World-class twirler to teach basics in area

Local girls will have another Riverview Park option to consider in the weeks ahead, adding to a list of activities that include basketball, volleyball, softball, dance and tumbling.

Hope Ham, a 2007 University of Georgia graduate who was a featured twirler for the Bulldogs, will be teaching the basics of baton twirling starting Jan. 17, at 6 p.m., calling on more than 20 years of experience.

In-person registration is today (Thursday) from 6 to 7 p.m. at Riverview Park Activities Center. Registration can also be done via the Facebook page for Revolutions Baton Twirling Academy, Ham's Grovetown-based business.

Ham's background in twirling reaches to early childhood.

"My mom started twirling when she was 3, and my aunt twirled, as well," she said, recalling constant exposure amid her mom's activities as an instructor.

Ham, a native of Marion, Ill., took part in her first competition at either 2 or 3, as she began memorizing routines and was working with professional choreographers by age 5, the same age when she won a national championship.

"Actually, I remember trying to quit some time around (ages) 9,10 or 11, and I got so bored. In about two weeks, I was like, 'Forget that,' and I went back to twirling."

She described herself as a "supercompetitive" perfectionist, taking part in four sports in high school: cheerleading (for football and basketball), volleyball (with all-state recognition), track (competing in the state meet in two events) and twirling.

She finally decided to focus on twirling and dance.

"Dance doesn't take away from twirling, like volleyball or track might."

The results included two world championships in twirling - one in Birmingham, England, and the other in Milan, Italy. She became Marion High School's valedictorian, as well, not only having been a top-level performer in academics and sports but also having taken part in such organizations as the Future Business Leaders of America and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Offering some advice for would-be twirlers, she said, "As far as body type goes, really, anybody could be successful. Obviously, if you're a little larger, it might be harder to move your body fast, but you can learn to do it."

She pointed out that her predecessor as a feature twirler in Athens stood 6 feet tall."She was just a straight-up athlete."

That particular performer, she said, actually started twirling around age 14 - more than a decade later than when most top-level performers get their start.

Essential traits, Ham said, include good hand-eye coordination and overall coordination. A dance background is tremendously helpful.

"I tell my kids all the time, 'It's more important how you do it than what you do,' because you can do the hardest tricks in the world, but if they're ugly, nobody wants to watch you, so you want to make it look pretty."

Dance can be a part of the artistic mix.

"I took two years of formal dance, and it was well into my career. I was probably only 7 or 8, but I'd been twirling for a long time and had learned a lot of dance, through my twirling teachers," she said. "I just took ballet, tap and jazz for two years, and then after that, we took private lessons from dance teachers who looked at my twirling routines and made sure that they were correct from a dance perspective, so I've been on my students from day one about making sure they're in dance of some kind."

Age is not a concern for twirlers, and plans are for an adult-level class to be offered next year, she said, pointing out that some studios offer classes for ladies in the 50-plus age category, for exercise.

Ham described her operation as "building toward a sort of 'one-stop shop' for performing arts, with a strong emphasis on twirling."

She added, "We may be adding gymnastics soon, and we will definitely be offering more dance classes next year."

Business is booming.

"Pretty soon, I'm going to need a secretary, because I can't handle it all," Ham said, with a laugh.

Costs for Ham's class are $30 for registration and $45 per month. Details are available at (678) 56-TWIRL.