The World Hoop Dance Championships takes place every year at The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. Contestants from Canada and the U.S. come to compete in one of five categories: Tiny Tots (5 and under); Youth (6-12); Teen (13-17); Adult (18-39); and Senior (40 and older). The number of dancers signing up to compete increases every year, making this 27th year (held this past February 10-12) perhaps the most competitive hoop dance championship yet. Dancers are judged on their timing/rhythm, showmanship, creativity, speed and precision. This year first prize overall went to Tyrese Jensen (Navajo/Maricopa), 18, Dilkon, Ariz. with 237 points, $3,500.
Hoop dancing is considered sacred by many cultures and nations. Tribes from the Southwest to the Plains to the Great Lakes regions have used hoops in different ways during dances and ceremony for many generations. Modern hoop dancers tell stories by manipulating their hoops to depict creation, the world, animals and healing. The hoop dance is meant to be inspiring and healing to all those who watch. It is a testament to the inherent rhythm, athleticism and creativity of indigenous culture.
Today, young hoop dancers have begun to take the hoop dance competition to new heights, offering a new level of athleticism by incorporating flips, splits, cartwheels and handstands to their performances, leaving the crowd in awe.
Some of the hoop dance movements integrate moves from powwow dance styles, like fancy and grass. Other hoop dance movements are cross-cultural, incorporating moves from breakdancing and hip-hop genres. The older generations of more traditional hoop dancing continue to dance with finesse, creativity and showmanship.
Hundreds of people attended the 27th annual World Hoop Dance Championships this year. It was a warm and sunny February day in Phoenix, and onlookers were able to enjoy the mild weather while viewing in the outdoor circular arena. As always, the Hoop Dance competition was a beautiful display of superb dancing, intricate regalia, and cross-cultural connection.
Enjoy the following photos of this year’s competitors.