Last year, Loyola University Chicago got a new student run organization. Mid way through the Fall semester of 2013 LOOP was born. It is an interest/athletic/performance club centered around hula hoop dancing and fostering the hooping community at Loyola. The Club has three founders, a semi-professional hoop dance performer, a rhythmic gymnast, and an avid hooper who also happens to be a P.R. genius and social butterfly.
While the founding of the club was a success in itself I think the most important part of the club is what it does for its members. Hoop dancing is an incredible creative outlet that allows the dancer to flow with the music but also build a relationship with an object that becomes a extension of the body. The dancer's relationship with the hula hoop strengthens their balance, coordination, awareness of their body in space. They take a child's play toy and turn it into a tool for artistic expression that in my opinion, beautifies the dance and adds a type of grace that can be lacking from a lot of choppier modern dances.
The club does something that is unique from most other student organizations on Loyola's campus. It takes the athleticism one needs to be able to dance, combines that with the niche interest of learning how to do tricks with a hula hoop, and pushes these two themes together by performing at events and talent shows. While all of those three themes are meshing together the club goes one step further by building a community on campus for its members to support and encourage each other.
In its short life-span the club has performed for a few different events on campus as well as some service events in the neighboring communities. Most recently, a few members of the club went to a local youth program to preform for the kids and then spent some time after to teach the kids some hoop dancing basics. Also for the second year in a row the club will be preforming at Loyola's Relay for Life where all of the proceeds go to help find a cure for cancer.
Last semester, the club was having issues with retaining its members. The idea of becoming proficient at this up and coming form of art is very enticing for many, but the lack of structure made it difficult for new members to make a habit of coming to meetings. The club's leadership did not take this setback to heart and began looking for way to keep new members interested and involved. Since I have a few friends in the club and am dating one of the founders I offered my opinion, as an outsider, on how to keep members interested. The club decided to add more structure to the group by adding weekly lessons to their meetings. So far this semester, the lessons have helped new members pick up the foreign art form and they seem to be getting more out of the club too. (1)
Like many forms of artistic expression hoop dancing has allowed the members to express their feelings in ways they may not have previously been able to. It is also a great workout which provides a rush of endorphins. When you couple those two with the great sense of the community the club provides you are left with this wonderful service oriented club that not only allows people to stay in shape but express themselves and gain support from other members that have turned into friends.
(1) The club's leadership went through the steps to learn from a failure as proposed by Jonah Lehrer in the Wired magazine article.