On 07/07/07 I was with a few hundred people hula-hooping in Central Park, celebrating the first annual World Hoop Day in concert with similar events everywhere from Alabama to Croatia to South Africa. I was there because my girlfriend just locked picture on her documentary about the hooper subculture, "The Hoop Life," though she was happily filming professionals twirling hoops from nose to toes as well as families taking their first spin on the hoop, thinking it might find its way into the credit reel. (For the record, my friend Dalton says I hoop like someone who has to hoop because her girlfriend is making a film about hooping.)
Taking in the scene I overheard a guy who looked like he starched his t-shirt; he was talking to his wife, his eyes lit up with delight as his 3 year-old son was shooting the hoop around his waist for the first time, mostly watching it fall immediately, sometimes after a spin or two: "Who is in charge of this? Who's sponsoring this?" Dad wondered, unable to comprehend that people might actually create a public event without a corporate logo or a 503(c) cause. It's a sad sign that Bloomberg has gone to such great lengths to sell every spec of "public" space that the question seemed so relevant.
The group that did the most for the NYC event is called Groove Hoops, an artistic, Burner-friendly dance performance hoop troupe based in Brooklyn. They spent June making dazzling hoops of all colors and sizes from polyurethane tubing, invited passersby on Sheep's Meadow to use them during the day, and then around 6:30 gave the remaining hoops away for a thank-you. (Kids were not allowed to just pick them up and walk away, but encouraged to come up and thank the people who made them, a short introduction into the gift economy.)
The spirit of that event is why Amy wanted to make this documentary, about possibilities of sharing culture, community, ritual in ways that are inclusive and creative. She tells people that in the aftermath of 9-11 and the fear on all sides that it inspired, she set about to find a group that could do community better, and she found hoopers. Anyone who says that without birthright heritage, e.g., ethnicity, nationality, or race, culture vanishes hasn't been following what's going on with hoopers and Burning Man, not to mention bridge clubs or Oakland Raider fans.
Mr. Cardboard T-shirt who, without solicitation, sought out a stranger so he could give away his money on 7-7-7 joined this hoop community. At least for a few moments. The challenge is to keep the hoop revolution moving.