Hooper of the Month - March 2019
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.<