Sunday, November 22, 2015

About the Native American Hoop Dance


           The Native American hoop dance is a significant dance to the Native American culture.  The  hoop dance was traditionally performed for healing ceremonies throughout tribal communities.  The details are very limited when researching what specific healing was done during this dance because these ceremonies were looked at as extremely sacred events.  The most popular thought is that the healing ceremony was to bring balance and harmony back to the world.  Since becoming a popular dance that can be regularly seen at powwows and competitions throughout the United States, the purpose has significantly changed.  The hoop dance has now become a storytelling dance which incorporates one to fifty hoops that create different shapes.  The single dancer starts with one hoop and gradually adds in more and more hoops.  The hoops transform into different shapes including a globe, butterfly, eagle, snake and many more.  The creativity of the dance is only limited by the dancer.[1]
           The draw to this particular dance is the visual images created by the hoops, the lively regalia, and the physical toll on the dancer’s body.  The hoop dance is usually seen with only one dancer performing at a time.  To start, the dancer must pick up the first hoop with their feet before touching it with their hands.  As the dance builds, it is the dancer who determines how the dance will continue because the routines are ever-changing and unique to the individual dancer. 
            Regional styles of all dances, including the jingle dress and grass dance, also influence the hoop dancer’s personal style and movement.  In the southwest, the dancers use fewer hoops, but dance faster and use more intricate footwork.  In the north, the dancers in those communities use many hoops and tend to dance slower than the southwest dancer.  It is also customary to ask permission to use signature dance moves created by another dancer before adding them to your own dance.  This gesture shows a sign of respect towards the other tribal communities and the dancers. 
            Many of the hoop dances end in the same way, which is by bringing all of the hoops together, whether four or fifty, to symbolize the world being unified as one.  Being a hoop dancer requires precision, agility, rhythm, and creativity to be able to dance this exciting dance.  The body moves in and out of the hoops while the feet stay with the beating drum.  Being a hoop dancer takes hours of dedicated practice and training.[2]  Vanessa Brown, a Navajo/Sioux dancer expresses her feelings when dancing the hoop dance: “When we dance, we experience the rhythms of nature, like our heartbeats, like seasons, like gestation periods.”[3] For these dancers, it is more than just the dance itself.  It is the thing that connects them to their people, their ancestral roots, and the earth around them. 

[1] Native Pride Arts. “Native Pride Dancers: Dancing through Life.” Native Pride Arts. Last modified May 29, 2010. Accessed November 2, 2015.
[2] Johnston, 1.
[3] Axtmann, Ann. Indians and Wannabes : Native American powwow dancing in the northeast and              beyond. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2013.