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Hooper of the Month - April 2019

Hiya Hoopy People!

Let me start this off with a “TRUTH MOMENT”…

When I initially started this Hooper of the Month blog thing over a year ago, I figured I’d last a few months and then I’d quit. I am NOT a writer. It’s always been torture for me to sit and write out things like workshop descriptions, bios, or anything else for that matter…. However, I selfishly wanted to do this as a way to talk to some of my favourite hoopers and maybe these hoopers could help inspire other people along the way. Now after 16 editions, I am still amazed at how I am still here doing this! These monthly blogs did not end up feeling as if they were a chore like I'd expected, but rather; a delight. Not one nominee refused my request or made it difficult. Every one of them accepted, shared openly and were even HONOURED to be a part of it.

This year has been even more treasured. Since tasked with the challenge of interviewing only amazing hoopers outside of North America, we’ve had the pleasure of learning from some well-known international hoopers and about some communities we may have never known about …

These hoopers have truly inspired the HECK out of me and this month is no different. While she doesn’t have a gazillion followers, I have definitely noticed her and she is one to watch. Her style is dance-y, carefree, and lovely. She isn’t afraid to be vulnerable and will, at times, leave her hoop behind for a short “prop-less” dance. I realize that dancing without a prop is something a lot of flow artists don't feel comfortable with so I appreciate her willingness to share with the world on Instagram.

Her personal JOURNEY is inspiring. She kindly invites us in to shares her personal struggles and how the flow arts helped her to cope with difficult times.

As an added bonus to her lovely hooping, some of her earlier videos are set with lush backdrops of sunshine and green, making Canadians like me envious! The background is so stunning because she lives in beautiful Manila, Philippines!

Everyone please join me in congratulating April’s Hooper of the Month….

BERNICE MATHAY! Aka: The Hoop Experience

Here is her interview:


What is your name?

Bernice Mathay.

On online platforms, I go by the name of my brand. I launched my brand as “The Hoop Experience” with a deep knowing that I was not just selling hula hoops or classes, I was making available a range of extraordinary opportunities for self-transformation through hoop dancing and mindful movement. Hoop dancing has always been a spiritual practice for me - and when we get into matters of the Spirit, there’s always the kind of magic and mystery that can’t be put into words. The Hoop Experience, in that sense, became an invitation - a calling - to a space where all personal truths and possibilities can manifest.

Where do you live and what is the flow/hoop dance community like there?

I live in Metro Manila, Philippines. The Flow Arts community has been around in the Philippines since before I started hooping early in 2013. I joined the community the following year. At that time, there were a lot of poi spinners, a handful of contact jugglers and a growing number of hoopers. Today the community has grown to include props such as fiber flies, contact/dragon staff, buugeng, leviwand and diabolo. It’s amazing how much vibrance there is now in our local flow arts scene. We have so much incredible talent over here - not often seen on social media.

We have a Fire, Flow Arts and Drum Gathering called #SynergySessions that happens every other month in two different locations. There is also the annual Philippine Flow Festival curated by Planet Zips - the poi and performing arts gear brand in the Philippines. Over the years, we’ve had international performers visit and I had been fortunate to meet and learn from innovators in the global flow and circus arts community. Exceptional fire spinners and jugglers too. I met Gail O'Brien for the first time in 2017 on Philippine shores.

Tiana Zoumer dropped in on one of our Synergy Sessions in 2014 where she once performed her piece Revolutionary Design <--- this is a link to her impromptu performance that day. I’ve never listened to High Life by London Grammar in the same way since. From her I learned to do fishies and wedgies. Later that same year, Deanne Love also visited the Philippines... just a few months after I met her in Bali by pure chance. It was such an honor to meet them at such an early stage of my hoop journey.

How long have you been hooping for and how did your journey begin?

I’ve been hooping for 6 years. Early in 2013, I saw someone hooping for the first time in a Surf and Music Festival in San Juan, La Union - a surf town in the Philippines. I watched her as she did lassos and vortexes in the water. She even coiled down her hoop when she got to the beach. I’ve never seen that before! The moment I got home, I looked up hula hoops and a local shop turned up in the search results.

Around that time, I was just starting to heal from an abusive relationship. I was also breaking up with a lot of unhealthy habits and negative influences. I was, for the first time, taking the initiative to navigate my way out of a painful situation with more grace. Ask me then and by grace I would have meant sober. I was overexposed to alcohol in my teenage years and it quickly became my coping mechanism. Coming from a series of toxic relationships that always seemed to involve substance abuse, I eventually picked up on the pattern. I began to realize to what extent I had allowed myself to be mistreated by others, or apologetically by my own self because I didn’t have the tools to heal through trauma, or the self-respect that is so essential in loving one’s self.

When I first started hooping, I was just doing my own thing, in my own little world for one whole year. It was liberating. I never felt more self-regulated and at peace with who I am. It really felt as if I just woke up.

I believe in synchronicities. I genuinely believe that the hoop appeared to me when I was ready. Ready to open myself to love and healing on the deepest level.

Generally, why do you hoop and what benefits have you noticed since you began?

I hoop to free myself. I was never a “dancer”. Dance, and the freedom to make up all the rules in this dance, was the greatest gift that hooping gave me. It’s the freedom to be myself.

It was through hooping that I started to believe in my body’s power to heal itself. After a year of continuously hooping, my period became regular and the physical symptoms of PMS completely subsided. I had an irresponsible past with birth control pills - any experience I had with my period was a nightmare. Together with informed food choices, hooping miraculously corrected my cycle. From then on, I’ve devoted myself to learning more about the wisdom that our menstrual cycle can offer us.

I always feel more resilient after hooping. It has provided me with a safe space where I can release my emotions safely and creatively. It has made me more aware of my mind, my self talk and my ability to shift perspective.

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 2014, I traveled to Bali as an English Teacher Volunteer. It just so happened that when I was there, so was Deanne Love. I can’t remember how it all happened, but I remember checking for a flow arts community before I left and I ended up connecting with Mishie Hoops of The Hula Hoop Institute, who was based there at the time. Hayley Hoopla was there too! We all met at a soccer field at the central part of Ubud where we hooped and played with the local kids!

I also met a contact juggler while I was in between yoga classes at Yoga Barn. He set up a slack-line in the outdoor area and started performing all these cool tricks on it. Another time was after an evening of Ecstatic Dance - also in Yoga Barn - a hooper called out to me from behind after noticing my hoop and we exchanged contact details to meet again. We met again at an Ecstatic Dance party at a remote villa in Ubud where I encountered a few other flow artists and fire dancers.

It was in Bali that I learned about Conscious Dance modalities like Ecstatic Dance, 5 Rhythms and Contact Improvisation - embodiment practices that I play and explore with in my flow. Conscious Dance and Flow Arts are inseparable. They blend so magically as a community. It was a brief but blissful time.