The Hooper Troopers seem more like a family than a group of friends who demonstrate and teach hula-hooping.
Three of the four women are roommates, and the other lives down the street. Two met while they were kids; the other two were "adopted" because their boyfriends were friends. Three of them have the same hooper tattoo; the other plans to. She just doesn't know where she wants to put it yet. There's even a three-person tandem bicycle in the mix.
"We spend most of our time together," Abbey Pommer says.
"Yeah, we're not close at all," Megan Simpson adds.
The Hooper Troopers officially began in February 2009. But it was about two years ago that Adriene Holland decided to make a hula hoop out of PVC pipe and electrical tape.
"She got me to try it," Lindsey Murphy says. "I was never able to hula-hoop as a kid. It took me an hour to learn how to do it."
Simpson came over the next day, and she, too, was hooked. Or hooped.
They started learning tricks from Internet tutorials — things like "off-body" hooping and "isolations."
"We didn't expect this to turn into a big thing," Simpson says. "We just started doing it in the backyard."
One of Pommer's neighbors saw them and invited them to hoop at the South Main Memphis Farmers Market, which is still one of their favorite places to hoop.
"People's reactions to our hooping had a huge impact on our deciding to create a group identity," Holland says. People also began noticing other things, as well.
All four of them are pretty outdoorsy. They like camping, canoeing, and biking (thus the three-person tandem). Holland and Simpson are studying exercise and sports science at the University of Memphis; Murphy is thinking about health promotion, also at the U of M; and Pommer is studying elementary education at Christian Brothers University. Growing up, Holland played sports, Simpson danced, Murphy was in theater, and Pommer cheered.
Despite all that, since they began hooping daily, they've each lost between 10 and 20 pounds.
"I feel healthy now," Holland says. "I didn't before."
"People started asking us, 'What are you doing? You're all getting in better shape,'" Simpson says. "When we told them we were hooping, they were like, I want to do that."
The women are happy to oblige. They currently teach adult hooping classes at the Mid-South World Dance Center. And at Hooper Trooper Central — the house they all basically share — they hand-craft hula hoops for sale.
Theirs are thicker and more durable than the ones you might buy at a toy store and can be special-ordered based on height, weight, and skill level. (The smaller ones rotate much faster — and take more work — than the larger ones.)
For those as skilled as the Hooper Troopers, there are unlimited ways to hoop. They showcase different body parts, different places around those body parts, and different rhythms.
"I'm done looking at what other people are doing and trying to replicate it," Murphy says. "I just like hooping around in dresses."
"It's fun to experiment and see what all you can do," Simpson adds.
Indeed, one of their favorite phrases is "just flow with it."
"When one reaches a state, while hooping, that is blissful and almost meditative ... in that thought dissipates and feeling and hoop go together to form a dance," Holland says, "we call it 'flow.' Finding and maintaining flow is all about the experience and how good it makes you feel."