DJs, warehouses and freestyling: Welcome to Berlin’s hula hooping scene // Urban Sport of the Week

Alice x Hula Hooping_Photo by Savannah van der Niet-14

Scarlett Flamingo was on holiday in Costa Rica when she first discovered the joy of hula hooping. “I saw someone with an adult hoop and I remembered how much I liked it as a kid. I tried it and I could still do it so when I got home I bought myself a hula hoop and started to practice in my bedroom.” That was 2005 and since then Scarlett has become more and more entangled in the world of hula hoop, progressing from performing to teaching to starting her own business.

There’s something about a hula hoop that sparks joy, both in the person doing it and the people watching. “Having a hula hoop is like having a cute dog,” Scarlett says. “Everyone wants to speak to you. And if they hula hoop too they will tell you.”

Scarlett is petite and full of energy. Her short curly brown hair is pinned up ‘20s style and she wears a bright patterned tied-up shirt with colourful leggings. With her glassy brown eyes and bright red lipstick, everything about her screams ‘good vibes’. Scarlett laughs as the remembers how her friend encouraged her to start performing. ”One day I was hula hooping at some bowling lanes and my friend said: ‘The world needs to see this.’”

We’re sitting in MotionLab.Berlin, a co-working and maker space where  Scarlett hosts her Hula Tricks class every Thursday evening. MotionLab.Berlin is a ginormous converted warehouse in the Berlin district of Treptower. 3D-printed models of giant hands are lined up on display next to a full-size double-decker bus where clusters of people are talking business over coffee. Art is displayed on giant wooden panels and next to the big kitchen is the definitive mark of all co-working spaces: a kicker table. Colour and creativity almost drips from the rafters here – which makes it the perfect setting for Scarlett’s class.

Scarlett’s Hoop Plus Fit classes, events and workshops take place in the heart of Berlin and she likes to incorporate the work of local musicians and producers, often drafting in live DJs to play alongside her lessons. Hula hooping is very popular in English-Speaking countries (UK, US, Australia) but is still on the rise in mainland Europe. Scarlett grew up in London and found a hula community easily, with dozens of classes and workshops to choose from every week. “I joined The Majorettes which is a Hula Hoop troop in London,” She explains. “That’s when I got a bit more serious about hula hooping and started to perform a bit more.” At the time Scarlett worked as a furniture designer. “I always felt like there was this side of me that wanted to be performing and active with my body. It got to a point where I got frustrated so I left London and moved to Berlin.”

Scarlett is now extremely active in building a hula hoop community here in Germany. “In London there are so many performers and teachers that the market is almost a little bit saturated. When I came here it was so nice because there’s a few of us on the scene and we’ve all become friends.” Scarlett’s classes and her organised ‘hula jams’ have been instrumental in building a community.  “The jam is on for like three hours so you meet other people and make friends.”

I express my doubts about being able to hula hoop for five seconds, let alone three hours. “Don’t worry, we’ll get you doing a routine by the end of it.” Big talk, Scarlett, but let’s see.

Scarlett hands out hula hoops to everyone in the class who immediately start skimming them easily around their waists. “The heavier your hoop, the easier it is.” Scarlett tells me. I spin mine round my waist and it clutters miserably to the floor.

“Spin it faster and move your waist backwards and forwards,” Scarlett says. I try again, spinning it aggressively round my hips. I wildly rock back and forth but to no avail – the hoop falls to the floor after approximately three seconds. Meanwhile the rest of the class free-styles dreamily, their hoops barely touching their hips as they swoosh effortlessly in the air.

“Try this.” Scarlett says and hands me an industrial sized hoop, about triple the weight of the previous one. “It might hurt but it’ll stay up for longer.”

I step into the heavy, grey hoop and spin it round my waist. It feels like I’m being pummelled in the ribs by a gang of small children; but it does stay up for longer. I’m able to do this three times before I have to switch back to a normal weight hoop. It’s good to know what it feels like to keep the hoop in the air, even if I have shattered all of my ribs.

Next Scarlett teaches us a sequence. She puts on a pumping playlist which changes song every minute and with each song switch we change the direction in which our hoop is going. “Hooping in just one direction can cause you to develop more muscles on one side of your body,” Scarlett writes in her Hula Hoop Workout Guide. “In time this can cause problems with your back. So it’s super important to train both sides. Getting good in your weaker direction will not only balance you out, but also greatly improve your dominant direction.”

As the class continues I notice a significant improvement. The hoop stays up longer and my coordination improves. Scarlett teaches us how to spin the hoop around our thumb and forefinger, then swoosh it in front of our bodies and jump through it like a skipping rope. The idea is to end with the hoop spinning around your other arm. I misjudge my hoop spin several times, causing it to fly through the air, narrowly missing Scarlett’s face. Yet she remains encouraging and patient throughout the class. This lady is a saint.

My face, of course, takes the full brunt of my amateur hula skills. On countless occasions I mis-time my hula/arm coordination and the hoop fully catapults into my forehead, causing everyone’s eyes to water – mine from pain and the others from laughter.

By the end of the class I am exhausted. Sweat is dripping down my back and my arms ache from keeping them outstretched for such a long period of time. But I also feel happy and elated, like I’ve spent an entire afternoon doing cartwheels in a meadow. Somehow, in the midst of all the mayhem, I seem to have become best mates with everyone in the class.

With these classes Scarlett and her hula hooping comrades are on a mission: to make you move through the medium of hula hoop. It’s a wonderful mission, a beautiful experience and if you don’t mind a bit of bruising on your ribs, one that I would highly recommend.

If you’d like to try out hula hooping, check out Hoop Plus Fit for a full list of classes and workshops. Scarlett also manages the Hoop Plus Fit YouTube channel where you can pick up the hula basics in the comfort of your home.

And take a look at our site to see if you can learn to hula hoop in a city near you.

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