Published on May 13, 2011 by Amy
Native American Hoop Dance is a form of storytelling dance incorporating anywhere from one to thirty hoops as props, which are used to create both static and dynamic shapes, or formations, representing various animals, shapes, and storytelling elements. It is generally performed by a solo dancer with many hoops.
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The first World Hoop Dance Competition was held at the New Mexico State Fair in 1991. The first World Champion Hoop Dancer was Eddie Swimmer, a Cherokee from Cherokee, North Carolina. The venue was moved to the Heard Museum in Arizona for the second event and the first adult winner of what was to become the permanent venue was Quentin Pipestem of the Tsuu T’ina Nation in Alberta, Canada. The hoop dance is part of the pan-Indian movement and as such has evolved over the years by becoming faster and incorporating many influences from outside traditional culture such as the use of moves from hip hop dance as well as the widespread use of industrial piping to construct hoops that were originally made from reeds or willow branches. Hoop dance has gained a strong following internationally as an increasing number of dancers tour the world. Twenty-one year old Nakota La Rance, already a six time World Championship winner, currently performs for the 2010-11 season of Totem by Cirque du Soleil.
During the dance, shapes are formed in storytelling ritual such as the butterfly, the eagle, the snake, and the coyote, with the hoop symbolizing the never-ending circle of life. Native American Hoop dance focuses on very rapid moves, and the construction of hoop formations around and about the body. The hoops used are typically of very small diameter (1-2.5 feet). In elaborate sequences of moves, the hoops are made to interlock, and in such a way they can be extended from the body of the dancer to form appendages such as wings and tails. The hoops are often handmade by the dancers out of simple plastic piping (though some are made of wood) and wrapped in colorful tapes, similar to the construction techniques used by non-Native American hoop-based dances.
Native American Hoop Dance has been formally recognized as a cultural heritage, embodied in both documentary films and as a living tradition in formal competition. The most popular competition occurs annually at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. Up to 80 dancers have participated on any given year, and the competitions have drawn as many as 10,000 spectators.