It’s that time of year once again and The Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest will be happening soon. Combining artistry, sheer athleticism and cultural traditions, the top American Indian and Canadian First Nations hoop dancers from the United States and Canada will once again be making their way to Phoenix, Arizona, for the prestigious title of world champion. The two-day event takes place at the Heard Museum on February 11th and 12th. Make your plans to join the 22nd annual celebration.
At last year’s competition, a new world champion was crowned: Tony Duncan of Mesa. The former four-time teen champion, now grown with a family of his own, achieved one of his life goals, winning the world champion hoop dance title. Duncan (Apache/Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara) is also a member of the world-famous Yellow Bird Indian Dancers, composed of the rest of the Duncan family. In addition to the Duncans you can expect to see seasoned competitors and crowd favorites such as current senior champion Brian Hammill (Ho-Chunk); Jasmine Pinckner (Crow Creek Sioux) and Lowery Begay (Diné). Celina Cada-Matasawagon (Ojibway), known for dancing during the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, is also expected to compete for the senior title. Plus three-time champion Alex Wells (Lil Wat Nation) is returning to the Heard Museum stage after a hiatus. Expect the longtime Canadian favorite to give it his all to recapture hoop glory.
For many years, the intertribal hoop dance has expanded to incorporate new and creative designs and extremely intricate footwork. Each dancer presents a unique variation of the hoop dance, weaving in aspects of his or her distinct tradition and culture. Individual routines are presented using as few as four to as many as 50 hoops, which are manipulated to create a variety of designs including animals, butterflies and globes. Dancers are judged on a slate of five skills: precision, timing/rhythm, showmanship, creativity and speed.