The pulse of a native drum connects me to the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest held at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. The crowd gathers around the circle of dirt – representing togetherness and family. American and Canadian flags lead the procession counter clockwise around the dancing space as hoops spin, moccasins stomp into the earth, and bells jingle.
The dancers have traveled throughout North America to compete in four age divisions beginning with the 6-year-olds. Ages 5 and younger open the competition with smiles and energetic jumping and twirling. The crowd responds with smiles and cameras in hand.
My feet tap to the drum. The rhythm and song of past generations extend through two groups of male singers who alternate singing and drumming for the dancers. The songs transcend time, not written down but passed along from teacher to student. The songs connect the people of the present with the past.
Everything has meaning here – the face paint which grounds them to the earth, the colors representing ideals such as purity, and the dance choreography. The hoops the dancers use are symbolic of the circle of life and the continuous change of the seasons. The hoops become a blur and then imitate butterflies, eagles, and other shapes to tell a story.
Originally a male-only dance, women are now welcome to join the competition.
“We dance so that we may share our joy. We hope our joy will go out into the crowd. And then, they will go and share that joy with the world.” ~ native woman dancer
Scott Sixkiller Sinquah of the Gila River Pima/Cherokee/Hopi descent has been dancing since he was young. When Scott started out with his German teacher he only danced with one hoop, adding another each year he danced. Native American Hoop dancing has allowed him to travel the world. In this competition, Scott won an impressive third place.
“The Grandfathers would gather in a circle as a young boy would dance the Healing Ceremony. It was believed that every time the boy would pass through the willow hoop, another year would be added to the sick person’s life.” ~Scott Sixkiller Sinquah
Contestants are evaluated on precision, timing/rhythm, showmanship, creativeness, and speed. Read more about the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest held at the Heard Museum.
Native Hoop Dancing spans all ages, tribes, and gender. The competition draws in people of all cultures to watch this tradition and hear the music of their elders.
Native American Hoop Dance World Championship
Listen to the pulse of the drum as you watch dancers combine traditional native dance with contemporary steps.
As a spectator, I feel a spiritual connection to the people who surround me and an awareness of the beauty in the moment. I think about how generations ago such tribes and European descent were separate and enemies. Today, we sit together around a circle. A healing circle that perhaps heals the past and beyond the present.