Hundreds of spectators gathered at the Heard Museum in Phoenix to watch the 23rd Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest. The contestants represented dozens of tribes from around the U.S. and Canada, bringing with them their own unique styles of costume and dance.
Preliminary rounds were held on Saturday for each of the divisions, consisting of Tiny Tots, Youth, Teen, Senior and Adult. The final rounds began Sunday morning, starting with the Youth. There were contestants from six to twelve years old competing, and an energetic six-year-old from Salt River took first place.
The Senior division is for contestants 40 years of age and older, and a few names always trend at the top. This year was no change, as Brian Hammill (HoChunk) claimed first place again. Lowery Begay (Dine) took second, and both men have won many times. Tommy Draper (Dine), a previous award winner as well, took third.
The most anticipated portion of the weekend is the Adult division final round, and six prizes are given to represent the broad age category. The diverse performances were stunning for their skill and expressive passion, and many of the winners have won titles before.
First Place went to: Derrick Suwaima Davis (Hopi/Choctaw: AZ)
Second: Tony Duncan (Apache/Arikara/Hidatsa/Mandan: AZ)
Third: Kevin Dakota Duncan (San Carlos Apache: AZ)
Fourth: Dallas Arcand (Cree: Alberta)
Fifth: Charles Denny (Cree/Northern Ute: UT)
Sixth: Nakotah LaRance (Hopi/Tewa/Assinboin: NM)
Live traditional drums and singers played for the dancers, and families traveled far to cheer on their contestants.
Finally, the inaugural Heard Museum Hoop Dance Legacy Award was given to Jones Benally (Dine) to celebrate his 75-year run of hoop dancing. A traditional practitioner from Winslow, Benally has performed for Queen Elizabeth II and Oprah and has worked as a healer all his life. Now in his 90s, Benally danced like a young man and reminded the younger contestants to preserve their cultures by continuing the cherished practice of traditional hoop dancing.
To see the winners and videos from last year, visit heard.org/hoop