Afshan Ahmed meets the La La loopers – The Guinness World Record holders are having four shows and holding workshops for kids at SummerFest Abu Dhabi.
SummerFest: Abu Dhabi in the hoop
Hoop La La, a famous trio from the UK, are in the capital to perform during SummerFest.
World domination with hula hoops is what they are after. In 2008, the UK’s Hoop La La troupe made a fan out of Simon Cowell, the television personality and controversially curt judge of Britain’s Got Talent, and gathered a worldwide audience. Dozens of international shows later, Hoop La La are now in Abu Dhabi to perform at SummerFest.
It began at circus school
Jessie Rose, Tiina Tuomisto and Craig Reid met at Circus Space, the national centre for circus arts in London.
“We met while taking our Circus Arts Degree programme,” says Rose, 27, who was doing a course in hula-hoop skills at the time. “It was around a Mean Girls routine, sometime in 2006.” Tuomisto, who started doing circus performances at the age of 14, was learning the handstand. Reid, a gymnast from Scotland, was training in hula-hooping as well.
Performing for wider audiences became a natural progression of their dynamic rapport and spot-on coordination that was polished at university.
Claim to fame
They did two routines on Britain’s Got Talent in 2008 that lasted only a few seconds each, but Hoop La La continue to get several hits on YouTube for their Hula Heros piece performed in the semi-final round.
“It cannot get bigger than Britain’s Got Talent,” the 28-year-old Reid says, gushing. “It was being watched by 12 billion viewers – a terrifying moment for us, but at the same time memorable. People still remember us from those few moments back on television.”
But was Cowell floored at first? “I don’t think he was too hard to please,” says Tuomisto, 30, about the judges questioning whether they could top their initial act.
“We had pulled out all the stops and Craig went up in the air as well. Cowell did say we won him over in the end. He was just playing hard to impress.”
Since then, the three have added to their repertoire several private performances and charity events in the UK, a show at the Formula One in Bahrain and acts for brands.
The troupe also has three world records to their credit – the biggest hula-hoop dance routine, which involved 600 people (2011), the largest hula-hoop fitness class (2010) and part of the ensemble that participated in the most dance styles danced simultaneously (2009).
Costumes and music are the centrepiece of their elaborate antics.
“Our audition fitness piece on the talent show came from the idea of stretching,” explains Reid. “We had made one for our university ball, so we had fun in mind and we did lots of stuff we liked. Our superhero one was to the 1984 song Holding Out for a Hero. Those costumes and characters suit us and is what we like to do.”
Tuomisto added that they had to rehearse for days in a park and a local gym to perfect it. Her favourite, because she gets to make “silly faces”, is the Bathing Beauties number, with costumes inspired from the 1920s. They also dress up in Santa’s red and spread cheer with their Christmas Spectacular, while special, lit-up hoops twirling in darkness are the highlight of their LED Glow Show.
For Reid, nothing beats the Final Countdown. “It’s a 1980s classic and we have an orchestra version. It is a nice surprise for people when it hits the chorus.”
The fitness mantra
This year, the television personality Kelly Osbourne claimed that she shed more than 30 kilos by hula-hooping. Reid says doing it right does tone the body.
“It is an exciting trend at the moment,” he says. “And it is a fun exercise as well. “Once you learn how to use a hoop, it is good aerobics. We do classes, too.”
The trick to mastering that balance may seem close to impossible to a novice but all it takes is focus – and choosing the right hoop.
“With the right teaching, you can learn the foundation pretty quickly and do lots of tricks,” says Reid.
What to expect
“We are constantly training and creating,” says Rose. “We push our boundaries. That is how we stay fresh.”
She says they are getting new glow costumes and air-hostess uniforms made for future shows.
“Expect a spectacular hula-hoop show in Abu Dhabi,” says Reid. “We have elements of acrobatics, hand balance and acro-balance. We have super hoops that we all can fit into at once. We will give the audience a chance to try it out as well.”
• Hoop La La will be performing on the open stage at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre until August 17. Information about the timings and tickets can be found at www.summerfestabudhabi.ae
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