Heard Museum Premieres First Virtual Hoop Dance Contest

Heard Museum Premieres First Virtual Hoop Dance Contest

Posted By Baley Champagne February 13th, 2021 Last Updated on: February 16th, 2021

The Heard Museum for American Indian Art and History in Phoenix, Arizona, premiered its first Virtual Hoop Dance Contest Feb. 13, via YouTube and Facebook. The contest included video submissions from 80 competitors from 40 tribes, who competed for $2,500 in the youth, teen, adult, and senior divisions. 

Hoop dancing is a popular Native American tradition originally meant for healing ceremonies. This year's competition was unlike any other though, due to the virtual format put in place out of caution for COVID-19. 

Dennis Bowen of the Seneca Nation was the master of ceremonies for the event.

“We've danced when it was starting to rain, we've danced when it was a very hot day, we've danced when there is a still of cold wind coming from the north,” Bowen said. “What we have seen was the development of world-class hoop dancing.”

Heard Museum took part in the second hoop dancing competition over 30 years ago and has been hosting ever since. 

“About 31 years ago in Albuquerque, New Mexico Ralph Zotigh and his son, Dennis, worked to organize a hoop dance championship at the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque,” said Bowen. “They had a hard time finding sponsorship. The Heard Museum said yes they would be happy to sponsor. The next year they asked if I would be the emcee. That has been the participation for over 30 years now.”

Five judges judged on categories of precision, timing, rhythm, showmanship, creativity, and speed. Each judged from a video chat. Bowen said they used a scoring system to give dancers a fair chance.

One dancer could be heard saying, “We don't dance for ourselves, we dance for those who want to dance, for those who can't dance, and for our ancestors.” 

A special flute tribute to “He Who Dances with Hoops” by Marshall Hunt was dedicated to LoRance, 30, a famous hoop dancer and three-time world champion who passed away in July. 

“With all the loss we've gone through, we want to take time to show that Nakotah LoRance is someone that made a great contribution to the World Hoop Dance Championship at the Heard Museum, ” Bowen said.

“He was enthusiastic about life, always moving and always having a sense of rhythm,” said Tony Duncan, champion hoop dancer. 

Duncan, past winner of the youth and teen divisions, took home first place in the Adult Division of Heard's 2021 Virtual Hoop Dance Contest with 135 pts. Duncan is an internationally known hoop dancer, who has traveled and performed with several popular musicians across the U.S.

Here is his first-place dance:

“We have that respect that no matter where the hoop dancers came from, they represented their family, they represented their nation,” Bowen said.

Here is the complete list of winners:

Adult Division
1st Place: Tony Duncan (San Carlos Apache / MHA Nations) – 135 Points
2nd Place: Scott Sixkiller-Sinquah (Gila River Pima / Hopi) – 134 Points
3rd Place: Tyrese Jensen (Diné / Pima Maricopa) – 127 Points
Senior Division Winners
1st Place: Terry Goedel (Yakama / Tulalip) – 138 Points
2nd Place: Moontee Sinquah (Hopi / Tewa / Choctaw) – 128 Points
3rd Place: Celina Cada-Matasawagon (Ojibway) – 117 Points
Teen Division
1st Place: Kailayne Jensen (Diné) – 138 Points
2nd Place: Rito “RJ” Lopez (Akiemel O’odham / San Carlos Apache / Arkara / Hidasta / Mandan) – 126 Points

3rd Place: Mitchell Shonkwaiataroroks Gray (Mohawk) – 125 Points

Youth Division Winners
1st Place: Mateo Ulibarri (Pueblo of Pojoaque) – 134 Points 
2nd Place: Jai’Po Harvier (Pueblo of Pojoaque) – 133 Points
3rd Place: Isiah George (Santa Clara Pueblo) – 123 Points



Home » Native American Articles » Native American Culture » Heard Museum Premieres First Virtual Hoop Dance Contest

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Amy Carter

As a white American, I appreciate native culture and wonder if I would be welcome at pow wow? I certainly would never appropriate the Native American heritage, but I would like to participate by viewing. Is that acceptable?

Cindy Terrell

Absolutely phenomenal hoop dance! Just amazingly beautiful!

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