World’s best hoop dancers return for 2009 World title

By Debra Krol
Phoenix, Arizona (ICC) 10-08

2008 Champ Charles Denny

The Heard Museum’s 19th Annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest Top American Indian and Canadian First Nation hoop dancers from the United States and Canada are set to compete for the prestigious title of world champion during a weekend of competition at the Heard Museum on Saturday and Sunday, February 7 & 8, 2009.

These accomplished dancers will showcase their skills in amazing performances of the intertribal hoop dance. The Jay Kahn Memorial Fund sponsors the youth competition prizes and the Arizona Commission for the Arts is a supporter of the contest.

First-time adult champion Charles Denny, Chippewa/Cree/Ute, 18, from Fort Duchesne, Utah, is expected to defend his title against such seasoned competitors and crowd favorites as Derrick Davis, Hopi/Choctaw; Nakotah La Rance, Hopi/Tewa, from Flagstaff, Arizona; Alex Wells, Lil Wat First Nation, of Morley, Alberta; and Lisa Odjig, Odawa/Ojibwe, from Wikemiking, Ontario. Denny will also most likely be facing off against 2008’s second-place finisher Brian Hammill, Ho Chunk, of New River, Arizona, over whom Denny captured the 2008 title by just one point. The winners will take home their share of more than $30,000 in prize money. (Final competitor list will be available on Saturday, February 7, at the event.) Hoop dance fans from across the U.S., Canada and Europe are already making plans to cheer their favorite dancer on to glory.

Other categories of competition include Tiny Tot (under 5 years), Youth (5 to 12), Teen (13 to 17) and Senior (40 and older).



For many years, the intertribal hoop dance has expanded to incorporate new and creative designs and extremely intricate footwork. Each dancer presents a unique variation of the intertribal hoop dance, weaving in aspects of his or her distinct tradition and culture. Individual routines are presented using as few as four to as many as 50 hoops, which are manipulated to create a variety of designs including animals, butterflies and globes.

Dancers are judged based on the International Athletic Likert Scale, which assesses five skills: precision, timing/ rhythm, showmanship, creativeness and speed. In recent years, younger competitors such as La Rance, who’s also an up-and-coming actor, are incorporating modern dance steps like hip-hop into their routines. No matter which steps a hoop dancer wields, however, she or he is dancing in the footsteps of an ancient tradition.

About the Heard Museum – Since 1929, the Heard Museum has educated visitors from around the world about the art and cultures of Native people of the Southwest. With more than 38,500 artifacts in its permanent collection, an education center and award-winning Shop and café, the Heard remains committed to being a place of learning, discovery and unforgettable experiences.


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