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Meet Valentina Martin of Twisted Orbit in North Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Valentina Martin.

Valentina, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started to belly dance with my mom when I was 12. I was in a very rebellious time of my life, she basically couldn’t leave me alone at the house or I’d get into trouble, so she brought me along with her to her newfound passion – belly dance class. I would sit and watch at first, then eventually decided to try. I have not stopped belly dancing since then, now I’m 32! I went on to study other forms of dance in high school and college. I performed with dance teams and found my passion, my hobby. After graduating college, I went to Burning Man for the first time and was exposed to lots of different kinds of performance art: circus, hooping and fire dancing. I was entranced and inspired.

After attending a local San Diego regional Burning Man event, where I tried hooping for the first time, I got my first hoop and barely ever put it down. I was obsessed! Within a year I was teaching, performing and selling handmade hoops. Hooping felt like an extension of my belly dance training because the movements were similar but it was challenging and I always love a good challenge! It was something that allowed me to find myself, blossom into who I am, learn about running my own business and travel the world.

Soon after finding hooping, I quit my jobs (I was working in museum and arts education) and started Unity Hoops, my hoop shop, hoop dance school and performance company. I still sell handmade hoops, teach classes regularly and perform but now I also perform juggling, fire dancing, burlesque and still walking too! Hooping opened up the gates to other performance arts that I have dabbled in such as acrobatics and aerial arts. By gaining confidence in hoop dance, I found that if I put my mind to it, I can do and learn anything that I want to! Hooping has given me so much. It even led me to my husband and business partner from the UK, Steve Bags! We have started our own entertainment company, Twisted Orbit in which we provide unique and unusual entertainment for parties, corporate events, weddings and more! We have a hula hoop juggling duo act, teach together and travel the world performing.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has definitely had its ups and downs! When I first decided that I would quit my jobs that surrounded around other people’s art and make my own, I was completely broke for a year. I struggled to make ends meet. I had to borrow money to pay bills and rent. It was tough! I cried constantly and considered giving up many, many times. I thought: “Well if it’s not working out why I am doing it? I’m obviously not meant to!” I stuck with it though and have been running my own business(es) for about 10 years now. The first year is always the hardest. I needed to build up word of mouth, a network of clients, of other performers and booking companies who would think to book me and I needed to learn a lot about running a business. I still feel like I have a lot to learn. The learning never ends. And in this business, there are busy times and slow times. It’s tough to have the tenacity to make it through the slow times knowing that the busy time is just around the corner. Then the busy time comes and you’re so, so busy! Ha! All in all, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I do what I love and it’s worth the ups and downs.

Please tell us about Twisted Orbit.
We are a dynamic fusion of cutting-edge circus, dance, physical theatre and comedy. We have a team of highly-trained San Diego-based professionals that can provide unique and unusual entertainment perfect for your event.

We are known for our high level of hoop juggling, our cohesive costuming, dedication to professionalism, organization, clear communication and unique acts.

I think I am most proud of our hoop juggling act. I am also proud of some of our props that are unique and unusual. I have a beautiful spinning ‘jellyfish’ act that is emotional and intense. My husband balances a flaming bicycle on his face. I know no one else in San Diego who does these things 🙂

We have had the opportunity to collaborate with a fabulous costume maker here in San Diego: Firetail Designs. I am particularly proud of our collaborations. Between my vision, Bags’ creativity and Kristen’s (the owner of Firetail Designs) designs/fabrication we have created some truly visually stunning group looks for ourselves and our performers. We have a walking Christmas Tree stilt walker character that is phenomenal.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I can’t pick out just one! But I loved the family snowboarding trips we used to go on. My whole family learned to snowboard and ski together, starting when I was about 7 or 8. We would go to Mammoth and Lake Tahoe a couple times a season. It included a road trip, a fun physical activity and staying in a cabin where we would cook and go into the jacuzzi to soak our sore muscles. I loved these trips. It was incredible for bonding, it was healthy, active and we all learned together. I hope to have these types of hobbies that are both physically healthy and teach my kids that you can always learn something new, one day when we have a family!

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