Eric Hernandez: From Cirque du Soleil Hoop Dancer to Filmmaker – An Inspiring Journey

Eric Hernandez: From Cirque du Soleil Hoop Dancer to Filmmaker – An Inspiring Journey

Eric Hernandez, a member of the Lumbee tribe from North Carolina, has charted an extraordinary path from his roots to the vibrant city of Los Angeles, where he now thrives as a Native American hoop dancer, storyteller, and budding filmmaker. In a recent interview, Eric shared the pivotal moments and inspirations that have shaped his career and his latest venture into filmmaking.

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A Journey West

Eric's journey to the West Coast is a testament to his family's unique story. His mother, a Lumbee, grew up in Pembroke, North Carolina, and earned a Native American scholarship to Brigham Young University in Utah, where she met Eric's father, a football athlete from Los Angeles. After their marriage, they moved to Los Angeles, where Eric and his siblings were raised. Despite growing up in LA, Eric has maintained strong ties to Pembroke, visiting several times a year.

Discovering Hoop Dancing

Eric's introduction to hoop dancing came at a crucial time in his life. Following his parents' separation when he was ten, his uncle, Terry Godel, a nine-time world champion hoop dancer, stepped in as a mentor. Through Terry, Eric learned the art of hoop dancing, which became his gateway to embracing his Native American heritage. His first performance was at the Koopa Days powwow in Pala, marking the beginning of his deep connection with hoop dancing.

Evolution of Style

Under his uncle's guidance, Eric mastered the foundational aspects of hoop dancing, focusing on smooth transitions and the manipulation of hoops. This foundational training allowed him to develop his unique style, incorporating more complex footwork and personal flair. Over time, Eric's dance evolved to a point where he no longer had to think about the technicalities, allowing him to fully immerse in storytelling through his performances.

A New Medium: Filmmaking

Eric’s latest project, a short film titled “Courage,” is an extension of his storytelling prowess. The film, inspired by his TEDx talk, chronicles his journey of overcoming personal challenges and embracing his Native American identity through hoop dancing. It reflects on his initial struggle with not fitting the stereotypical image of a Native American and his path to self-acceptance and pride in his heritage.

To bring this project to life, Eric turned to crowdfunding through Seed& Spark, a platform known for its rigorous vetting process and high success rate. His campaign aims not only to fund the film but also to build a community around the project, offering incentives like an exclusive event in Los Angeles.

Cirque du Soleil Experience

Eric’s talents also led him to perform with Cirque du Soleil's show “Totem,” where he toured globally and delivered over 2,500 performances. This experience exposed him to diverse cultures and audiences, enriching his perspective and enhancing his storytelling through dance. The end of the show during the COVID-19 pandemic marked a significant transition, pushing Eric to explore new avenues like public speaking and social media storytelling.

Looking Ahead

Eric's dedication to his craft and his community shines through in his work. His passion for filmmaking is driven by a desire to create opportunities for indigenous artists and to share authentic stories. Through his new project, Eric continues to inspire and engage audiences, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of Native American culture.

To support Eric's film “Courage,” you can visit his Seed& Spark campaign, follow the project, and share it within your networks. Every contribution, big or small, helps bring this important story to the screen and supports the broader mission of community building and cultural representation.


Eric Hernandez's journey from a young hoop dancer to an aspiring filmmaker is a powerful narrative of resilience, cultural pride, and artistic evolution. His commitment to sharing his heritage through innovative mediums like film promises to inspire many and preserve the rich traditions of the Lumbee tribe for future generations.

About Paul G

Paul G is the founder, who wears many hats as a business coach, photographer, and collector of quirky shirts. Paul started in 1996 while pursuing his graduate degree. With a passion for travel, he and his family hav  traveled the world, capturing unforgettable memories and photos. When he's not coaching or clicking, he's indulging in the magic of Disney.

One Comment “Eric Hernandez: From Cirque du Soleil Hoop Dancer to Filmmaker – An Inspiring Journey”

  • Avatar for Kathleen Rosen

    Kathleen Rosen


    Enjoyed watching the show behind the show and totally love the face paint! Artist in me loves that. Don’t know anything about filming but a good story always hooks me. Area wide open for indigenous film arts I would think. Life can and will throw you many curve balls. Stay connected to your roots as there are a significant number of folks on this earth who have lost touch or never experienced what it means to be in touch with themselves and nature. The “colonization” attitude linked with capitalism is a destroyer. Without community and kindness we are nothing. On your journey whatever that is always remember your children are your legacy. Balance will be key. Best wishes.

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