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Sunken Gardens hoop dancing class offers fun and fitness

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.

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."

Today

Boat rides at the Pier: The Electric Marina offers free boat rides to give you a taste of their electric boats. Located in the South Vinoy Yacht Basin, behind the Dolphin Trolley Station, the Electric Marina is an electric, wind and people-powered boat rental. 1 to 5 p.m.; no reservations required. The Electric Marina Boat Rentals, 375 Second Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. Call (727) 898-2628 or visit

electricmarina.com.

Music Fest on the Water: Enjoy the sounds of the Florida International Jazz and Blues Band. 1 to 4 p.m. Pier, 800 Second Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. Free. Call (727) 821-6443.

17 Monday

Saltwater celebrity: Learn about and explore the habitat of a new "critter" throughout each week. 10 a.m. Pier Aquarium, 800 Second Ave. NE. Call (727) 895-7437 or visit pieraquarium.org.

18 Tuesday

Alzheimer's Caregiver Support Group: Free and open to caregivers of those with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia. Reservations are appreciated. 6 to 7 p.m. For information, call Lisa Milne at the Alzheimer's Association at (727) 578-2558. Gulfport Senior Center, 5501 27th Ave. S.

Boyd Hill tram tours: Take a look around the preserve with the help from a ranger. 1 p.m. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. 1101 Country Club Way S. Regular admission plus a $2 tram fee. Call (727) 893-7326 or visit stpete.org/boyd.

19 Wednesday

Terrific Tots: Parents and children 1 to 3 make music, sing, hear a live guitar performance and start each class with "Good morning" in different languages. Each week brings new activities. Free with museum admission. 11 a.m. Great Explorations Children's Museum (Water Room), 1925 Fourth St. N. St. Petersburg. Call (727) 821-8992, ext. 208, or visit greatex.org.

20 Thursday

Artist's Table: The Artist's Table presented by Synovus Bank takes place the third Thursday of each month. Featured artists and restaurants in May are Taylor Ikin at Parkshore Grill, Diana Lucas Leavengood at Bella Brava and Ray Cannata at the Hangar Restaurant at Albert Whitted Airport. Seated at a large table, the artists invite patrons to join them for lunch and discuss the artist's work process and art in general. Reservations recommended. Noon. Morean Arts Center, 719 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. For reservations, contact Alissa Hopkins at (727) 822-7872, ext. 33, or e-mail alissa@moreanartscenter.org.

'Peer to Pier' Speed Networking: Meet others from around the area for an evening of lively conversations. Check in is at 5:30 p.m. on the third-floor ballroom; networking begins promptly at 6 for one hour. Conversations will continue at the Pier Aquarium (free admission is included) or on the rooftop at Cha Cha Coconuts Tropical Bar and Grill, where attendees can redeem their free drink voucher. Admission is $5 in advance; $10 at the door. Register at LocalShops1.com, under the Events tab. Proceeds go to the Pier Aquarium, a nonprofit center for aquatic life. 5:30 p.m. The Pier, 800 Second Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. Call (727) 821-6443 or visit stpetepier.com.

21 Friday

Rick Gee Jazz Jamm: The Jazz Futures Sextet presents "Next Generation: A New Time!" 7:30 p.m. Bayview Room at Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S, St. Petersburg. $20, $15 students. Call (727) 892-5798.

22 Saturday

Caring for cattleyas: Learn the lighting, watering and fertilizing needs of cattleya orchids, with plants for sale. 11:30 a.m. Sunken Gardens, 1825 Fourth St. N, Free with admission: $8, $6 seniors, $4 kids 2-11. Call (727) 551-3100.

Florida Orchestra goes pop: Relive the thrills of James Bond movies. 8 p.m. Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St. S, St. Petersburg. $20-$67. Call (727) 892-5767 or visit floridaorchestra.org.

Pass-a-Grille Beach Art Mart: Hosted by the Suntan Art Center. Paintings, photography, handcrafted jewelry, metal art and more by local artists. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pass-a-Grille Beach Art Mart, 900 Gulf Way, St. Pete Beach. Call (727) 363-2144.

Fast facts

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.

Sunken Gardens hoop dancing class offers fun and fitness 05/15/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 14, 2010 12:40pm]

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