Art & Design


Hayley Hoopla

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One cold evening, I took to the Moroccan Soup Bar to spin a yarn with independent Hula Hoop Artist and Costumier, Hayley Hoopla. The range of hats that she wears to make a living from her craft is as vast as the delicious dishes we were presented with during this banquet slash interview: She runs a Hoop Army, performs at many festivals and events, makes the costumes and more all with her upbeat part gangsta (Hoop Dogg) flair.

‘The world’s most liveable city’ is home to all kinds of artists with special stories to share. Hers started from a young age, performing at her mum’s Jazz Funk dance concerts; a family affair where Nana would make costumes and her sister would help paint the backdrop. Flash forward to moving to Melbourne to study costume making, just across the road from Prahan’s NICA where she peered in the windows and fell in love with hoop and circus. That was 13 years ago, and since then has jumped through every hoop to make quirky, engaging work that offers us an escape from the mundane and sprinkles it with magic. She is driven by the ability to bring something to life from her imagination and bring joy.

How do you work?
Very randomly. I would like routine but it’s tricky. The hardest thing is scheduling time off, but time off brings the ideas. Often I split a day into 3 – mornings are for admin, in the afternoon I train and evening teach/ have gigs or sew.

What role do you think the artist has in society?
The world would be boring without artists. Our job is to make beauty, art, joy. All humans need to express themselves. And in any art form it doesn’t matter what it is. Artists have a very important role – to live with passion and not be afraid to show it. Because by showing it, other humans can live vicariously through them!

I performed at the Winter Night Market last night and had a whole bunch of hoops and invited kids and adults to come and play. My favourite was part seeing the adults play with the hoops. I even forget to play even though my work is fun! Feeling like a kid again de-stresses you.

How has your practice change over time?
At one point I found myself creating things that would make money- things that are popular or marketable. Now I make what I want to honour. I have become more efficient. Lately I have been thinking on a larger scale and working as a team, like with Hoop Army. I love that it’s a strong group of women coming together and creating. If you are a painter you get to see your work on the wall every day after it’s complete. As a performer you don’t get to see yourself. I always make sure I get good video to maintain my confidence.

What do you dislike about the art world?
Gigs in shopping malls. Ha!
At some gigs when aerialists are hanging from the ceiling or doing a backflip people don’t even give a shit. All gigs are different.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Oh! When I was in grade 4 I had a rainbow coloured pencil that said “believe in yourself and you will succeed”.

Where in Melbourne do you go to create/get inspired?
If I want to hoop it out, Edinburgh gardens with a speaker. I create in my sewing studio and train at Alternative Womens’ Fitness. I love going to Circus OZ and their Melba Spiegletent. Also out the front of NGV at night, with the blue lights and the trees….. I feel like an artist there.

What is the strangest/most memorable reaction you have had to a performance?
The Victorian multicultural arts festival. People of all ages and ethnicities playing with hoops together. I felt lucky to connect with so many people, the laughter was so cathartic. It reminded me why I do this, looking around, beaming with love.
And, with full bellies, we talked off the record more. Hayley Hoopla is a generous, warm-hearted artist who is more about putting smiles on people’s faces than politics. She lights up the stage with fun and comedy.

Hayley Hoopla
Instagram: @hayleyhoopla
Facebook: Hoopdoggakahayleyhoopla

Photo credit: Hayley in studio: Ivannacaptureyou; Hayley in pineapple costume: Chris Mitchell

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