23rd Annual World Hoop Dance Contest
Once again -- for an unprecedented 6th time -- Derrick Suwaima Davis (Hopi/Choctaw from Hotevilla, Arizona) gets to be called World Champion Hoop Dancer for a year.
Outdancing nearly 20 other adult division performers from Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Canada, Davis combined speed, accuracy, timing, creativity, and athleticism to take home the title and a check for $3,500 at the 23rd annual contest at Heard Museum in Phoenix.
Davis was followed closely by fellow Arizonans Tony Duncan (Arikara/Hidatsa/Apache) and Kevin Dakota Duncan (San Carlos Apache) with three-time world champion Dallas Arcand (Cree) from Calgary, Alberta, Canada capturing 4th place.
Judges required a rare tiebreaker in the adult competition, requesting that Utah’s Charles Denny (Cree/Northern Ute) and New Mexico’s Nakotah LaRance (Hopi/Tewa/Assiniboin) return to the stage for a dance-off won by Denny for 5th place honors and $1,000 prize money.
Arizonan Brian Hammill (HoChunk) of Phoenix won the Senior Division while Tyrese Jensen (Navajo/Maricopa), a Youth Division world titleholder once featured on the cover of Arizona Hiways magazine, took top Teen honors. Six-year-old Rito Lopez (Pima/Apache/Arikara/Hidatsa/Mandarin) hooped his way to the winners circle in the Youth Division.
“This event is a way to get up close and personal with a truly unique Native American sport,” said museum communications manager Debra Krol (Xolon/Salinan). “The rules are simple, the dancers accessible, and you get to see a lot of different native cultures represented.”
This year the crowd of several thousand got to enjoy the color, pageantry, and athleticism with nearly 60 hoop dancers who traveled from as far away as the Arctic Circle and the Mexican border to vie for audience applause, cash prizes, and the right to call themselves tops in their division.
The event was a special one for 34-year-old previous world title holder Dallas Arcand who got to watch his 15-year-old son, Dallas, Jr., compete in his first world championship. “It was nerve-wracking for both of us,” Dallas, Sr., said. “He’s seen me perform many times and three years ago at the Calgary Stampede he decided he wanted to try. Although it’s tough for a parent to teach their own children, I gave him my old outfit, showed him my championship routine, and based on his passion and a desire to learn, he’s already following in my footsteps.”
Another Arcand family member, nephew Byron (Alexander First Nation – Cree) joined the father-son dancers in competition.
“Although I started dancing at age 14, I didn’t compete in a world championship until I was 18,” Dallas, Sr., said. “I’ve achieved my goal, the pinnacle of where I wanted to go with hoop dancing and now I’m here to give back with my dancing style. It’s about passing it on and keeping the circle strong.”
For the uninitiated, the tradition of dancing with a hoop has an extensive history among Native peoples worldwide who view the hoop/circle as a representation of the Circle of Life and its continuous cycles.
Arcand is currently completing filming of a promotional documentary on hoop dancing. “Not enough people know about hoop dancing and I’m hopeful my filming will help shine more light on the sport itself.”
Second-place adult winner Tony Duncan , when not working out daily to stay in dancing shape, also promotes the sport as part of a troupe that goes worldwide educating the public about hoops and the part they play in his culture. “I’ve been dancing hoops since age 5 when my dad taught me and all my brothers,” he says. “Hoop dancing has always been in our family and I prefer it to any other sport.”
While many first-time viewers think the number of hoops is a deciding factor, that’s only one variable the judges look at. “It’s not so much the number of hoops, but what you do with them. No matter how many you bring into the competition, you have to use them all,” says Krol. Some of the more showy performers have used up to 50 hoops, but this year’s champion again won his division with only five.
Also honored at this year’s gathering was Jones Benally (Dine), now in his 90s, a hoop dancer for more than 75 years, who received the inaugural Hoop Dance Legacy Award.