Hooping.org is celebrating Indigenous People’s Day today and Tyrese Jensen and Kailayne Jensen of YellowHouse Dancers’ hoop dance configurations not only preserve their Native American tradition and culture through song, music, and dance, these two are amazing to watch. The brother and sister duo execute various formations with exciting confidence and clarity and they split their time between Mesa, Arizona, during the school year, and Dilkon, Arizona, USA, on the Navajo reservation. They’re dancing to the rhythm and tempo of traditional music performed lived.
Moontee Sinquah, the two time World Champion Hoop Dancer, performs with his sons and nephew at the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival at the Trumansburg Fairgrounds in Trumansburg, New York. The shapes and formations he creates throughout his Native American hoop dance performance tell a truly powerful story you won’t want to miss. Moontee Sinquah is from Polacca, Arizona, USA.
We really love watching Nakotah LaRance do his thing and even though it shouldn’t be a surprise to see him spin up another amazing hoop dance, we’re nonetheless left having to pick our jaws up off the floor all over again. Performing at the Santo Domingo Pueblo, the six time World Champion Hoop Dancer puts his own spin on traditional Native American Hoop Dance and it’s always a treat to watch. He lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, USA, and the soundtrack for this is live drumming and singing by his father, Steve LaRance.
The 24th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest recently took place again in Phoenix, Arizona, and hoop dancers came from all over the United States and Canada made their way to compete for the ultimate title of becoming World Hoop Dance Champion. The two-day event featured 64 competitors and more than 3,500 were present for the competition at the museum’s Scott L. Libby Jr. Amphitheater. It’s a pretty big deal not only to receive the highest honor from your community and peers, but the first place prize also comes with a $3,500 cash award and this year that incredible honor went for an unprecedented 7th time to Derrick Suwaima Davis (Hopi/Choctaw)! He returned to Phoenix and hoop danced his way into the winner’s circle all over again. Check out his award winning hoop dance performance below:
With a score of 234 points our of a possible 250, Davis came in fourteen points ahead of the amazingly talented Tony Duncan (220 points), who earned the World Champion title himself back in 2011.
3rd place went to Lane Jensen of Mesa, Arizona.
Nakotah LaRance, popular with Hooping.org readers, came in 4th this year. As for the Senior Division winner, that title went once again to the incomparable Brian Hammill. The Teen title was awarded to Talon Duncan, brother of Tony Duncan, and the youth title went to Jaron Yazzie of Farmington, New Mexico.
by Philo Hagen
Tracing the first thanksgiving back to 1621 when 53 Pilgrims celebrated the first harvest in the “new world” with 90 Native Americans, or so the tale has been spun for generations, all gave thanks for a friendly feast that lasted for three days. And long before Oprah and others were telling us to find our gratitude, the New England colonists were routinely accustomed to celebrating “thanksgivings”, days of prayer to thank God for their blessings, blessings like the end of a drought or a military victory. At the first Thanksgiving pilgrims were thankful to native people for giving them food, farming techniques, and ways to beat the bitter New England cold. In return they received the decimation of millions. It’s no wonder a group called the United American Indians of New England established Thanksgiving as its National Day of Mourning, and yet, Jacqueline Keeler, a member of the Dineh Nation and Yankton Dakota Sioux, believes there is still cause for giving thanks.
Keeler recognizes that Native peoples today have survived mass murder, forced relocation, theft of land and other injustices, and done so “with our ability to share and to give intact.” This is what gives Keeler hope that healing is possible. Speaking about the first Thanksgiving she also notes, “These were not merely ‘friendly Indians.’ They had already experienced European slave traders raiding their villages for a hundred years or so, and they were wary — but it was their way to give freely to those who had nothing. Among many of our peoples, showing that you can give without holding back is the way to earn respect.”
Over the past decade in the modern hooping community, I have encountered a lot of givers. I’ve met more relatively selfless individuals centered around the hoop than I have anywhere else, and in my independent, casual and random surveys of hoopers too, it often seems that the hoop itself is responsible. Four-time world champion hoop dancer Brian Hammill once said, “The hoop dance represents our journey through the circle of life. Each hoop represents a thread in the intricate web. The formations representing various creations that we see along our life’s journey. Almost every native nation has a story about the hoop dance.” Modern hoopers today, too, spreading far and wide around the world, have hoop dance stories of their own as well – tales of becoming present, of finding joy, of healing, of transformation. It seems clear that the hoop is a powerful tool for those who incorporate it into their lives, perhaps regardless of cultural or stylistic differences. And though there may be the occasional awkward moment of confusion or comment made regarding cultural appropriation – when asked recently what sense I’ve been able to make of it all, my answer was simply, “I think we’re working on that.”
I must, however, fully admit that I borrowed the line from the new song “Working On That” by Donna the Buffalo. More energized and focused than ever before in their near 25-year career, the first studio album in five years from these roots-music troubadours is really good, thanks in part to the track in question which, perhaps quite accidentally, captures my feelings about Thanksgiving. And when I watched the music video for it too, there was just something about seeing these stewards of Americana music, their signature sound of traditional mountain music infused with elements of Cajun, rock, folk and country, serving as a soundtrack for a hoop dance by two time World Champion Hoop Dancer Moontee Sinquah and his sons Sampson and Scott, that had me smiling brightly through tears.
Moontee started hoop dancing back in 2005, although his sons started much earlier. Scott and Sampson began at ages 3 and 4 in 1996, learning the art from Quentin Pipestem from Alberta, Canada, the uncle of modern First Nations hoop dancer Arik Pipestem. Moontee told us, “I too learned his style, but was encouraged by my sons. To us the hoop dance is still a healing dance. They say that every time you put your body through the hoop you are adding a day on to a sick persons life. So we like to take this dance throughout the world because many people need healing, as well as our environment. We were very fortunate to be asked to be part of the video and to have been in the area at the time. It was just meant to be.”
Donna the Buffalo co-founder Jeb Puryear, who wrote the words and music explained, “There is a growing cross section of good people, crossing all lines of race, border, religion and economics that will triumph. Their triumph will have no loser, for the victory is peace.” I, for one, like to think that the hooping community is part of that growing cross section and that we’re spinning it ever wider as we continue to make the circle bigger. I’m thankful those like Donna the Buffalo and Moontee Sinquah and his sons who are working on that, and thankful for all of you who are as well. However you choose to celebrate, or not celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, may yours be a day of gratitude, hope and peace.
Philo Hagen is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He’s been spinning things up online and off since April 2003. Co-Founder of the Bay Area Hoopers and LA Hoopers hoop groups, Philo has performed internationally and has won Hoopie Awards for Male Hooper of the Year and Video of the Year. He lives in Los Angeles, California, USA.
With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching in the U.S., we are pleased to share four time World Champion Hoop Dancer Brian Hammill of Native Spirit, who takes us to Superstition Mountains for a very special hoop dance. We’re most certainly grateful for it. He says, “The hoop dance represents our journey through the circle of life. Each hoop represents a thread in the intricate web. The formations representing various creations that we see along our life’s journey. Almost every native nation has a story about the hoop dance.” Brian’s stories are always beautifully told, this time against a stunning desert landscape. He resides in Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
What happens when Native American hoop dance goes contemporary? Let’s find out because the sacred story of life has no beginning and it has no end. Using hoops to create various symbols and shapes that tell the story of life, three time World Champion hoop dancer Brian Hammill of Native Spirit presents us with a traditional Ho-chunk nation hoop dance in living color, thanks to part of his performance being presented with some serious black light. Brian uses as many as 30 small hoops to create butterflies, snakes, eagles and more. He lives in Pheonix, Arizona, USA.
Aboriginal hoop dancer Ryan Buffalo is the star performer in this stunning Bangtown Studios production that captures the spirit of traditional hoop dance. While the performance is breathtaking, what makes it even more special is the peek into the physical and mental preparation aboriginal hoop dancers partake in to profoundly connect with their movement. “Through the performance of an age-old Aboriginal dance, a man bridges modern-day life with the ancestral roots of his people”, says producer Justin Simon. Just watch! You’ll see and feel Ryan’s energy explode – literally. Ryan can be found living and dancing for many special events in Alberta, Canada. Music performed by Terry Mack and the Northern Cree Singers.
James “Caution” Jones performs a breathtaking hoop dance at Churchill Square in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, for an event called “Cypher Wild”, which is held every Thursday. Mixing First Nations traditional hoop dance with hip hop and modern hoop dance techniques, James dazzled a full audience and dazzled us too. It’s something he’s used to doing. The Season 5 finalist from “So You Think You Can Dance Canada” takes time out to inspire youth too through Dreams in Motion, a project he started with his Canada’s Next Top Model girlfriend Linsay Willier. As for Cypher Wild, “It is an event held for the underground hip hop culture, and is open for the community of Edmonton to simply watch and enjoy, and gives them a chance to get loose on the dance floor.” He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
A Tribe Called Red combine instrumental dance music with First Nations sounds for a new music genre they like to call “Pow Wow Step” and they recently received their 2nd Polaris Music Award long list nomination in as many years, ranking their new album “Nation II Nation” as one of the forty best released in Canada this year. They recently stopped by Studio Q, a national CBC radio program, to play a couple songs from Nation II Nation live – and they brought along hoop dancer Rhonda Doxtator to perform with them as well and we have the video to share with you too.
On air they delved into the roots behind their unique brand of electronica and why they choose to put a spotlight on Aboriginal cultural appropriation. In 2008, DJ’s NDN and Bear Witness founded A Tribe Called Red, adding two-time Canadian DMC champ DJ Shub to the crew in 2010. Electric Pow Wow is a monthly club night in their hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, that is dedicated to showcasing Aboriginal DJ talent and Native urban culture and is aimed at creating a space for Aboriginal people on the second Saturday of every month at the Babylon nightclub. Listen to the whole twenty minute CBC radio segment with A Tribe Called Red here and don’t miss Rhonda’s performance at Studio Q in the video below. You can download their first album for free and you can score a copy of their new album, Nation II Nation, on iTunes.