Three years ago, Samantha Mixan picked up a hula hoop, and it changed her life.
The former gymnast and cheerleader took quickly to the blend of dancing and hooping that has become popular in recent years at music festivals and concerts and has escalated into a form of performance art. She was good at it — so good, in fact, that since then she has made herself a career of performing.
For the past two years, Mixan, better known in the performance world as “Sammy Sunshyne,” has performed locally at Defy Gravity and other events; she also performs regionally and nationally with the Kansas City-based performance art troupe Quixotic Fusion.
Among the 23-year-old’s favorite things:
1. LED hula hoop.
This particular hoop, which includes lights in various colors that can be set to run at multiple speeds and in a range of patterns, is Mixan’s favorite. She’s spent hours in it, both performing at events and also meeting up with her hooping friends, trying out new moves and just having fun. There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with learning new tricks, she said, and there’s a sense of calm that comes with feeling like her body, the hula hoop and the music she’s dancing to are all in harmony. In the hula hooping world, this is known as “flow.”
“It’s put me on a path,” she said.
2. Fire fans.
After getting into hula hooping, Mixan began experimenting with other forms of performance art. She started working with Ken Hill, a local fire performance artist, and she loved it, even though her arms and hands reveal a few scars.
“It’s just kind of part of the territory when you’re working with fire,” she said.
To her, it’s worth the risk. The feel of the heat and the smell of the fire are things she’s grown to love, and audience always responds well.
“It’s super exhilarating,” she said.
3. A yoga mat.
Mixan and a friend traveled to India on a hula hooping trip two years ago, where she was introduced to yoga. Since then, she practices all the time. It helps her with her strength and flexibility, and she expects it will remain a big part of her life in the future.
“I aspire to be a yoga teacher, perhaps,” she said.
4. A favorite pair of earrings.
Mixan saw the earrings (as well as a matching necklace) in a market during her India trip. She couldn’t stop thinking about their unique shape — the pale stones are set in silver shaped like a sunburst—and she went back to find them. She did, and she’s worn them nearly constantly since; she gave the matching necklace to her mom. “I just like the contradiction of having a moonstone in a sun earring,” she said.
5. A pair of wooden stilts.
Mixan’s boyfriend made her the stilts, which she’s still learning to use. They’re taller than most stilts, and she’s hasn’t mastered them yet, but that’s part of the fun, she said.
“I’m still new, but I love learning new things,” she said. “It’s really fun, but scary at the same time.”