Sculpture Celebrates Life of Young Hoop Dancer Gone Too Soon

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown November 8th, 2017 Last Updated on: November 8th, 2017

The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture recently received a sculpture in their permanent collection that honors and celebrates the life of Valentino Tzigiwhaeno Rivera (Pojoaque Pueblo), 2008 – 2016.

The unveiling and celebration took place over the weekend and featured speakers George Rivera (Pojoaque Pueblo), Olympian Gold Medalist Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota), Steve LaRance (Hopi/Assiniboine), as well as performances by the Pueblo Buffalo Dancers, Santa Fe Break Dancers, Jir Project, and Lightning Boy Hoop Dancers.

The unveiling:

More from the press release below:

“We are honored to have this sculpture – depicting Valentino in his Hoop Dance Regalia – created by his father George Rivera, the renowned sculptor, in the Museum’s permanent collection,” says Della Warrior (Otoe Missouria), director of the museum.

“The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture is truly grateful for this outstanding gift celebrating the life of Valentino and his love and joy of dancing,” says Warrior.

Valentino was inspired by world champion hoop dancer Nakotah LaRance (Assiniboine/Hopi/Tewa), and had an affinity for the late Michael Jackson’s dance and performance abilities. His relationship with LaRance – and his father Steve – led to the founding of the Pueblo of Pojoaque Youth Hoop Dance Group.

“Valentino immediately started sharing Nakotah and Steve’s instruction, showing gratitude and blessings for the well-being of others any time he was able,” says his mother Felicia Rivera, “at family parties, at school, in the parks, for relatives when they were sick or well.”

He performed at Pearl Harbor at the Homecoming of the USS Santa Fe, in San Diego with fellow dancers from around New Mexico for the National Indian Gaming Association, and in Phoenix at the World Hoop Dance Competition. In 2014 they traveled to Europe and performed in Paris, Florence, and Geneva, where they danced at the US Embassy for Keith Harper, US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council, and Ambassadors for many other countries. “Valentino left a lasting impression everywhere he danced,” says Felicia Rivera. “While many [people] are advised to ‘dance like no one is watching’…Valentino danced like the whole universe was watching…”

A world performer, Valentino danced at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, too, in the former Ann and Alan Rolley Performance Circle, now being sponsored by Ashlyn and Dan Perry in Valentino’s honor.

Photo by Robert Mesa

“This sculpture of Valentino performing the ‘Hoop Dance’ will greatly enhance the beauty of Milner Plaza and Museum Hill. We commend Dan and Ashlyn Perry for their leadership role in making this gift possible, with the support of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation.”

For more information, please visit the museum’s website at indianartsandculture.org or call 505-476-1271.

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About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.

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