An ongoing series exploring unusual careers in the inner-west of Melbourne, by Belle Hann.
Hula Hoop Dancer & Teacher
Donna Sparx wanted to be a trapeze artist. As a trainee at the Women’s Circus in Footscray, she had bold dreams of flying through the air above an awe-struck crowd. But as John Lennon once claimed, life is what happens when you are making other plans. A shoulder injury meant she could no longer perform challenging aerial work.
When someone suggested she try hula-hooping instead, Donna was not impressed.
“My life is not what I thought it would be,” she thought. “Playing with a plastic circle?”
Yet she soon fell in love with the practice of hoop dancing. “Hooping was a transformational tool,” she says. “I could see where I was holding myself back and learned to get out of my own way.” Shortly after, she quit her executive management job to focus on hooping full-time.
Donna is now a professional hula-hoop dancer, teacher, and head “hoop honcho” at Hoop Sparx. She offers hoopercise and hoop dance classes across Melbourne, including Footscray. She also teaches for school groups, hen’s nights, and corporate events, as well as holding workshops and performing at festivals.
And she is proud of the diverse range of individuals she teaches. “People say ‘I can’t hula hoop because I’m a bigger person or an older person or a man. There’s lots of barriers that people put in their way.’” But Donna says hoop dance can be for everyone, not just the “young, female, festival-goer in unicorn leggings.” For example, one of her private clients is a man in his mid-seventies.
Like many businesses, Donna Sparx had some difficulties during COVID. However, she used this time to pivot into teaching online classes, with students coming from across Australia and the world. She also created more online content such as video tutorials in hoop dance techniques. Though COVID continues to be uncertain, Donna is back to teaching in-person classes in the local area.
Being an intensely physical job, Donna says she has to take extra care of her body to prevent injuries. She also can’t eat a huge dinner before teaching a hoop class. She says the best part of her job is seeing student’s start to love hoop dancing. “Seeing the transformation to someone challenged and frustration to elation, surprise and joy…is incredibly rewarding.”
So if you are sick of the gym, why not try Donna’s hoop dancing classes in Footscray? It might just change your life.
Wednesdays, 7:30-8:45pm at The Body Voice Centre (bookings essential). Learn more at www.hoopsparx.com.