Ish 7

Image Courtesy of Chris Ingham

Ishrat Yakub. My highschool memories are rife with conversations with her about all things art, music, social norms, religion, politics, love and life. At such a young age, she was always full of wisdom and surprises. We had hours worth of conversations about the deepest epiphanies and as a teenager, she opened my eyes to a world of paradoxes, adventures, mystery and confusion that I had not experienced with anyone else. She captivated me with her perfectly winged eyeliner that she came with to school and had fiery red hair (long before “rainbow hair” was a “thing”). She was often told off by our school teachers for having bold hair and makeup on but she didn’t care. She stood her ground and remained true to herself. She did not let authorities bully her around and expressed herself however way she saw fit. She was strong, confident, spontaneous, vulnerable, honest, loving and honestly…the definition of a badass.

Ish and I parted ways after graduating from highschool. I remained in the UAE while she went to pursue other greater things in Canada and Bermuda. We didn’t talk much, but I found myself thinking about her often, wondering what adventure she was leading and who’s life she was filling with her loud and bright light. I followed her social media quite a bit (in other words, I creepily stalked her Facebook) and pictures of her hooping would often pop up in my feed. I stared at her beauty from afar…thinking to myself: “That is so Ish!”, looking at her pictures with her infectious smile, hair flowing in the wind and her dancing inside a plastic circle that was foreign to me at the time. Little did I know, that that plastic circle was going to be my best friend a few years later.

Watching Ishrat hoop vicariously through her pictures and videos on social media was inspiring, yet I never thought of picking up the hoop myself. It was “her”thing, and I enjoyed watching her in her element and smiled to myself as this beauty unfolded before my eyes, like a rose blooming, spreading her tender scented petals for the world to see. It wasn’t until I watched her “rainy day hooping” video that I realised just how overwhelmingly breathtakingly beautiful this form of self-expression was. That, along with another video that I’d seen online (more on that to come in another post!), got me hooked and convinced me that I needed to have this art form in my life.

I have not seen Ish in almost a decade, but we’ve always been connected, in spirit, through occasional communication online…and now…through the hoop.

In the series “Hoopers around the world”, I will be featuring hoopers from all over and talk to them about their experiences and journey. Through this series I hope to highlight how unique each one of us is, yet how essentially we are all the same…and how through the magic of a plastic circle this sameness and differences are captured.  We will be seeing these beautiful souls…through the lens of a hoop.

Thank you Ish for your time to answer these questions! Ishrat was awesome enough to make a free-flow video just for this blog post. Catch it here! Furthermore, Ishrat has a beautiful and inspiring Ted Talk on how hooping has influenced her life.

Today’s hooper hails from Bermuda:

1) Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from? Where you grew up? What is your profession?

That is a loaded question 😉 I am originally from Bangladesh but I was born and raised in Al Ain, followed by Dubai, eventually moving to Toronto when I was 17. So that makes me a Bengali-Canadian who currently lives in Bermuda. I originally studied art history, with the intention of becoming an artist but switched gears and ended up getting an accounting degree. I am now a CPA working in the hedge fund industry. Little did I know, I would find art through a hula hoop.

Ish 2

Image courtesy of Akil Simmons

2) How did you start hula hooping?

I had just started working at an audit firm working crazy long hours and was quite stressed out. I had also broken my elbow in a backpacking trip in Laos that year so had been healing a few months out of surgery and couldn’t really do too much active stuff. I saw a girl hula hooping at a party and it just looked so incredible so I found Sadie Spins, my hoop mama, in Toronto and fell hopelessly in love with her classes. It was like entering a magical playground that instantly gave me joy. I met a whole bunch of incredible women that year and we all learned together. That was November 2010 and I haven’t stopped since.


3) What does hooping mean to you? How does it influence your life? What positive changes did it bring about?

Hooping to me means in one word, space. Being naturally quite extroverted, it gives me the space to quieten my thoughts and process them, it gives me the space to find movement and dance, the space to vent without anger and be vulnerable, the space to create instead of consume, the space to be unapologetically sexy and sensual.  In performance, it gives me the space to find my alter ego: on a really good day, someone that is able to connect to an audience and tell a story through creation of wonder and a bit of magic.

Best of all, it gives me the space to reach flow, that state of bliss unlike any other.

It has brought endless positive to my life, most of all an incredible group of friends. Also, great opportunities, one of them being my Tedx talk in Bermuda and of course, the ability to make people smile.

4) How much time do you spend hooping daily/weekly?

I try and hoop for a few hours every week, depending on work schedule and other hobbies.

Ish 3

Image Courtesy of Chris Ingham Photography

5) What is your favourite music to hoop to?

One of the loves of my life is House music. I love the way it matches my heartbeat and just gets me dancing and in a happy trance right away. So lots of different DJs in the deep house, afro house, progressive house genre. Currently, I’m digging Solomun, Atish and Osunlade. I also love to get down to chill downtempo music, often with female vocals. It forces me to slow it down to delicious sensual flow with deliberate movement. Right now, FKA Twigs and Bonobo is doing that for me.

6) How many hoops do you own?

Maybe about 20, my everday hoops, a fire hoop, minis and a whole bunch of beginner hoops. Believe it or not, I don’t have any fancy LED hoops.

7) What is your favourite hula hoop to hoop with and why?

My babies are two 32 inch, Synergy polypro hoops with shimmery orange sunset tape, 3M grip on the inside and 4 sectional for easy travel. They have what feels like a liquid reactivity to them, like they’re an extension of my hands and the size suits me.

Ish 4

Image Courtesy of Adrian Kawaley-Lathan (Rockfire Productions)

8) Who is your biggest hoop inspiration?

Sadie Spins, my hoop mama, will always be my greatest inspiration because she taught me the magic of the hoop and she has such a graceful, playful performance style I can’t get enough of. I love watching Shakti Sunfire spin because of her attention to details like the lines she creates and her inherent musicality. Spiral inspires me quite a bit as well because you can just see how much energy she puts into her art, it is fierce and passionate.

9) Have you gone to any hoop retreats? If yes- can you share your experiences with us? Do you have a favourite retreat and why?

I went to Hoopcamp in California the first year I found hooping. I could only waist hoop! So I was just a beginner taking it all in. That’s probably why I had such a good time, I wasn’t worried about learning everything but just enjoying that I had found a hoop and had all these things I could learn. HoopPath with Baxter is amazing because you get to go deep, get introspective and tap into your spiritual side and come out of it feeling completely open, aware, loving and a total badass.

10) What is your most memorable hoop memory? Tell us the story.

One of my first hoop performances in Bermuda! They close the streets down for Harbour Nights, which is a street festival in the summer and I was performing with Rockfire,my fire troupe here. I had put a lot of effort into choreographing  and was nervous about performing for a large group in a new country. Out of the blue, the performance felt completely natural. There was a large crowd cheering and a lot of my friends showed up. There was a woman directly in front of me who just had the biggest smile on her face,The song was Nina Simone’s’ Feeling Good.’ And I suddenly felt so good, to have made the decision to leave Toronto for a tiny island in the middle of nowhere which became one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Ish 5

Image Courtesy of Nick Coghlin

11) Have you faced any challenges hula hooping? If yes please elaborate.

Absolutely. I have always called it a labour of love. There are times when I get frustrated when I just can’t figure something out. You’ll see people pick something up in a minute that took you forever to get. That’s when I remind myself about how much I love the process, the fact that I have the chance to learn all these movements I don’t know yet, how lucky I am to have found my plastic circle! Practically, I break it down, baby steps, get one part of the trick and celebrate that or just stop working on it and work on something else. I think it is important to just let it go sometimes.  I am happy to put it down or leave my hoop at home and bust out into pure dancing. Nothing beats that. Or I’ll go awhile without hooping. Then, when I get back to my hoop it is much more rewarding because my brain and body  has had a chance to not think about it and come back to it with a fresh perspective. What has been the most challenging though is being an ‘island’ hooper. I am one of the very few hoopers here in Bermuda and I sure miss the access to jams, workshops and a group of inspiring hoopers. It makes me push myself extra hard, which can be a good and a bad thing.

12) Have you tried any other flow arts? If yes- which one(s) and how was your experience?

I have been playing a little with the flow wand. Its quite fun but tricky once you lose the balance. Have done a bit of poi as well.


Ish 6

Image Courtesy of Akil Simmons

13) Finally- what advice would you give some who is new to hooping and just starting out?

Enjoy the Process. Don’t always get caught up with the next trick. Instead, enjoy the learning process and find your own style. Safire’s ‘Love the process’ video is one I always go back to that remind me of that.

Jams are where I’ve always learnt the most, being inspired by everyone else’s flow and just playing for hours and getting lost in my hoop.

Ish 8

Image Courtesy of Mark Achbar