Spin doctor works the downtown crowd

The Johnson & Wales student twirls in downtown Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Forget everything you thought you knew about the hula hoop and take a look at what a local college freshman is doing with 1950s fad.

“Some of my friends think I’m a little crazy because I’m a little obsessed with it,” Abi Rubin said, spinning a couple of colorful hoops as she talks. “But then they try it and like it.”

The 19-year-old Johnson & Wales student twirls indoors too, but she’d rather get the world involved, twisting what you gave a whirl to in the privacy of your backyard into a something very public. We watched her work the crowd in Kennedy Plaza, but she also likes to take her variety of hoops to India Point Park.

“Would you guys be interested in trying out my hula hoop?” she asked a couple of people who were registering residents to vote.

She convinced one to spin a hoop around her arm and neck and the other to give it a try in a more conventional way.

“I was about 7 last time I hula hooped,” the man said, smiling with a green hoop rotating around his waist.

At another corner, she convinced a woman to try it, but she’s not as successful.

“I can’t do it,” she said, laughing as a pink hoop falls to the sidewalk.

“I can convince some people,” said Rubin. “When they see me do the crazy stuff, they’re like, maybe not. But mostly I can get strangers to do it.”

“Just give it a nice spin,” she told a couple of skeptical teenagers.

And soon – they’re spinning and smiling.

According to Rubin, “hooping” is gaining popularity with groups known as “hoop troupes.” She’s working on forming one in Providence, but in the meantime this spin on exercise continues for this college student who insists she used to be shy.

“I was, but when I’m out here, I just sort of break free,” she said, smiling and still hooping. “You never get bored of it because there’s always something new to learn and you talk to friends and they have ideas for new moves to do.”

Send story ideas to Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.

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