Sharing the hoop love

All around Oakland University there are student organizations that some may consider sort of strange or unusual.


Junior Olivia Pizzo has another idea for an odd student organization: a hula hooping club — not just around-the-waist hula hooping, but hooping with multiple hoops using knees, chest and hands. Pizzo, a Spanish major, wants to teach others some of these nifty tricks.


The 19-year-old never intended on becoming a professional hula hooper.


“I started hooping a couple summers ago when I saw some girls doing it at a festival,” she said. “I was heavily into photography, but when all $2,500 of my equipment got stolen from my car, hooping turned into my new thing.”


Pizzo started school at Oakland Community College and transferred to OU. With her minor in business, her goal is to become an interpreter. 


Although she enjoys hooping, Pizzo says that she would like it to continue doing it as a side job to her future occupation as an interpreter. She would love to travel to Latin American countries, “and spread hoop love there!”


Pizzo said that at first, she struggled to learn hula hooping and was sore much of the time. Even today, she still gets bruises from hooping. 


It took her about a year to get down many of the tricks and to become confident enough in her ability to start performing at events. Some of her tricks include hula hooping three hoops simultaneously on different body parts and jumping through the hoop while it’s spinning.


Pizzo does many gigs around the Detroit area and was one of the attractions at the opening of in downtown Pontiac last month. She hoops at clubs, weddings and festivals to spread more “hoop love,” as she calls it. She also uses hula hoops with fire coming out of them and hoops with LED lights inside the tubing. 


She started doing gigs last March, when she realized that her love for this aerobic workout could potentially earn her some extra cash. Ever since then, Pizzo has been looking for opportunities to show off her beautiful and unusual talent. 


She was just hired to be the fire hooper in this year’s Theatre Bizarre Halloween Show, which she says is an amazing job for her to land. She describes Theatre Bizarre as “a rustic sideshow circus with various extremely unusually talented people.” Tickets to the event are sold out.  


Pizzo said that she aspires to become a professional Cirque du Soleil performer. Cirque du Soleil is a performing style comprimsed of a mix of circus, dance and street acts that was originally based in Canada and is now popular all over the world. 


Along with hooping, Pizzo also spins poi. Poi, an art that involves swinging balls on string, has become popular in many clubs, where the balls are lit up or set on fire. Pizzo says that she is not quite ready for fire poi yet but is working on it. 

One day, Pizzo said, she would like to advance to working with fire as either a fire dancer or doing tricks including fire eating and fire breathing.


Pizzo’s business, Harmonic Hoops, makes handmade, custom hula hoops out of irrigation tubing and tape and sells them at art festivals and online. She also sells accessories for hooping (such as hula hoop bags) and is planning on teaching classes soon. Pizzo is working to become a hula hoop fitness instructor.


She said she has gained a lot of confidence through hooping and hopes to teach others the art of creative hula hooping.

“Currently at the Rec Center I can’t teach because I am not certified, and there are liability issues,” she said. But once she finishes certification, she plans to offer hooping courses for students for a small fee at the Rec Center on campus.


She said students have no reason to fear trying hooping or learning new tricks. Hula hoops have different diameters and different tubing. She said that light tubing and smaller diameters are usually for more advanced hoopers, and beginners should start out using heavy hula hoops with large diameters. 


Pizzo is interested in starting a related student organization, but needs more students to become involved.


“I would love to start up a hooping club or organization at the school by this time next year.” 


For anyone who would like to help start this organization, Pizzo says to contact her on Facebook. She also has some advice for people intending to become a hooper — learn to go with the flow. 


“Hooping is all about flow. If you can find your flow and inner rhythm, you won’t even need to think about the tricks you are doing; they’ll all come naturally,” she said. 


Photo courtesy of John Bigtacion: Pizzo practices using both fire hoops and hoops with LED lights. She hopes to work more with both in the near future.