Hill residents can spend their early mornings learning to hula hoop and even dance with fire from a Burning Man performer.
Professional hula hooper and fire entertainer Caitlin Matanle, aka Spinnabel Lee, is teaching lessons at CrossFit Capitol Hill (1502 Massachusetts Ave. SE). The private sessions offer playful cardio exercise and creative expression, she said.
“Depending on your personal style, you can run away and join the circus for an hour, or have a meditative experience, or dance, or all three,” she said.
Dancers learn to twirl hoops around their waists, arms, hands and legs. Once they master basic moves, they graduate to spinning multiple hoops and even working with hoops set on fire. Those students get extensive safety training in the physics of fire and how to avoid burns, Matanle said.
“There’s no secret,” she said, noting that spokes on the hoops are set on fire, not the hoops themselves.
Matanle, 30, started offering lessons on the Hill in September and will start small-group sessions soon. She teaches outdoors in the warmer months, on the tennis courts at Payne Elementary School (1445 C St. SE).
The Reston resident first saw fire performance in 2006, in Guatemala. She learned hoop dance in 2009 and now teaches and performs full time, doing shows everywhere from “buttoned-up” corporate events to weddings to churches. She has performed three times at Burning Man, the wild festival held annually in the northern Nevada desert.
Hula hooping offers much-needed play to people with serious jobs, Matanle said.
“The thing about hula hooping is it’s not just good exercise — it’s playful and fun,” she said. “You kind of forget that you’re exercising. I never forget that I went to the gym.”
Photos courtesy of Caitlin Matanle/Devon Rowland Photography/Heather Coburn Photography