Children have a chance to take hoops for a spin
Soolah Hoops wants children to have so much fun at her weeklong class that their heads — or at least their midsections — spin.
Soolah, whose real name is Sue Kemp, is leading a program called “Let’s Make a Hoolah Hoop for Kids” from 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Aug. 14, to Friday, Aug. 18, in the Fit Room on the back side of the grandstand building near the stables at Fairgrounds Park, 532 N. Cannon Ave. in Hagerstown. The cost is $150.
During what she called “five days of fun,” Kemp said boys and girls in grades kindergarten to eight will make and decorate their own hula hoops.
“They get to make their own hoop that first day,” said Kemp, 51, of Cascade.
Participants also will learn basic hooping skills and some history of the sport, plus prepare for a showcase planned for about 11:30 a.m. the last day of the class.
“I keep them going pretty much,” she said, adding that students should bring snacks and water bottles so they have enough energy each day.
Kemp, who did not use hula hoops as a kid, said that to get started, children will learn to put a hoop above their waists and rock from front to back, not side to side like many people think the contraption moves. She said right-handed people tend to hoop to the left, while lefties tend to hoop to the right. She can train those who are ambidextrous, too.
“I try to be as chill as possible” in terms of teaching, Kemp said.
The show at the end of the week is a chance for participants to demonstrate the artistry of hooping as a group and individuals.
“It gives the kids ownership, boundaries, creativity,” said Kemp, whose business is called Soolah Hoops.
She wants children to move away from watching life to actively participating in it.
“They’re part of the adventure,” Kemp said.
The uniqueness of Kemp’s performance art is what caught the attention of the Hagerstown Parks & Recreation Division.
Amy Riley, recreation coordinator, said the department recruited Kemp to do fire dancing at the City Park holiday tree lighting near the end of 2016. Then Kemp led a hula-hooping fitness class earlier this year during the Hub City 100 Miler. That program encourages area residents to log 100 miles of exercise in 100 days, beginning in January.
“We are trying to find our niche as a parks and recreation department in the community,” Riley said.
Kemp found her niche in hooping in 2007 when she shared Reiki by using a hoop as a healing tool, according to her website. She took a yearlong break, then learned how to hoop with fire. She performs with a fire hoop, staff, orb, swords, an umbrella, and poi, which are chains with wicks on the ends.
Her first experiences with unlit poi were rough.
“I kept hitting myself with the practice sticks,” Kemp said with a laugh.
She persevered, though, and now has a safety person on hand at performances to make sure she doesn’t set herself on fire with the wicks that extend from the hoops. Kemp said she keeps fire extinguishers and fire-safety blankets nearby, too.
A substitute teacher in Washington County Public Schools, Kemp likes to spread joy to others through hoops.
“It’s about sharing my energy,” Kemp said. “It’s more about sharing the spirit with other people.”
She makes hoops from polyvinyl chloride — or PVC — tubes and specialty tape that adds pizazz and weight to the hoops.
The sizes vary. She makes some that are 17 to 20 inches in diameter for tiny tots to use, as well as hoops measuring 42 inches around or bigger.
Kemp created an 8-footer, a project that required her to work on a chair.
She’s particularly busy in spring, summer and fall with classes, festivals and camps held nearby, as well as in New York and Ohio.
“Soolah” also enjoys giving families a chance to unplug, get moving and have fun with each other.
“Families don’t always play together,” she said. “Mom and Dad want to be fun, most of them.”