All her life Jamie Grimes had been told not to exercise or exert herself because she was a severe asthmatic. That all changed when she discovered a fad from the '50s that has evolved from a simple children's toy to a serious fitness craze.
About four years ago Grimes, of Minot, was talking with a friend who was also a fitness buff about her problem finding exercises to do that wouldn't aggravate her asthma. The friend asked Grimes if she had ever tried Hula-Hooping. It was something she had never considered, and after doing some research online and buying her first hoop, Grimes was instantly hooked.
"As soon as I picked it up I realized, 'wow, there's more I can do with this than just regular Hula-Hooping.' I found actual hoop dancing and it quickly became my passion," Grimes said. "It helped my asthma a lot, it's helped just overall my mental health, my physical health and I've decided that's kind of what I would like to do for a living and bring that to others."
Dan Feldner/MDN •
Jamie Grimes, of Minot, twirls her favorite custom-made hoop above her head Tuesday in her back yard. Along with making hoops of various sizes and styles, she also teaches a hooping class at Oak Park and fire dances.
For those who don't believe hooping can give a serious workout, Grimes said you can burn as many calories in an hour of hooping - up to 600 - as you can on a treadmill.
Her new passion quickly turned into a way of life. Grimes went from using the hoop as an exercise tool to using it as an art form with various hoop dance moves that can be every bit as complicated as those found on a dance floor.
Not satisfied with the quality of the cheap plastic hoops found in stores, Grimes learned how to make her own hoops with high-quality tubing and sells them in a variety of sizes, colors and designs from her online shop, Hoopspiration, which is at (www.hoopspiration.etsy.com). Her hoops are also sold in Hemp Horizonz, a local store located at 2001-8th Ave. SE, Ste. 9, directly behind the Capri Bar.
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"The ones you buy in the store are just like light plastic, mostly filled with water, and by the time you get them at Walmart they're already broken," Grimes said. "But the ones I make are made out of irrigation tubing and I spend a small fortune in tapes to make them look nice."
Grimes loves hooping so much she teaches free community lessons in Oak Park twice a week. Currently the lessons are held Thursday and Sunday at 6 p.m. off to the side of the Fourth Avenue entrance to Oak Park, across the street from Allen Realty in Oak Park Shopping Center.
If even one person shows up, Grimes will stay there as long as there is light and help teach how to hoop. However, she said groups of up to 30 people have attended the lessons before, which aren't very formal and are comprised more of people enjoying themselves while hooping, with Grimes giving tips or lessons to those who ask for them.
"It's not like a structured class but it's a community where we can all get together, play together, low stress," she said.
Once the weather gets colder Grimes will move the lessons indoors, possibly to the Minot State University Dome.
She is also looking at the possibility of creating formal lessons that people could take for a fee that would be highly structured and teach the ins and outs of hooping one step at a time.
It was around two years ago that Grimes discovered another form of dancing that really lit a creative fire under her, or more appropriately, on her.
"I'd been Hula-Hooping for a couple years and I went to a festival and saw fire dancers, and I was enthralled. I loved watching it and then I wanted to be one of those people at a festival doing the fire dancing," she said. "And now a couple years later I've picked up not just fire hooping, but I also do fire fans, fire eating, fire fleshing, and I do contact staff on fire.
"And now I am one of those people at the festival fire dancing."
The fire dancing is no gimmick, as Grimes dances with objects that are quite literally on fire with no protection other than the clothes on her back.
For hoop dancing, several parts of the hoop are lit on fire while she twirls it around her body doing most, but not all, of the tricks and moves normally done with a hoop. The contact staff is a 5-foot staff with both ends on fire which she twirls and spins around and across her body. Tosses and catches are also part of her contact staff routine.
The fire fans are five-pronged fans that can be spun and twirled in a variety of ways.
"A friend of mine and I are working on choreography right now to do a (routine) to some music so we can actually get paid for some performances with those," Grimes said.
Fire eating is the act of extinguishing a flame in one's mouth, while fire fleshing uses the performer's body to transfer a flame from one area to another in spectacular fashion.
"I do transfers where I light one wick with my hand. I can catch the flame, hold it, move it to the next wick. ... Or my fire-eating fans, I can start them on my leg or pretty much any part of your body. Some parts are a little more sensitive than others," she said with a laugh.
Grimes has yet to be burned during any of her fire dances, which is due to the extreme importance she places on safety. She had no one to teach her this particular art form so she did extensive research on it before ever igniting a flame. Later on, she was able to go to a workshop in Minnesota to learn more.
One of the most important things Grimes does to successfully fire dance is wear appropriate attire. That means clothing made out of 100-percent cotton, hemp fibers, wool and leather.
"Anything natural, if it does go up in flames, will burn off you," she said. "Anything plastic will melt to you and cause more burns."
Learning the physics of fire was also important. Grimes uses a portable camping grill fuel made by Coleman because it burns cooler than other types of fuels. When she transfers flames from one part of her body to another, the flame is actually burning the fuel rather than her skin.
Grimes practices her fire dancing during the hoop lessons she gives at Oak Park, and has trained some of her students in fire safety so they can be safety spotters for her. While no one has been brave enough to take lessons on the actual fire dancing itself, Grimes said she is more than willing to teach if someone wants to do it and takes the many safety aspects involved very seriously.
A huge hooping community has evolved across the country in the past few years, with new moves and even specific hooping outfits being developed all the time. Add to that Web sites devoted solely to using Hula-Hoops for fun as well as fitness and hoop-specific exercise classes at local gyms, and this looks to be something that isn't going away anytime soon.
Hooping has been a life-changer for Grimes, both physically and mentally. From helping her lose weight and easing her asthma symptoms to twirling away all the stress and tension built up after a rough day, Grimes literally jumps through hoops to make herself feel better, and wouldn't have it any other way.
"I get really, really good exercise on top of play time and it doesn't even feel like you're exercising - it just feels like you're playing, feels like you're dancing. It's helped me a lot just to relieve stress. You know I'm having a bad day, I can pick up a Hula-Hoop, blast some music pretty loud and dance all that energy and tension away. And the fact that it's helped my asthma, too," she said. "I go for a week without hooping, I can get a little cranky."