Things to do
Sunken Gardens hoop dancing class offers fun and fitness
KATHLEEN FLYNN | Times
Abby Albaum leads a class in hoop dancing at Sunken Gardens last week. “Part of the joy in hoop dance is to lose yourself in the moment and experience ‘flow,’ ” she said.
Some might consider the Hula Hoop a long dead fad, but the tubular toy is making a comeback and helping fuel a high-energy fitness dance sensation. Even singer Beyoncé Knowles has given this trendy workout a whirl.
What is all the hoopla about?
"Part of the joy in hoop dance is to lose yourself in the moment and experience 'flow,' " said Abby Albaum, a 30-year-old St. Petersburg fitness instructor. "(It) is a full body workout and a meditative, mind, body, and spirit practice. American Indian tribes have been using the art of hoop dance in storytelling rituals for centuries."
Albaum and members of her dance company, Hoola Monsters, teach introductory, intermediate and advanced hoop dancing classes at dance studios and recreation centers throughout the bay area.
Recently, Albaum started a class for beginners at Sunken Gardens on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 to 11 a.m. The class takes place outdoors in the gardens at the Oak Pavilion or in the amphitheater. If it is too hot or raining, it moves indoors. The cost is $15 for a single class or an eight-class package is $80. Advance registration is not required and hoops are provided.
"In this class, we will tap into our creativity and explore self-expression while hooping on the waist, with emphasis on Level 1 hoop moves such as recoveries, walking with the hoop, changing foot positions, float up, float down and basic transitions," said Albaum.
The class is not about the mastery of tricks, but rather getting into the rhythm of graceful movements with the help of a hoop. These hoops, however, aren't the typical ones you might find on a playground. They are heavier, adult-size and some are very artistically embellished.
Hoop dancing strengthens abdominal muscles, tones arms, legs and thighs, and it relieves stress, Albaum said. And, she added, the exercises can burn up to 600 calories an hour.
People who take the Sunken Gardens class enjoy the added benefit of exercising in a natural environment surrounded by orchids, gardenias, angel trumpets, bougainvillea and other beautiful flora.
"How can you go wrong out in the gardens," said Leslie Brissette, 57, of Treasure Island. "You can hear the birds squawking. After trying the class I got hooked."
Elena Foley of St. Petersburg takes Albaum's intermediate class at Hip Expressions in St. Petersburg. Foley, who has been belly dancing for 2½ years, signed up for the class because she thought it was worth a try. Now, a year and a half later, it's still part of her weekly workout.
"It's easy to brush aside, but everyone I know who has tried it has absolutely loved it," said Foley, 29. "It's addicting. Everyone should try it for themselves."
© 2013 Tampa Bay Times
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Want to be a Hoola Monster?
For information, call Hoola Monsters at (813) 777-7720 or visit hoolamonsters.com for a list of classes or to purchase a decorated hoop. Check in at the front desk at Sunken Gardens; be sure to bring water and wear tennis shoes.