Materials & Essays

How to Size a Hoop Studio

When we head indoors to hoop, we start to look for locations where we have enough space.

Some of us are lucky to find a gymnasium to use – enough space for everything you might want to do. The rest of us have to look into dance studios, community centers and other places that weren’t meant for large scale athletics.

When you are evaluating a room to hold classes and hoop jams, how can you tell how many hoopers will fit in it? This is an important question if you are sharing the rental price or trying to cover it with your class fees and still make a profit.

A hooper needs space on all sides for the hoop to spin, and different hooping styles need more or less space. For example, waist hooping needs less space than most off-body hooping. hooper-area
The same space will hold eight on-body hoopers, or 2-3 off-body hoopers. 

How Much Space is Enough?

You can figure the area needed per hooper based on armspan + the size of the hoops you use.  Let’s do the math for four different scenarios.

On-body hooping

On-body hooping is pretty compact. For each hooper, you’ll want armspan + a bit or twice the diameter of the hoop, whichever is bigger. This doesn’t allow for much moving around, dancing or flailing but it is enough to stand and hoop on waist, legs, and shoulders without hitting anyone.

Armspan is about the same as height, so if your hoopers average 5’7″/170 cm and your hoops are 40″/100 cm, you are looking for an 80″/200 cm circle. That’s about 44 square feet/4 sq m per person. 

Circles can pack into a space more tightly than squares, but a square gives you a little extra room for footwork and it is easier to figure out when you are looking at a floorplan that’s marked in square feet or square meters.

Off-body hooping

Off body hooping needs space to extend the arm with the hoop and spin all the way around without smacking anyone. Some tricks, like the eagle roll or many off-body twins moves, require space for a hoop on both sides.

 Calculate armspan + two hoops.  Using the same example sizes as above, you’ll need a 12″/370 cm circular space, or 144 square feet/14 sq m per hooper.

That’s quite a bit of area, so if you aren’t going to be doing a lot of twins play or eagle rolls, you can figure it by armspan + 1 hoop which is about 81 sq ft/7.5 sq m per person. 

Overhead hooping

Ceilings! Hooping needs more height than most dance activities, so you’ll find lots of dance and yoga studios with low ceilings or lights hanging down into space we need for mandalas and overhead passes. The perfect ceiling is really, really high for throws. Unless you’ve secured a gymnasium, you need to think about the space above your head. With lower ceilings, you’ll need to limit the overhead tricks .

A good overhead height will be height + arm + hoop  and for sake of simplicity, let’s call the arm half the height of the body (it’s usually a bit less than half). For your 5’7″ hooper with a 40″ hoop, you’ll want about 11 feet/3.5 m of clearance.

Other space in your space

When figuring out the number of students that will fit into your prospective studio, don’t forget space for yourself and for the inevitable gap between instructor and students. You may also need space for people’s coats and bags, extra hoops, and other gear.

15 Tips for Teaching Outdoors

It’s summertime and the parks and beaches are calling. Let’s go outside to teach! Here are a few practical pointers:

The Space

  1. Circles are great structures for the class space and keep onlookers from randomly joining the group. If you are all lined up in rows or scattered randomly in a space people tend to wander over and join. That’s not an issue if you’re doing a free class, but if your students paid to be there then you want to keep it exclusive.
  2. If you are getting down on the ground, whether it’s in the warmup or specific move training, be sure you have enough yoga mats or picnic blankets. Ask people bring their own and have a few spare. Most urban folks aren’t too keen on rolling around directly on grass and dirt.
  3. Check your park for a shady spot or time your session in the cooler part of the day. Activity in full sun is unpleasant.
  4. Be aware of the condition of the ground. Try to avoid uneven ground, loose dirt or soft sand. Groom the area before class by picking up trash, removing large stones, etc.
  5. Not all outdoor spaces are suited to music; try leading your outdoor classes without tunes. If you do choose music, make sure it is loud enough for your students to hear but not blasting nearby picnickers.
  6. Create a secure space for bags. A tarp in the center of the circle works and helps to keep the circle from drifting, too. Encourage students to leave valuables at home.

The Onlookers

  1. What you’re doing is fun to watch, so expect photographers and gawkers. Bystanders may interrupt your class with questions. Practice gestures that clearly indicate wait a moment, no, and yes. Be careful not to let interruptions disturb the flow or focus of your students.
  2. Deliver all communication to strangers with a smile, even the no. Nobody wants their instructor to seem angry. I’ve failed on this a few times and it’s done bad things for my reputation.
  3. Wear a t-shirt with your brand/name/logo, city, and contact info on it. The location and contact info help people to see that you are local and they can get in touch with you. Also, have your flyers or business cards out and ready share.
  4. If you normally end your class with a group routine or review of the tricks you’ve taught, you may have a built-in audience in the park. Make use of it and put on a show for them.

The Class

  1. Start with a warmup to get everyone focussed. An outdoor classroom has a lot of distractions and sometimes students can be shy when they know people might be watching.
  2. Outdoor classes allow you to teach big moves, high tosses and other things that need lost of vertical space. Take advantage of that.
  3. Offer more breaks than you would normally, especially on very hot or sunny days. Five minute water breaks also give you a chance to speak with people trying to interrupt your class.
  4. Get a group shot after class. You’re in a beautiful setting. Capture the moment.

The Rules

  1. Check with your city parks/rec department to find out about permits. Some places require them for large groups or events that charge a fee. It is embarrassing and upsetting if your class is broken up by park police, believe me.
  2. Decide on a rain policy. If the weather is inclement, will you refund, reschedule, or relocate the class?

DIY Juggling Balls


It’s easy and inexpensive to make your own juggling balls for practice or, in my case, a whole bunch for workshops.

For each set of three balls, you’ll need:

300 grams of rice, about 1/2 cup for each ball
9 (or more) 9″ latex balloons
3 lightweight plastic bags or plastic wrap
tape (optional)

Cut the necks off the balloons. Pour 1/2 cup (100 grams) of rice into each bag. Twist the bag shut, removing any extra air, and trim the twisted end into a tail a few centimeters long. Optionally, tape the twisted part to the bag to prevent spillage. Open the cut end of the balloon and stretch it around the bag. Repeat with the remaining balloons, alternating sides to cover the circular gaps.

Done! The balloons tend to rip and shred when dropped on rough surfaces, so carry a few spare balloons with you for repairs.

50 Positive Words for Hoop Teachers

Using positive words with students is a powerful teaching technique. Everyone responds well to genuine and sincere praise. It’s especially helpful to point out something specific about a student’s effort – whether it is how hard they are working, a natural gift for rhythm, or graceful footwork.

But as a teacher, I find myself stuck using the same three or four phrases repeatedly. I am sure my students are getting bored being told they are awesome, terrific, and gorgeous! So here is a list of 50 useful adjectives that you can use to pump up your praise without repeating yourself. These are also helpful for your own personal affirmations and self-praise.

  1. Alive
  2. Amazing
  3. Animated
  4. Awesome
  5. Beautiful
  6. Blissful
  7. Brilliant
  8. Bubbling
  9. Calm
  10. Comfortable
  11. Courageous
  12. Curious
  13. Ebullient
  14. Effervescent
  15. Energetic
  16. Enlivened
  17. Enthusiastic
  18. Excited
  19. Expressive
  20. Exhilarated
  21. Exuberant
  22. Fabulous
  23. Free
  24. Gorgeous
  25. Graceful
  26. High spirited
  27. Hopeful
  28. Hot
  29. Inspired
  30. Intense
  31. Invigorated
  32. Joyous
  33. Lively
  34. Motivated
  35. Optimistic
  36. Passionate
  37. Patient
  38. Powerful
  39. Radiant
  40. Refreshed
  41. Serene
  42. Soft
  43. Stimulated
  44. Strong
  45. Superb
  46. Surprised
  47. Terrific
  48. Vigorous
  49. Wonderful
  50. Zestful

 Not sure how to start? Try some of the words in these phrases:

You look ____!
When you do X, you show how _____ you are.
Your X is so _____.
I really like how _____ you have become at X.
Do you know how _______ you are?

How to Engage an Audience

There are a lot of tips given to new hoop performers and one of them is always “engage the audience.” Unfortunately that advice is rarely followed up with instructions beyond “smile and make eye contact.” So for my own good, and maybe yours, too, I’ve written up 3 Ways to Engage Your Audience.

Hoop DANCE Game at Guru-guru Camp 2013

During the “High-Low Hoop Dance” workshops I taught at GGC, we played a game using action verbs to create more varied body movement in our hoop dance. This video shows the dynamic sequences that our hoopers created using the prompts.

All the details of the Hoop DANCE Game, including ways to play the game and a list of the 64 dance verbs, are in the FREE STUFF section for you to enjoy.

Hoop Games

Preparing a kids party? Looking for ideas to spice up your classes? Want to inject some fun into a hoop jam? Here is my list of 22 tried and true hoop games. It’s organised by type of game and includes variations, suggested ages and more.  Have fun with it!

Hoop Games  (Google Doc)