Filed under: competition, featuredarticle, Native Americans
If you haven’t had the chance to visit the Heard Museum in Phoenix, a collection of more than 38,500 artifacts from around the world about the art and cultures of Native people of the Southwest, then you’re in for a real treat.
What’s even more exciting is the Annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard that features top American Indian and Canadian First Nation hoop dancers. These amazing performers will compete for the prestigious title of world champion on Saturday and Sunday, February 13 & 14, 2010.
As one of my resolutions for 2010, the Hoop Dance Contest is an event that appeals to my interest in dance, with its intricate footwork, wonderfully colorful and outstanding costumes and the performers balance and control. Truly a Native phenomenon, different Native American tribes have their own interpretation of how the dance should be done.
Not Your Mamas Hula Hoop
The tradition of dancing with a hoop or circle is symbolic in that it represents the Circle of Life with the continuous cycle of summer and winter, day and night, male and female. It is believed that the people of Taos Pueblo, New Mexico, first began performing a dance in which a performer passed though a hoop. Some Native people use hoop dancing as a part of a healing ceremony designed to restore balance and harmony in the world, which is not performed publicly.
Utilizing a variety of hoops in various sizes and colors, these performers wow the audience with their ability to balance as few as four to as many as 50 hoops, which are manipulated to create designs including animals, butterflies and globes while staying in step with the music. Judged on five primary skills – precision, timing/rhythm, showmanship, creativeness and speed, younger competitors are even incorporating modern dance steps like hip-hop into their routines.
According to Deb Krol, marketing communications manager at the Heard, “People really enjoy the Hoop Dance because it’s just a great display of athleticism, artistry and Native culture. Plus, all the Hoop Dancers are friendly, enjoy what they do and are open to talking about improving the sport [and it really is becoming a sport similar to ice dancing], which people respond to.”
I’ve seen other hoop dance performances and have been fascinated as to how they juggle the hoops while keeping their composure and still fully engage in the traditional steps of the dance. It is true athleticism.
World Champion Title
Celebrating their 20th anniversary this year previous champions return to reclaim their titles and new competitors display their winning skills. In addition to the adults (18 to 39) that compete, other categories of competition include Tiny Tot (under 5 years), Youth (5 to 12), Teen (13 to 17) and Senior (40 and older). The winners will take home their share of more than $30,000 in prize money.
The event is held rain or shine (please note tickets are not refundable) in an outdoor arena in the front of the museum. Bring your own low-profile lawn chairs, seat cushions and blankets to better enjoy the competition and to be comfortable.
The performances start at 9:30 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday and the final Adult round will be held on Sunday at 2 p.m. Here is a complete schedule of the performances.
In between show times, take a stroll around the museums campus. A total of 130,000 square feet includes 10 exhibition galleries, a lovely café for lunch, additional collections and more. The courtyards (five total) alone are worth the trip. There is also a great museum shop known for offering the finest quality of handmade authentic Native art and is a trading post in the heart of Phoenix. Also stop by the Berlin Gallery, a new fine art retail gallery that opened in 2006.
It’s really a spectacular performance with the best of the best coming from all over North America to compete. It’s also a great opportunity to learn more about Native people and their history in Arizona. The Hoop Dance has become so popular that it will be performed during the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver on February 12!
Purchase Tickets Online
Costs Per Day (includes event and museum admission): $12 general admission, $11 seniors (65+), $7 American Indians and Heard Museum members, $3 for children age 4-12, FREE for children under 4.
Free parking is available on the museum’s grounds and in high-rise parking garages and lots surrounding the museum. The closest and largest garage is located at Central Park Square on Holly and Center, about 3 short blocks from the museum’s main entrance. Other surface parking nearer to the museum is available; just follow signage along Central Avenue.
Ride the Metro Light Rail to the Heard. The Encanto/Central Heard Museum stop drops you off right at the entrance of the Hoop Dance Contest.
Photos courtesy of Heard Museum