Ann Humphreys grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She graduated from Barnard College and earned her MFA in Poetry from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. She has worked as a waitress, a yoga teacher, and as a mitigation investigator in death-penalty appeals cases. She also spent several years working at The Sun Magazine as a manuscript reader. To her ceaseless amazement, hoopdance has somehow brought all those passions and skills to work together in one place.
Long ago, before YouTube, some of us were lucky enough to stumble upon hooping in odd, unlikely, and sometimes downright enchanted ways. One summer afternoon when I was 35 and wandering rather aimlessly through the middle of life, nursing a broken heart and several part-time jobs, I saw a man dancing alone in a very public space with what appeared to be a black hula-hoop. He was definitely cute (I won’t lie!) but his dance was also profoundly and unimaginably beautiful, suffused with grace…making it also one of the weirdest things I had ever seen. Sacred dance, good-looking guy, and hula-hoop? One of these things was not like the other—in fact, NONE of these things were like the other, at all! I stood for minutes, utterly transfixed and unable to comprehend what I was seeing–which was, in fact, my future teacher and partner, hooping legend Jonathan Baxter.
It’s true–I crushed my way into hula hooping. But even my crush on its own merits wasn’t enough–I needed the prodding of a dear friend, artist Kimowan Metchewais. He persuaded me (admittedly, it wasn’t that hard) to go with him to one of Baxter’s weekly hoop classes in Carrboro. Despite my desperate wish not to look foolish in the eyes of this self-made hoop master, I participated fully in the strange new world of hoop class, where I flew my hands like birds as the hoop whirled around me. I put on a blindfold and listened in stark wonder to a myth of orphaned girls who grew up into keepers of sacred rhythm through their dance with the hoop. That night, my body began to navigate space in way that was at once wholly new, yet intimately familiar–through metaphor. An early and avid reader, metaphor as it was expressed in language carried for me a deep and specific power. It was the way I saw the world. But that night, metaphor became for the first time in my adult life the way I moved in the world. And I felt in my own body the same profound, unimaginable beauty I had seen in that cute guy’s dance.
This is the reason why I teach hoopdance today. I believe that our human bodies need to dance, to create and experience physical beauty for our own pleasure alone. And I believe that we can learn to dance easily and readily through the simple shape of the circle–itself a metaphor for wholeness, oneness, union, indivisibility, self-sufficiency…a metaphor for that elusive thing, enough. I never imagined that my spirit could find its fullest expression through the prism of a plastic children’s toy, but stranger things have surely happened in this world. Stranger, perhaps, but not a bit more wondrous. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you want to read more about how I fell in love with the hoop, order a copy of my hoop-inspired memoir: The Tao of Hoop: On the Transformational Practice of Hula-Hooping (Seriously, Though). Paperback, ebook, and audiobook versions are available through Kindle Direct Publishing/Audible. Click here for the paperback, here for the ebook, and here for the audiobook.
Ann Humphreys has achieved the incredible feat of conveying spiritual practice and growth through a compelling narrative that grips the reader—somehow without sounding corny. The Tao of Hoop is that rare gem: a memoir as dramatic as it is profound.
— Dalton Conley, author of You May Ask Yourself