Miles of Smiles:Hoop Dancing and the Circle of Life

Posted By PowWows.com September 30th, 2014 Last Updated on: September 30th, 2014

Interview by Dr. Dawn Karima, Native American Culture Editor

Q) It's great to visit with you!!! What are some of the facts you'd like us to know about you?

A)I am in Berlin, first off! I am just about to hit the stage here and it's nice and sunny. I've had such a wonderful time hoop dancing and playing some flute songs for the people here in Berlin. I absolutely positively love to dance and perform across the world and I feel very blessed to do so. This summer I've danced at the base of the Alps in Italy and played flute at the edge of Niagara Falls. I found the highest point in Sedona and hoop danced there, and now I am finishing my dancing in the center of Berlin. It's been a dream to call what I love to do my “job.”

Q) What is your Native heritage? What are some of your tribal values that shape your character? How so?

A) Well, let me start out by introducing myself. My name is Yellowbird Dancing but I also go by Tony Duncan. From my father, I come from the land of the Four Sacred Mountains. I am San Carlos Apache. From my mother, I come from the Land of Mother Corn of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara.
When my father made my first set of hoops, I was 5 years old. He told me the sacred hoop represents life. It represents balance. You need to keep your life balanced like the hoop. He always told me to look to the hoop and it's teachings. As long as you keep you life balanced physically, mentally, and spiritually you will always have a smile and then people will see your smile and then they will smile and the cycle of smiles will create a beautiful world. Everything is in circles.

Tony Duncan dazzles international audiences!

Tony Duncan dazzles international audiences!

Q) What does dancing mean to you? How would you describe the meaning of dances to someone who had never been to one? Why should they attend?

A) Dancing is Life. I love it more than anything. When you feel the drum deep in your being and you dance upon Mother Earth and you feel the love of the people, man, there's nothing like it. Dancing is a powerful medicine. When I look out on some of the audiences I've danced for and they smile with their spirit it almost knocks me off my feet. I once danced at the Island of Malta for 50,000 people with Nelly Furtado and when I ran on stage, the energy from the crowd was overwhelming. I loved it. I could of danced till my heart gave out there. Dancing makes people happy. Dancing allows the dancer to just dissapear from any problems and go to a place where everything feels like Christmas morning, July 4th and New Years Eve rolled into one moment. Hahaha… something like that. I just love it.

Tony Duncan doing what he loves...his "job"!!!

Tony Duncan doing what he loves…his “job”!!!

Q) Does wearing your regalia impact you? How does it change your outlook?

A) I definitely feel most comfortable in my regalia. It's a part of me. It really gives me positive energy and is one of the many ways we as a Native people I think connect to our ancestors. I mean there's always that connection but there's just something that changes when I you are fully dressed out and you put that final touch of paint on your face. Then it's game time and you're ready to dance hard for your elders, the sick, the children or anyone who needs that blessing. You feel that connection with the other dancers and the singers and when everyone is jamming together it creates this beautiful feeling of nativeness and you just know the ancestors are looking down with a big old smile. That's the connection. It's a beautiful thing.

Q)What are some of the lessons from your Tribal culture that influence your dancing?

A) When I was a young man, in my teens, my father told me told stay on the right path and I would do amazing things. I am 31 years old and very proud to say I have never tasted alcohol or any drug. I am 100% drug and alcohol free and I really believe it's critical to teach the next generation of native youth that they can attain anything, I mean anything they want if they dream big and stay on a drug and alcohol free way of life. It's up to the parents to let our children know how important they are and that they will change the world with the positive choices they make.

Q) I'm a sober Native,too. I've never tasted alcohol, used drugs or smoked cigarettes. I think that when you have a vision and know that you have a destiny, you find your path so much easier. How did you find your calling to dance?

A) My father taught me when I was 5 years old and it's been on since. I couldn't put the hoops down, even now I'll see my hoops or my brothers hoops and start spinning them. They really do represent life cause they have an energy of their own and you just want a piece of that energy, so you jump though them and spin them around. It's addicting. I knew it's all I wanted to do when I was like 12 or something. I am happiest dancing and I want to dance till I can't anymore. Then I'll watch my son Naiche dance and I'll be happy too.

Q) Dance is intertwined into everything you do! How so?
A) I dance fancy too and  I just fixed my bustles this summer, but hoop dancing is where it's at for me. My dad chose it for me actually and it stuck.



Q) What do you think distinguishes your personal dancing from the other dancers?

A) I don't know but I love watching other hoop dancers. There are so so many great dancers. Shout out Kevin, Dallas, Lane, Alex, Derrick, Lowery, Moontee, Nakotah, Jasmine, Beany, Lisa, James, Eric, Charles, Terry, Jones,man, there's a whole lot I am forgetting, but man, there's so so many amazing amazing dancers that bring crazy beautiful energy to the people and I enjoy watching all the different styles. All of these dancers and many many more inspire me to take my dancing to another level.

Q)When we talked about your dance clothes, I meant to ask if their colors are symbolic? What's the message you are sharing through your regalia?

A) Well, right now, I have a blue outfit with yellow hoops. Blue is the color of the medicine stone you receive tied to a eagle plume. It's a powerful color that represents the sacredness of being a man. The blue stone. Then my hoops are yellow because yellow is the color of our sacred pollen. It's the sacred color of all cradle boards, of new life. It brings a beautiful energy to my story within the hoops.

Q)It's a powerful set of cultural ideas that you are sharing by wearing your regalia. What's the message you hope we'll see in your dancing?

A) When people at first glance, see hoop dancing, I think they see the excitement it brings. The spinning of the hoops and jumping through the hoops. Then they see a story unfold before their eyes. They see the creation story, they see the beauty way of life, they see the four stages and the four seasons upon Mother Earth. They see the dancers journey thorough life, and then they see the connection we all have as human beings. The respect of all of life and life's creations.

Q) What do you wish we knew about you that we don't already know?

A) I do want everyone know I have a NEW album released with Canyon Records. It's titled,”Singing Lights,” and it features myself on the traditional flute and Darrin Yazzie on the acoustic guitar. It's my fourth release with Canyon Records and I am really proud of this album. I really everyone gets to listen to it. Dancing is half of me, the other half is music. Music is the language of the soul, the ability to express ones emotions through sound is a beautiful thing. Check out my website TonyDuncanProductions.com, like my Facebook Tony Hoop Dance and Music, Instagram Tony Duncan!

Tony Duncan new cd

Q)Mvto…thank you for your sharing with us! We sure do appreciate you!
A) Thanks!

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