Rachel Bowen-Jones started dancing at the age of two-and-a-half and studied a variety of dance genres as she grew up. Her dream was to be a professional dancer, to travel the world performing and to eventually have her own dance school.
However, her dreams were crushed when she was just 21, after she injured her foot. Not realising she had a serious injury because her x-ray did not show up any broken bones, like many dancers, Rachel continued to dance, expecting her foot to recover in time.
Months later and still in excruciating pain, an MRI scan revealed that, in fact, she had shattered a bone in the ball of her foot and her continued dancing had not only aggravated the injury but had cut off the blood supply to that part of her foot.
Sadly, Rachel had to give up her dream and her dancing course to undergo three years of treatments which included the wearing of an Air Boot, specially made insoles, a plaster cast, surgery and intense physiotherapy until November 2016 when she was finally able to start exercising again. However, it was not easy, as she explained.
“Dance was the only exercise I loved, nothing fed my soul and made me happy as much as dancing did. I hadn’t danced or exercised since before my injury, so to get back into fitness, it was a shock and I had also lost my confidence.”
Rachel spent 2017 trying to resume her dancing classes but her new lifestyle made it a challenge to attend after work and to then commute home. She accepted that dancing would no longer be a part of her life which was a struggle because “dance is how I express myself and let go. To put it at peace, as I wasn’t at the level I ever dreamed of reaching, I looked up to those who are professionals, as well as friends I had trained with who had gone away to study full time. I knew I would always love and appreciate dance for what it was because it has always and would always be a part of me and what I breathe.”
Life went on without the dancing until January 2018 when Rachel purchased a weighted hula hoop from EBay for £6. “It was instant love!” She taught herself to hula hoop and began to incorporate exercises from her physiotherapy routines and then she combined dance moves and choreographed sequences. It was a natural progression and her dormant passion was rekindled.
Rachel explained to me: “This is who I was, this is what I did, I just wanted to dance, so I taught myself to dance in the hula hoop. Whenever music came on, I would just let go. I never really shared it with anyone and always kept it to myself. It brought back dancing into my life and it just made me so happy.”
When Rachel became cabin crew in 2018, she took with her, around the world, the collapsible weighted hula hoop because it fitted into her cabin bag and was “a perfect exercise tool for me to take away!”
In March 2020, when the UK lockdown commenced, Rachel continued with her exercises and began to entertain her roommate Terese with the hula dances. Never having seen anything similar, Terese could not understand how Rachel did her routines and promptly encouraged her to share it on social media.
I remember seeing one of Rachel’s first videos, dancing in her garden which was shared on Facebook by my friend Vera, Rachel’s very proud grandmother. I watched fascinated as the hula hoop turned continuously, flawlessly as Rachel performed a dance and I thought at the time what a great idea this was and how she showed such exuberant happy energy. It was one of those videos where you just want to join in the fun.
Rachel shared more of her videos on social media and they ended up going viral, reaching millions of views. She began to receive messages from people all over the world saying how much they loved her energy and started to call it a talent.
Rachel, surprised, did not realise it was a talent; it was just something that she loved to do and which allowed her to dance.
Thus, Hula Dancercise was born. Hula in reference to the hula hoop and Dancercise because she is dancing and exercising in the hula hoop. What an amazing concept and what a great name!
Rachel created social media platforms for Hula Dancercise – Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and YouTube – to share with the world her passion and what she loves doing more than anything – all from her back garden! She started giving tutorials and then created dance challenges for people to perform in the hula hoop.
Her dances have been seen by celebrities and shared on their social media platforms too and she regularly receives hundreds of messages from individuals telling her how her videos and dance routines are mentally helping people to get through the difficult times of the pandemic.
There is now a Hula Hoop Dance Community where Rachel has connected with thousands of people around the world and Hula Dancercise has become her full time job as it grows at an incredible rate. She does ‘live’ workouts on a weekly basis and is in great demand to promote dancing outfits and, of course, hula hoops.
Since Hula Dancercise started, Rachel has “lost a total of 9kg and over five inches off my waist! This is mentally and physically the happiest and fittest I have ever been. Dancing is back in my life through a new light and it is better than ever because I’m being myself in the hula hoop! The hula hoop has made me love myself for who I am, accept myself and learn to love my body! I am so grateful for what I have achieved so far, and I really do believe this is just the start of this new exciting fitness regime for me. Hula Dancercise is so unique and rare, because no one else is doing what I am doing and sharing it to the extent that I am with the world and getting others involved!”
It is incredible how the lockdown has led to a new career for Rachel and a new lease of life, not only for herself but also for all those she is inspiring.
Now, where do I buy a hula hoop?
So now you know!
By Isobel Costa
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Isobel Costa works full time and lives on a farm with a variety of pet animals! In her spare time, she enjoys photography, researching and writing.