellow hoop sat behind the closet untouched. Little did I know back then that so much could be done with a hoop, & this is what I’d chose to do for a living years from then. I had pushed it off as a hobby for most of my life as I kept getting reintroduced to it at different points in my journey. I’d use the little waist hooping skill in my dance performances in all the schools I studied at or at Indian Embassy gatherings. In 2006-2009 when I majored in Fashion Design in India, a Fine Arts senior once lent me her hoop so I could use it in a performance or two. I recall the joy the 18 year old me experienced! I have videos of me hooping with my hostel mates throughout college years & it feels surreal to know that I have always loved to hoop, only never acknowledged it as more than a hobby. Post college, when I was quite clueless about what job to take up, I visited my family that was posted in South Korea at that time, & there was an adult size fitness hoop that just sat there in the apartment they had moved into, possibly left behind by someone who previously lived there. I’d give it a shot & recall how ecstatic it felt. I came across a hoop dance video on YouTube that I didn’t really pay much heed to & returned to India to audition for Dance India Dance (an Indian reality TV show) instead, again with 1 hoop to end a dance performance with. Being rejected from there, I worked towards a job as an assistance designer while my passion for dance led me to being part of Bollywood musical ‘Zangoora – The Gypsy Prince’ for few years. During this time, I recall having found a hoop that belonged to the Mongolian circus, & I recall the joy the 22 year old me experienced while giving it a spin in the green room & sharing the skill with all the dancers! At some point amidst all this, I came across tutorials by Deanne Love on YouTube which helped me massively! I taught myself in the time I got post performing at the musical with the one adult sized hoop. I moved on to Natya Nectar Dance Company where I trained & performed acro yoga & aerial silks. During this time, I was introduced to Leena Vie (@leena_viie), Yanika Beliza (@yanika_beliza) & a handful of hoopers in Goa. I was mesmerized further by seeing them hoop. During an event where I was managing costumes, Leena lent me her LED hoop & I recall myself totally lost in the flow of hooping by the green rooms yet again. One of my first opportunities to perform with an LED hoop came through Leena. Somewhere around the same time, I had the opportunity to meet fellow Indian hooper Eshna Kutty & having the opportunity to jam with her, it dawned upon me that there are hardly any Indian hoopers, & we would really have to chart out our journeys here in India as there was hardly anyone around us offering to teach. Gradually, as time went by, I taught myself more through watching tutorials online & opportunities to perform came my way. In 2015, I went to Goa with my boyfriend, Bharat, & since I couldn’t bring a hoop along with me, he surprised me with a hoop he bought on the beach & I recall having felt overjoyed hooping all week in Goa & bringing the hoop with me everywhere. Hooping was it. Hooping was what I was meant to do. All the dots connected, it felt right, & I haven’t looked back ever since. In the past 4 years, I have been exploring all possibilities in the world of hooping by taking up events, shows, TVC’s, shoots, workshops, theatre, collaborations, reality TV, short films etc. & believe that there is so much more left unexplored!
Generally, why do you hoop and what benefits have you noticed since you began?
I hoop because I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. Hooping is what my life is curated around & it has slowly become an extension of me. It has given me perspective in life & opened so many windows to explore. One of the benefits I personally have noticed is the drastic change in core strength & balance which builds up over time. It is a slow process & everyone will take their own time. Having been a dancer, it was relatively easier for me to work on. It has helped me a lot with coordination, say when I have to do different tricks with different arms or multitask with foot hooping & so forth. It has definitely helped me work on both sides of my body. One side will feel more natural but hooping kind of pushes you to work on the weaker side, & now my left hand is far more responsive than it was before. It is an ongoing process that gets polished with repetition & time.
It is a very effective outlet for release of any emotion. I have hooped when I am happy, sad, frustrated, angry, stuck, overjoyed, in pain, in love, stressed, thankful, nervous or in whatever possible mental/emotional/physical state & have hooped my way through it. At times, I have felt completely transformed by the end of a hoop flow session. This didn’t feel quite the same in the initial stage when a spark of joy would be the result of learning a new trick, or the frustration that followed when I didn’t quite get it. It would be more about the instant feeling rather than the bigger picture. It has taught me to be more patient & never give up because hardly ever will you ace a move in one go. That is reason enough to keep attempting it & giving oneself as much time as it is going to take the body to learn the move. It has personally helped me recover from the mental motivational standstill that I went through during the multiple injuries & health issues I faced at different points in my performing art career. With time, I realized that everything apart from hooping has hurt my body in some way or another. This is my personal experience & journey & may be otherwise for someone else. Hooping has definitely given me a newfound purpose in life & a whole lot of confidence, which the introvert in me would otherwise shudder to express.
Have you and your hoop travelled to other countries/cities together? What were some of your favourite flow communities to visit? Which places are you (and your hoop) eager to visit in the future?
In 2005, during high school in Venezuela, I recall having to write an essay in Spanish for the International Baccalaureate program, in which I mentioned that I wanted to travel the world for dance. Little did I know back then that this would materialize, only even better – with hoops! 10 years later, in 2015 I had the brilliant opportunity to travel with my hoops to Egypt (Cairo, Alexandria), Russia (Kaliningrad, Svetlogorsk & Moscow), & China (Shanghai) to perform in ‘Bollywood Extravaganza’, a musical by Teamwork Productions. I have had the opportunity to perform/ teach at multiple venues in Delhi NCR, & travel to various states/cities in India like Mumbai, Udaipur, Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Goa, Chennai, Hyderabad & Indore for hoop shows, workshops, shoots, & a number of opportunities.
In all honesty, I haven’t visited the flow communities in any of these countries/cities I travelled to because up until now, I myself wasn’t very aware of the concept of flow community or even if so I only visited for a gig & returned back home. Having been invested in charting out my own path to the best of my capabilities, I have missed out on this aspect & would definitely like to add this to the itinerary when I travel in the years to come. I am just going to leave it to my hoop to take me wherever it intends to, because quite honestly I never planned for any of this to happen in life. Everything just fell into place, one step at a time, one opportunity at a time.
What inspires your hoop dance flow?
I find that inspiration strikes at any point in life. The state of flow that I love most is one where there are no "boundations" & there is full freedom to make mistakes. So yes, I do absolutely love flowing for myself all by myself. I could be amidst a crowd but if I tune into my inner voice I can isolate myself & completely surrender to the flow, with the occasional breaks to interact or flow together with other flow artists. I love to hoop in nature & have realized that when I visit parks, or go for a walk by the riverside I tend to flow for a lot longer & with more dedication. Even though I am totally comfortable hooping in silence, music plays quite a role in the quality & intensity of flow. I’ve absolutely loved hooping to Lindsey Stirling for as long as I can remember. At times I would not have picked up a hoop in weeks, but if a song that is playing in the background could make me get up from anything that I’m doing, I’d have to hoop to it whether indoors or outdoors. It is far more challenging to surrender to flow if it is a choreographed hoop act where the structure or the next move is on my mind. Getting comfortable with this also comes with time & is an ongoing process. While hooping on topics that are close to my heart, I feel completely intoxicated while performing. One such hoop act is the one I perform on menstrual cycles in the play ‘Gang Of Girls’
What hoop move/technique are you working on at the moment?
At this point in life, my focus has shifted to taking care of health & working on a sustainable diet/sleep/fitness routine for the long run for better immunity & gut health. In all honesty, I haven’t hooped a lot of late because it does take a lot of time & dedication to figure what works for your body, & learning new tricks does not fall into my agenda during this phase. Having focused on very structured choreographed acts for stage for a major part of the beginning of my hoop dance career, I do admit to not having given impromptu flow a go too often. So lately I have been focusing on flowing with elements that I already have known for years, only incorporating them while surrendering to flow & doing what feels natural in the moment. Earlier on, I could learn a new trick each day & choreograph acts for different events, & only hoop as much was required to perform them. There was a time I could hoop all day with no concept of time! And then there are months like these when I pick up hoops once in a blue moon. With hooping, it just keeps evolving in phases. There’s a plethora of techniques that I look forward to working on in the years to come. Just to name a few, I’d like to work on splitting more than 4 hoops on body & working up to 6 or 7, working on juggling with 3 hoops which is still messy, & to be able to do Bramson rolls with 3 hoops! I am struggling with 2 at the moment, & is slowly feeling more natural with time. We all know, none of this is going to come easy, but once I have prioritized my health & recovered from all these internal issues I have been facing over time, I am sure to gather strength & courage to get back to working on all these new elements, & let nature take its own course of time till I get them.
What’s your “go-to” hoop technique/method/trick/style at the moment?
The above question answers this partially. I’d like to add to this by referring to a time when there would be only a handful of tutorials on one single platform which has changed over the years. My forever “go-to” has been Deanne Love on YouTube. The plethora of hoopers across the globe offering a vast variety of technique/method/trick/style on so many platforms makes it close to impossible to pinpoint a single “go-to”. Everyone has so much to offer that learning will never come to an end. There is always space to grow & new things to grasp & incorporate.
Who are some of your favourite hoopers/flow artists to follow online and what do you love about them?
My long list of favorite hoopers since all time that have inspired me in different ways are:
Deanne Love (@deannelovexo) who has been a major inspiration in my hoop journey, as it was her tutorials on her Hooplovers channel that helped me learn regardless of my geographical destination, & for this stunningly graceful LED twin hoop act to ‘Breathe Me’ which was one of the first videos that left a long-lasting impression on my mind - Deanne Love - Breathe Me
Rachael Lust (@rachael_lust) for her full power paddles & breaks in “Groove”, again one of the first videos that left me jawdropped - Rachel Lust - Groove
Steve Bags (@bagsofhoop) for his quirky twin hoop & multihooping tricks (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqFTf1_Gsto#action=share).
Pam Mayer (@pamhoops) for the well explained twin hoop tutorials that have helped me immensely - Pam Mayer - Twin Tutorial
Lisa Lottie (@lisa_lottie) for her inspiring TED talk & her post injury recovery spirit that she shared on Instagram, & to bouncing back full power. - Lisa Lottie - TED Talk
Hoop Smiles (@thehoopsmiles) for his foot hooping SOS videos & upside down hooping that I absolutely love incorporating in my hoop acts - Hoop Smile - Headstand Foot Hooping Tutorial
Tiana Zoumer (@tianazoumer) for her breathtaking unique style of flow & this one act in particular where she speaks to the audience as she performs - Tiana Zoumer - Revolutionary Design
Emma Hornell (@hornellemma) whose Bramson Rolls are goals, & this video that is imprinted in my mind - Emma Hornell - Boom
Bence (@bencirka) for the most jawdropping rhythmic gymnastics skills with a hoop - Bence - Mutation
Brookelynn Bley (@nosleeptilbrookelynn) for her insane multi-hooping skills & hoop flow & transitions in every video she posts on Instagram - Brookelynn Bley 9 Hoops
Nadine Meriah (@cirqulator) for the coolest video edits, levi hooping & her barefoot hoop journey videos she shares on Instagram.
Zach (@_zachh_attackk_) for his mindblowing & effortless twin hoop flow. Every video of his are twin hoop goals.
Marawa (@marawa) for being a powerhouse in every aspect & being a Guinness world record goddess.
Tal Fransky (@talfransky) for her very unique hoop flow & transitions between super quick & super smooth elements all the way from Israel.
Amanda Lee (@misshoopdidoo) for her freeflow videos that are so much fun to watch on Instagram & all the helpful tutorials that she shares with the community.
Fay (@fay_mccool) for his hoop journey that he shares all the way from Mexico including performing amidst traffic. His tip on how to split hoops on body really helped me.
Jean Barnette (@jean_barnette) for being such a perfect example of age is just a number & all that matters is the spirit of hooping. All her hoop videos while rollerblading are a treat to watch and majorly inspirational.
Muar Cela (@muarcela) for her amazing amalgamation of hoop skills teamed with the most creative hoop videos that I came across during the Hoopologie influencer challenge.
Eshna Kutty (@eshnakutty) for her unique flow that blends capoeira & musicality that is sure to leave one amazed, who I have had the privilege of growing alongside on our journey as Indian hula hoop artists.
I might just end up listing everyone here! (Rolls eyes). There are so many fabulous hoopers all over the world all with their own unique journey & flow, each with something to offer to the world & global hoop community!
Do you have a favourite hoop maker? What hoop do you use and love?
When my hoop journey took a kick start here in India, I wasn’t quite using the right hoop & was fooled by the kids toy shop hoops, or I made do with the only few adult size fitness hoops that I had. When Decathlon (@decathlonsportsindia) sports store outlets opened in the city, I was ecstatic to find the hoop section there & used their hoops religiously for performances, graduating from the 33” to 25” hoops over time. I taped all hoops in multitudinous colours & love each one of them, especially the multicolour hand-taped one that I share in a lot of my videos. Recently, I was thrilled to receive 26” OD polypro collapsible & sectional hoops from Hoopologie (@hoopolgie) as part of the Hoopologie Influencer opportunity on Instagram, & I absolutely love to bring them with me everywhere I go now! These were my first Polypro hoops in my journey as a hula hoop artist! The lighter weight allows for a great reaction time with tricks & the grip tape is something I have never had the opportunity to experience up until now. A local hoop-making business, Nakshatra Hoops (@hulahoopsindia) has come up with a whole variety of hoops, & I have added quite a few fitness/collapsible/sectional hoops from them which are convenient for travel & teaching purposes. The first pair of LED hoops I invested in was Rainbow LED hoops from Moodhoops (@moodhoops), & years later later I added a pair of Sparkle Farts LED Hoops from Superhooper (@superhooperorg) (These are henceforth being made by Hoopolgie) & I absolutely love to perform LED Hoop acts or light up the night with them. With hooping being at such a nascent stage in India, I get bombarded with so many questions about the kind of hoops one must go for & I direct everyone to all the options I have had the opportunity of experiencing, so they can make an informed decision for their hoop journey. This tutorial by Deanne Love helps immensely & I share it with a lot of people - Check the video HERE
What advice or wisdom would you share with someone who is struggling with their practice or feeling in a “rut” at the moment?
It is but natural to feel in a “rut” & this is part of the process of growing in skill, flow & purpose. I have experienced this countless times & what helped me out of it at one point might not at another time. Any time I had to go against nature & work in the Television show scenario where ones sleep, food, water intake, peace of mind are all secondary & all that matters is rehearsing an act to the very last detail over & over again till you are beyond exhausted was very draining. I’d feel like giving up each time & felt disconnected from my true purpose of hooping. But it is only when you experience something that you learn from it. And so I did. When I felt this, I would breathe & remind myself that this was just for the moment & this too shall pass, & this moment on stage matters & I have to give it my everything. I’d mentally motivate myself to keep it together till the final shoot or performance time, post which I’d give myself all the time it needed to recover. Another major issue is not having shows for months on end, when you depend on hooping as your primary source of income. Budget issues from events or principle issues with brand shoots are points when I step back & feel a little helpless and stuck. But with time I am learning to balance what gigs I take up, space out my workshops, take up opportunities that fuel my growth, saying no to those that do not align with my purpose, & I am learning to manage with very little. I have been feeling in a rut health wise for quite a while now & prioritizing it (while not hooping very much) is actually bringing more clarity. When you feel stuck, you could talk to your support system, somebody you discuss all your problems, insecurities & so forth with to see it from another perspective. For me it is Bharat who has been alongside and seen my journey since 2006 and been my best critic. It is also crucial to give yourself some time & space, & distance yourself from something that isn’t working in the moment & come back to it later. Listening to your inner voice & gut feeling is crucial & really helps in the long run. There will be times when everything will flow smoothly & times when nothing seems to be going right. Accepting it & moving on is possibly the best way to keep the flow going – with hoops & in life.
Thank you SO MUCH to INJAR88 for this enlightening and well-thought out interview. Sending love from Canada. Do you want to check out this month's HOTM? You can! Because she has lot of social media platforms to choose from!
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