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Electro Hoop Dreaming.

November 9, 2011


Text by Cary Carr. Images by Rick Kauffman.

Jennifer Dobrydnia literally glows.

A multicolor LED hoop spins effortlessly around her waist, then around her arms, making its way to her legs, all in one seamless transition. It’s impossible to take your eyes off of her. She has fluorescent blonde hair reminiscent of a fifties pinup girl, her bangs curled across the center of her forehead. In a neon pink bikini, she radiates on stage at the Art of Electronica’s event in Philadelphia’s Starlight Ballroom.

As dubstep and electro music boom all around, she lets the beat do the work for her.

Beautiful and modern, Dobrydnia (right) is the queen hooper of Philadelphia, and she’s making her presence known.

In case you didn’t know, hooping is the term for the emerging art form involving dancing with large, customized hoops.

The 25-year-old Dobrydnia got involved in the movement four years ago after watching  fire dancers with hoops at a local party. Inspired and intrigued, she tried it out and instantly got hooked. She worked her way up to fire-eating, fire-hooping and fire-dancing with palm torches and fire fans.

“A lot of hoop dancers are really excited about showing people the way and helping them,” Dobrydnia says, obviously proud to be part of the hooping community. “I just saw what was possible and tried it and tried it until I got it.”

From clubs in D.C. to music festivals in upstate New York, Dobrydnia proves that hooping can be a business, not just a pastime. Currently holding a residency at Whisper night club in Center City as well as at The Pool at Harrah’s in Atlantic City, the celebrity hooper does one-off events all over the Northeast United States. On top of that, Dobrydnia teaches hooping at Studio 34 on Baltimore Avenue and hosts the monthly West Philly Hoop Jam.

To say the least, she’s busy. But Dobrydnia’s love – no, obsession – with music keeps her moving.

“Different types of music help to inspire different types of movement,” Dobrydnia gushes.

Electro, house and dubstep all rouse the platinum-blonde talent to pick up the hoop and put on a show. Thrilled about the city’s recent explosion in the electronic music scene, Dobrydnia says the association between electro and hoopers has helped raise recognition and appreciation of the art form.

“When audiences see you manipulating and moving a prop so effortlessly while dancing, it’s mesmerizing,” Dobrydnia explains, speaking quickly and passionately. “It’s not just a pretty girl dancing at an event – it’s a highly skilled performer.”

As electro-house sensation Mord Fustang winds up the crowd at the Starlight Ballroom, Dobrydnia continues to intertwine her moves with the melodies, a smile cemented on her face. People in the crowd raise their arms in the air, their bodies lifting up and dropping down in sync with the beat. Dobrydnia feeds off their energy, shaking and spinning. Blue and pink lights spray the crowd from behind her, forcing her to become the center of attention.

People try to talk to her, eager for a chance to bathe in her luminosity. But she’s lost in the music, swerving her hips, her hair swinging rhythmically. It’s trancelike.

So what’s Dobrydnia got planned for the future?

Well, on top of performing every weekend, event planning and doing promotional support for different artists in Philadelphia, she works on custom-made hoops for the “endless amount of beginners” who are testing out the trend.

“Worldwide,” Dobrydnia boasts before running off to make even more moves in the hooping scene, “the hooping thing is really catching on.”

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