Extreme Alberta interviewed Safire this past week. Safire teaches hula hoop dancing in the Edmonton area as well as makes and sells hula hoops on her website; Safiredance.com. The interview discusses hula hoop dancing, with comments from Safire’s students, a section on what hula hooping means to Safire, as well as some resources you can check out. If you’d like to learn hoop dance, check out Safire’s Online Hoop Dance Classes at Hoopcity.ca or her *Update* Calgary Hoop Dance Classes.
In addition to teaching hoop dance, Safire is also a circus and fire performer providing unique entertainment for festivals, corporate parties, children’s events and more! She also provides unique motivational presentations through Inspire Through Fire.
SaFire flew home to visit family for Thanksgiving Holidays and receive appreciation from WestJet when she entertained guests in the terminal. Her flight was delayed and to kill the time she brought out a few hula hoops and shared them with a bored little girl to help pass the time. In the morning she found a grateful e-mail from WestJet with a refund for her entire round trip fight and a $50.00 credit for her next WestJet flight. The message said:
“I wanted to thank you for keeping our guests entertained during the wait in the airport. You definitely made the delay pass by much quicker for all our guests and Elise (the little girl) looked like she was having so much fun. On behalf of WestJet I send our thanks and I have set up a credit for your next flight. Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hula Hooping!”
Time to break out your hula hips and bust a wheel.
BY JENNIFER FONG, EDMONTON JOURNAL
Sandra Sommerville is a professional hoop-dancing performer and teacher and also runs the networking site hoopcity.ca. Hoop dancing is growing in popularity. People come looking for fitness and stay for the fun, she says. Photograph by: Greg Southam, The Journal, Edmonton Journal
It’s Monday night and new wave singer Santigold’s Unstoppable is pumping inside an inconspicuous Old Strathcona dance studio. On the floor, five women are lost in the beat, grooving and grinding to the music.
They have no dance partners. Only hula hoops.
It seems impossible–those of us who played with hula hoops as children know that the unwieldy circular contraptions inevitably slide lower, lower, lower before going dead at your feet. Even if you do manage to keep them going ’round your hips, then what?
A lot, as it turns out. Here, at professional hoop-dancer Sandra Sommerville’s studio, the hula hoop is a weightless, flying prop, adding colour, flash, and intensity to movement.
The women in Sommerville’s advanced class make it look easy, hoops whirling continuously around chests, arms–even around one leg at a time.
“You’ve got to commit,” Sommerville instructs. The key to hooping is to pick a direction and roll with it. Pop your hip, left to right, and don’t hesitate. Of course, Sommerville’s students know this already.
Hoops around their waists, they warm up with a rubber ball, tossed between them in a modified game of Keep It Up.
Besides teaching and performing, Sommerville also runs Hoopcity.ca,an online hooping community that has amassed more than 1,000 members since it launched in late January. Hoop-dancing enthusiasts have flocked to the website to share tips, videos, and pictures, and to watch Sommerville’s popular video tutorials.
“It’s like Facebook for hoopers,” says the 25-year-old, who taught herself how to hoop dance by
watching performances on YouTube. “There’s a really strong online hooping community, and that’s
watching performances on YouTube. “There’s a really strong online hooping community, and that’s mostly because it’s not popular enough and not mainstream enough.”
That, however, is changing. The modern hooping movement got its start via American jam band the String Cheese Incident, whose members threw out hoops at concerts. The pastime was pushed into the now more recently by U. S. first lady Michelle Obama, who has been photographed showing off her spin.
“It’s very addicting,” says Sommerville, who has been hooping for two and a half years. “I think there are people that come in for the fitness, but I don’t think they stay there for the fitness. They stay there because it’s fun. They enjoy it.”
Sommerville’s star student Hannah Wiens enjoys hooping so much, she practised five hours a day at one point.
“She’s worn a couple of raw spots in the backyard,” says her father Randy with a laugh. “In the winter, she’d be pushing aside the furniture in the living room and hooping upstairs. We’ve got a couple of skid marks on the ceiling.”
Hannah fell in love with hooping after she saw Sommerville do a demo at her junior high.
“When I first saw Sandra do this, I couldn’t believe it,” says the 15-year-old. “I couldn’t believe that that was possible with a hula hoop and I was like, ‘I really want to learn that!’ ”
All her practice paid off: Just three months after she started hooping, Hannah was showing off her skills in front of 600 people at her school talent show, held in March.
“I think it’s a good fitness thing,” says Randy. “It’s also a really nice passion for her. It’s an artistic outlet.”
Hannah is Sommerville’s youngest advanced student, and something of a standout in a hooping community comprised primarily of 20-somethings.
“I think it’s really interesting that it’s mostly adult women rather than young girls, and even a lot of mothers,” says Sommerville. “It gives you something to kind of step away from your daily life and just take a moment for yourself.”
Children’s performer and massage therapist Mary Rankin took up hoop dancing in November as part of a year-long 50th birthday present to herself. “It’s an amazing amount of fun and I feel so proud of myself when I get the tricks,” says Rankin, who has started to incorporate hula hoops into her act as Netti Spaghetti.
“Everywhere I go, somebody wants to play, somebody wants to hoop,” she says. “Kids love it. Grown- ups love it.”
Beyond the fun, Rankin says, hooping has also kept her in shape.
“It’s fabulous for you aerobically,” she says. “You can feel it in your lungs, if you’re really working hard. All of your muscles. You’re using your legs, and it’s great for your back.”
Rankin never hula-hooped as a child, and claims to be an uncoordinated klutz. But ever since she
started hooping, she says,
started hooping, she says, her agility and dexterity has improved.
“For people who have sore bodies because they don’t move much, doing something like this is a fun way of getting exercise,” she says. “I hate to exercise. I hate it, I hate it, but I love this.”
The class spends the evening working on flow, something every hoop dancer aspires to achieve, Sommerville says.
“That’s the ability to literally dance with the hoop as if you’re just dancing and the hoop is kinda just magically there,” she explains. Instead of focusing on specific tricks, the hoop should become an extension of the dancer. The combinations come naturally, allowing the hooper to infuse her own style into her performance, dance her own dance.
As the women freestyle to Santigold, their hoops appear to defy gravity. They slice up high, then down low, pulling their hoops through the air with grace, then stepping in and out of the wheels as if they’re not there. Together with their hoops, the dancers are unstoppable.
Meet Safire (Sandra Sommerville): Circus and Fire Entertainer. CP: Career Planet SS: Sandra Sommerville
CP: What is your title? SS: Safire – Circus and Fire Entertainer. I am a performer and provide entertainment in the art of hoop dancing, poi spinning, staff spinning, fire eating and fire dancing. In addition to performing at events, I also work in schools doing a motivational presentation called Inspire Through Fire. It covers topics of self-esteem, finding your passion and dealing with bullies. I also teach hoop dancing to others though workshops, my own studio classes and online through HoopCity.ca. HoopCity.ca is an online hoop community I created that is similar to Facebook, but it is all about hooping. We currently have over 1,100 members within the community and are growing fast!
My website is: www.safiredance.ning.com
CP: Where do you work? SS: Safire Dance – At home, in dance studios, in schools, at festivals and many more different places.
CP: What do you LOVE most about your job? SS: The freedom I get from being self-employed. I can work at my own pace and am able to have more control over my daily life.
CP: Have you had any other jobs? SS: I have worked a wide range of jobs throughout my life. Ranging from fast food cashier, to heavy hauler truck driver, to school teacher. All of these jobs have given me skills in different areas that help me in my current position.
CP: When you were at school, what type of career did you think you would follow? SS: I was in College and University from 2001 – 2007 and completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Education in hopes of becoming a High School Art Teacher. After graduation I decided to put teaching aside and focusing on being a performer. Teaching has come back into my life though as I am teaching studio classes on hoop dancing as well as teaching online classes to over 150 students from all over the world.
CP: Which qualification/s are needed for this career? SS: There are several teacher certification programs for hoop dancing but given that I have a teaching degree I have chosen not to get certified specifically for hoop dancing.
CP: How long did you study for, and do you still do any training? SS: When I first began hoop dancing I practiced for 3-6 hours a day for 6 months. Now I tend to hoop on average at least an hour a day.
CP: Have you ever done any volunteer work to gain experience? SS: Nothing major no, just offering to help out here and there when extra hands are needed.
CP: What made you decide to choose the job that you are doing now? SS: I wanted to do something that I cared about. Hooping was all I could think about when I graduated and it felt right to follow that passion.
CP: Please tell us about a typical day at work SS: Answering e-mails, video taping tutorials for my online classes, editing videos, returning calls to clients, working on my website, making hula hoops for students/customers, etc.
CP: What are the main tools that you use daily ? SS: Computer, video camera, video editing software, my iPhone, hula hoops
CP: Does your job involve managing other people? SS: Not really.
CP: Do you work office hours or flexi-time? SS: Neither… I kind of work all-time. I like what I’m doing and often work too hard. This is common for entrepreneurs, particularly in the first few years of business.
CP: Do you work in a relaxed or a formal environment? SS: Totally relaxed!!
CP: What is the dress code for your job? SS: Funky and fun fashions! I recently tossed all my boring teacher dress pants and have since been wearing comfy yoga pants that are easy to hoop and dance in.
CP: What are the prospects for career growth? SS: In the future I would like to begin selling clothing, hoops and other accessories through my website. Previously I had a shop but it was very time consuming. In the future I sell items that I like rather then trying to make everything by myself by hand.
CP: Does your job include travelling? SS: Yes. If I am booked for a performance I have to travel to the event. Also, attending hoop dancing workshops is an important part of my development.
CP: Describe the kind of person that you think most suits this type of work SS: Someone who has a tremendous amount of energy.
CP: Do you have any tips for people thinking about this career? SS: Be strong and don’t give up. If you want to be a performer, look yourself in the mirror, call yourself a performer and then believe it!!
CP: What other options/possibilities are there for career growth in this field? SS: I have several options and different areas I could focus on. One would be to enhance HoopCity.ca to include other styles of object manipulation dance. I could begin teaching poi or staff spinning lessons. Opening up an online store, providing teacher training for others who want to start hoop dancing classes, host workshops and other related events. Opening up a larger entertainment and events coordination company could be done as I begin meeting more and more entertainers in the industry. Moving overseas and teaching tourists how to fire dance. The possibilities go on and on.
CP: What are some of the main companies/organizations that provide employment in your field? SS: Entertainment Agencies, Festivals and Event Coordinators.
CP: Are there opportunities for entrepreneurs in this field? SS: YES!
CP: Do you have hobbies? SS: My hobby IS my job. ; )
Sandra “Safire” Sommerville entertained the crowds at the International Children’s Festival with her hoop dancing and gave kids a chance to try it for themselves Friday. The 28th annual children’s festival wrapped up Sunday.
Sandra Sommervile, stage name Safire, performs during the International Children’s Festival Warm Up Day at St. Albert Place yesterday. This year’s “explore the World” themed festival runs today until Saturday with performance, activities and entertainment for the whole family.
Hooping not just a fun fad for one Edmonton group.
BY VERONICA PETROLA
There is a group of woman in Edmonton that do something a little unusual on Monday nights. They whirl around what’s most often seen as child’s play. They gather to learn how to balance colorful rings around their waist, chest, arms, and legs. They dance, learn tricks, and laugh. They’re hula hoopers.
“Grab a hoop!” was the first thing hooping instructor Sandra Sommerville said as I walked into the chaotic class. Three girls were trying to learn the hooping trick of the day, often loosing control of the hoop and accidentally throwing it to the other side of the room. The girls are part of a beginners hooping class, which takes place Mondays at 6 p.m. at a dance studio on 80 Avenue and 110 Street. For some, hooping is a hobby that they just want to get to be good at.
“I would like to get pass the point of look awkward,” noted Kaylin Betteridge. For Sommerville, Hooping is a lifestyle that is growing into a career. Her recently launched hooping community website is getting attention from around the world.
She launched the SaFire Dance website in January, and there are already over 600 members, with new ones joining each day. The website features instructional videos on hooping tricks, a forum, and an online shop. All the shop items, which go from spiral equipment to funky hooping clothes, are handmade or modified by Sommerville.
She said that the site is successful because hoopers want to talk about hooping. She wanted to create an online community that serves exactly that purpose.
“I know exactly what it’s like to be really, really excited about something and have no one to talk to about it with.
It’s a lot of work to moderate the website, she said, because she records her own video tutorials, answers e-mails and messages, and sells her products. She also teaches online hooping classes and does hula hooping performances at various events, including private parties. Prices vary, and she does not have a day job, but she is really working 24/7, she said.
And she couldn’t be happier.
I really don’t think I could have a regular job again.
The 25-year-ol had no idea her passion would bring her here. She was a “Hoopie Award” in 2008 for outstanding hoop instructor of the year. The Hooping.org site gives out the Hoop Awards every year, and Sommerville was nominated for three other categories.
Sommerville moved to Edmonton from Fort McMurray a year ago to take a trapeze class and to make a living as a hula hooping performer. She had no set plan, but she believed hooping was something she could success at.
Sandra Jane “SaFire” Sommerville, is a 25-year-old Canadian hooper living in Edmonton, Alberta, who first found herself inside her own circle just a little over two years ago and Kazam! In what some would view as a relatively short period of time she’s walked away with the Hoop Instructor of the Year Trophy in our 2nd Annual Hoopie Awards. Who is this young lady who has captured the attention of the hoop community? We simply had to know more about this particular Performer / Motivational Speaker / Substitute school teacher for grades K – 12 – and you can find out more about her too in our interview with SaFire, our Hooper of the Week!
With many classes being taught by more people in more places, standing out has become a bit of a challenge, but one instructor rather easily rose above the rest in your ballots. – Philo Hagan, Hooping.org