For those who are self taught and even those who aren’t, I’m sure you would have heard the big buzz about SaFire, she hails from Edmonton and is one of Canada’s highly respected Hoop Dancers. Known for her amazing abilities as a teacher and performer of all things hoop & poi related. She’s so well renowned that she secured herself a Outstanding Hoop Instructor of the Year 2008 Hoopie Award
(nominated and voted for by the global hooping community) and was an
absolute success with her Clipstar.com entry which spawned an army of
SaFire supporters, fans & well wishers!
I know how incredibly busy you are so I’m absolutely overjoyed that you agreed to answer my questions! I could hardly contain myself when you said yes! How are you SaFire?
I’m doing very well. The weather is warming up. I’m getting excited. ; )
I’ve always been intrigued by your performance name and have enjoyed speculating how you might have come up with it. Now I’m in a position to simply ask! What inspired you to come up with the name SaFire?
Since I spin poi and staff as
well as the hoop, I knew my performance name shouldn’t be a hoop
specific name; so I went for something fire related. I almost went with the name Ember but somehow that didn’t seem right. I don’t exactly remember how I thought of the name SaFire but I do have a crazy story about the name. A few months ago I was home for the holidays and went through some of my artwork from high school. Well I’ll be damned if I didn’t do a blue pastel drawing of a fiery planet in grade 10 and titled it Sa-Fire. Crazy hey!
When did you first encounter hooping? What was it that initially drew you to it?
I first saw hooping at Shambhala, a music festival in B.C. I
had been spinning fire poi for 6 months at that point and when I saw a
woman fire hooping I just knew it was something I wanted to try. I was already addicted to fire spinning so having six balls of fire surrounding me instead of just two was even more appealing!
After seeing hoop dance for the first time how long was it before you decided to explore hooping yourself and buy a hoop?
I spent a good couple of months just watching hoop videos before I started hooping. I
was obsessed and spent hours laying in bed searching for new videos to
watch. It wasn’t until November 2006 that I made my first hoop and
started to play.
How did you go about acquiring your skills? Did you attend any classes or courses? If you didn’t how did you become aware of the possibilities with the hoop?
I’m completely self-taught. Even now I’ve still never seen an instructional hooping DVD. I learned with patience and lots of practice. Hours
and hours were spent watching YouTube videos and pressing play and
pause over and over, reversing the video and watching it again. Really, I can’t believe that YouTube doesn’t have a “slow video down” feature. Imagine how many videos of crazy accidents could benefit from a slow instant reply feature.
Did you hoop on your own primarily or did you find a hooping community to become involved in?
When I first started I had no one to hoop with, so what I did was start a class at the University to create some fellow hoopers. This is where I developed a lot of my hoop teaching skills. I
was teaching tricks as I was learning them. This is what made me a
better teaching because I was learning how to verbally explain what was
happening as I was learning. For example, when
you ask an expert how to do something often they don’t really know how
to explain it because they have already internalized the movement. For
me, I was just as awkward with the hoop as my students so it was easy
to understand the problems they were having and troubleshoot
What move proved challenging for you to learn initially? What advice would you give to encourage new hoopers to persevere with a new move they find difficult?
I’ve been working really hard on the Scissor Switch. It’s
where you are hooping on your knees, bring a leg out and reverse the
hoop with that leg and step back in to hooping the opposite direction. I can do it, but not consistently. There’s
something I’m missing still but once I figure out what I’m doing
differently between when it works and when it doesn’t, that’s when I’ll
If you’re having trouble with a new move remember to take a break every so often, try learning it in five-minute increments. You’ll be surprised when you come back to something and suddenly it just works.
You do a lot of exceptional performance work, you’re fantastic! How do you prepare for you performances? What techniques do you use to help you focus and stay grounded before going on stage? Do you choreograph your performances or prefer to freeform? Any golden choreography tips you can share? :o)
I prepare for a show by first choosing the music and just hooping to it. I play around and see what my body comes up with. I
listen for major breaks in the song and decide what trick will look
good at certain times. Usually I choose something that has several
different musical sections or increases in volume or speed throughout
the song so that I can hoop in more than one style within one
performance. I have done freeform and
choreographed shows but I find the most effective ones are when I
choreograph the routine in chunks, rather than second by second. I would recommend this to any hooper doing a performance. Listen to your music and break it into chunks of tricks. For
example, a slow intro could focus on vertical hooping tricks, a medium
speed middle could be on the body and a fast ending could be multi
hooping. As you get more experienced your chunks will become smaller and more detailed until your choreography becomes second by second.
of the first clips I saw of you on youtube was your clipstar entry, I
was so glad to see someone hooping to rock music for starters, I love
most music but in my heart guitars press my buttons most! For those that don’t know can you tell me about that competition, how you got on and the outcome?
That video was originally filmed when I made a costume for a performance and wanted to see what it looked like hooping. After watching the video I thought, “Wow! That’s pretty good!” I hadn’t seen footage of myself hooping recently so I decided to keep the footage. Two weeks later at like three in morning I stumbled onto Clipstar.com. It was a video competition and when I saw they had a dance category I decided to enter that video. Two months went by and when the voting ended I had won the semi-finals and was awarded a $10,000 prize! It
was perfect timing too because I had just broken both of my two front
teeth and since I’m self-employed I don’t have dental care and couldn’t
afford to get them fixed. The finals prize for
the competition was planned to be a million dollars but Clipstar has
been down for months so sadly the sentence, “girl wins million dollars
hula hooping” will never be a headline. It was really fun to think about winning a million dollars, but really, a girl can only own so many hoops. ;)
Continuing with the Clipstar clip, I must comment on your outfit! It is totally gorgeous! Who designed it? Do you have a line of SaFire clothes available?
You like it! I made that costume and have done several others since then. If you’re interested in handmade clothing and costumes check out my site at www.safiredance.com
now I make everything myself and most of the items are one of a kind
but in the future I hope to choose several of my most popular designs
and having a whole line created and available on the site.
I saw a clip on youtube of you doing motivational work with teenagers. What an awesome idea. Tell me more about how you can communicate and motivate young people with hoop dance? I’d love to hear about the impact of your workshops on the young people you worked with, did you get any feedback you can share? Have you done any for young people who may have been excluded from school for social behavioural issues?
I LOVE doing motivational presentations; it is by far the most rewarding part of my job. The
presentation is called “Inspire Through Fire” and includes 15 minutes
of fire performing and 45 minutes of talking and audience participation. The show puts a focus on believing in yourself, finding your passion and forgetting about the bullies in life. During
the show I share my personal story of being bullied as a child, dealing
with insecurities and finally finding a passion that keeps me excited
about life. Afterwards I always have several students come up to me and share their own hardships. It’s been an amazing experience to hear their stories and I hope that my story can help them to stay strong through tough times.
Do you think hoop dance has other hidden benefits apart from those that impact our physiques? Can you tell us about those?
is very meditative; it allows you to focus on something other than your
worries or the massive to-do list of things you have to get done. It has a calming effect that I haven’t found in anything else.
You do some pretty amazing work with fire, wow! I did some fire hooping last year and as soon as it’s warm enough for me to be outside I’ll continue my exploration of it! It’s quite exhilarating and rousing to do and to watch! What is it about fire hooping that you enjoy so much? Can you explain the difference in weight of a fire hoop un-lit to lit? Do you have any tips you can share about the best way to practice and hone fire hooping skills? You even hoop with two fire hoops, that’s something else! :o) Wow!
I love fire hooping because I love the warmth and sound of the rushing flame surrounding my entire body. I especially love double fire hooping because it’s still really intense for me. Right when I pick up the second hoop it’s incredibly hot and even now I’m always humbled by the heat. I’m hoping to have a few triple fire hoop tricks ready for this summer.
Tips for new fire hoopers is to wear clothing made out of natural fibers. Synthetic fibers will melt to your skin rather than burn and that is much worse. Practice
with your fire hoop unlit before busting out the flame and if you’re
nervous consider lighting only half of the spokes to get yourself
comfortable with the flame.
Talking of your incredible skill! You’re multiple hooping is in keeping with the rest of your work, awesome! At what point in your hooping life did you introduce multiple hooping?
I hooped with only one hoop for over a year before deciding to try two. People
were always asking, “how many can you do?” but I wanted to make sure I
had a solid foundation with one before trying to take on multiple hoops.
What is your physical background? If you’re already experienced in dance can you tell me what dance disciplines you’ve done (ballet, tap, jazz, street dance)?
have never taken a dance class in my life, I’m normally very clumsy and
it’s only been because of the hoop that I’ve really become interested
I know that you like circus skill and are incredibly adept in spinning poi and all sorts of things I’m probably unaware of. What is it about these types of physical disciplines that is so appealing to you? What is on your list to learn next?
I like the mental challenge that comes with learning a new trick. It’s like a puzzle for my mind and then a puzzle for my body. A new skill that I’m working on is aerial arts. Right now I am learning the trapeze and one day I hope to perform on aerial silks.
What changes in your physique have you noticed since you’ve begun hoopdancing?
When I first started hoop dancing I lost 10 pounds right away. It may not seem like much but I’ve always been small and to lose that much on someone who’s already tiny is a lot. They always say that the last 10 pounds are the hardest to lose but not when hooping!
I mentioned already that you have won the Oustanding Hoop Instructor of the Year 2008 Hoopie Award, congratulations how do you feel about that? As a renowned instructor what advice would you give men to encourage them to explore hoopdance?
was really excited to see that I was nominated in four different
categories but I’m happiest that I won in the Instructor of the Year
category. What I would mention to men is that
hoop dancing is not a specific style of dance, it is a series of tricks
that can be done with the hoop and you decide how you dance. If you’re a ballerina you can do ballet hoop dancing, if you’re a break dancer you can break dance hoop dance. You decide how you dance in the hoop and it can be moved in so very many ways that it isn’t something just for the ladies.
You’ve been very generous with your knowledge with much advice for hoopers out there. What inspired you to share your approach to hooping?
was inspired to create video tutorials because I found that many of the
videos that were labelled as a “tutorial” were not really tutorials at
all, they just displayed the trick or had a very short explanation that
didn’t give enough detail. So I decided to help out by making simple to understand and detailed tutorials.
I really enjoy listening to the music you use in your videos, what’s on the SaFire music hot list at the moment?
Lately I’m been listening to an Eastern Sun album called In Emptiness as well as the new Rise Against album Appeal to Reason.
You’re all the way over in Canada SaFire to far for me to pop in and hoop it up with you, any plans to go international and perform around the globe?
Nothing planned so far, but maybe one day I’ll do a workshop tour and backpack across Europe with a hoop and a smile.
I love your online hooping community SaFire! What an awesome site it is! I couldn’t wait to check it out once I heard about it! What exciting things have you got planned for you online members? In fact what exciting events have you planned in your hooping calendar you can share with us?
Plans for the community include the launch of online hooping classes. Right now I have eight classes planned and the first one will launch Monday, February 9th. When I released my YouTube tutorials I had dozens of hoop dancers message me asking when I’d be selling an instructional DVD. I always wanted to make one but decided to do it in a more environmentally friendly way. With
the SaFire Hoop Dancing Community, members will have the option of
paying for registered online classes that will contain dozens of high
quality video tutorials in an online classroom environment. Students
will be able to ask me personal questions, upload videos of their
progress and chat with other hoopers in the same class. When I first started hooping I was all alone. To those who don’t know other hoopers in your area, you don’t have to feel alone anymore.
Check out www.safiredance.ning.com
I can’t believe I just interviewed you, thank you so much for your time
and generosity and I’m sure I speak for thousands of online hoopers
when we commend you for your contribution to hooping! SaFire keep the hooping love burning! Woo hoo! Big up your hooping self!