Dancer hoops it up
Ish Yakub isn't afraid to jump over waterfalls and dance through fire. There's sometimes a downside to having such an adventurous spirit.
Her jump over a waterfall — while on a backpacking trip through Laos — left her with a broken elbow in 2011. The real pain hit her once she returned home.
“I couldn't go to the gym, I couldn't do yoga,” said the accountant. “I was working until midnight.”
She was “mesmerised” by a girl hoop dancing at a party and sought out Toronto's only teacher, Sadie Spins.
“I fell completely in love. It was like entering this magical playground,” she said.
“If I came in angry, I could feel it melt away. It gave me that space to process my thoughts and feel calmer. I love, love, love to dance and I'd never had that structured teaching. When I found my hoop, for me it was finding dance. It's the perfect blend of dance, fitness, meditation and self-expression.”
The “natural extrovert” began performing the following year.
Ms Yakub, 28, was born and raised in Dubai but moved to Canada at 17. When her career took her to Bermuda, she didn't expect to find a hooping community but an invitation to speak at TEDx brought fast
She volunteered with flame performers Rockfire and danced at Earth Hour, City Hall and Harbour Nights and taught her first class last November.
The two-hour workshop gives you everything you need to start a beginner practice.
“In Toronto I had such a large hoop community of incredible women and men, but there really isn't any of that community here,” she said. “That's why I started teaching — because I love to share it.
“As adults we've forgotten how to play. I want to invite people to step outside of themselves for a moment and find new ways to move.
“At a gym you're comparing yourself to others around you and with this, there's no judgment. There's no right or wrong way to move. It's exploration and the hoop is effective because you remember it as a child's toy.
“You're smiling as soon as you hold it.”
There have been some hairy moments along the way. At 2015's Leroyfest, her boyfriend was helping her set up her flaming hoop at the Aquarium when she noticed that some
of the wicks weren't straight.
“I was so busy telling him off that I didn't notice my hair was still down,” she recalled. “He had already lit my hoop and there were 200 people in front of me so I started hooping.
“Usually I bring the hoop up to my neck and do a dip while it's on fire. I had to improvise and find other movements that didn't involve it coming near my face.”
She said one of the greatest benefits is self-confidence.
“I definitely have a dance alter ego. When I'm performing on stage, something else comes out. It's very passionate and fiery.
“I've never been a curvy girl and I grew up with a lot of curvy girls in Dubai who could all belly dance.
“It allowed me to get really comfortable in my body and to be unapologetically sexy and sensual.”
Hooping is great for “all fitness levels, all energies”, she added.
“It caters to all shapes and sizes; men and women. I've seen women in their 60s get fit as hell in two years with big smiles on their faces.
“You're not jumping up and down. You're not lifting weights. You're not doing yoga and stretching every single part of yourself. It's very low impact.
“I fell in love with it because of what it did for my stress, but also because I built an amazing group of friends and a really amazing, supportive community. I'd really like to build that here.”
Two-hour workshops, $55, will resume next month with proceeds to benefit the Women's Resource Centre.
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