Significance and Symbolism of the Hoop
The hoop is the most significant part of the dance and it has deeper symbolic meaning than meets the eye. For most Native Americans the hoop simply represents the never-ending circle of life. It has no end or beginning and reminds one that we, as nations, are all connected. Kevin Locke, a nationally recognized Lakota hoop dancer, explains the hoop as this: “The hoop or circle is the most pervasive and ubiquitous world archetype. For all people the shape represents peace, wholeness, harmony, beauty, sacredness, divinity, continuity, infinity, and well-being. The hoop or circle is God’s mark on every aspect of creation even down to the smallest atom, proton and neutron. In its essence the hoop dance is a choreographed prayer – a prayer that we may all be restored to our place in the hoop of life, in God’s creation.” So as described, not only is the hoop a powerful representation for Native Americans, but the circle itself has deep meaning for them as well. The circle is continuously seen throughout their culture. It is the way the powwow is formed, it is the floor formations they make while dancing, and it is in the direction they move. They believe that when they are dancing the hoop dance, they are honoring the circle and paying respect towards its sacredness. The hoop dancer feels seven connections when dancing in the circle at the powwow: North, South, East, West, heaven, earth, and their heart.
What the Hoop is Made of
The hoop, itself, is made out of several different materials and is about one to two and a half feet in diameter. Depending on what the dancer prefers is what their personal hoops are made of and how they are sized. Traditional hoops are usually made out of willow branches or bois d’arc wood. These are not used as much, however, because of newer, less expensive and more durable materials. The most popular choices these days are hoops constructed of reed or plastic hose because they travel better than the hoops made of wood. They are usually decorated in brightly colored tape or paint. Again, they are decorated according to the dancer’s personal preference. Most hoop dancers have four marks on each of their hoops that symbolize the four seasons, the four cardinal directions, and the four sacred colors. These sacred colors are black representing fall and West, red representing summer and South, yellow representing spring and East, and white representing winter and North. Some of the contemporary hoop dancers also interpret the colors in other different ways to bring new meaning to the dances they perform. For example, for Dallas Chief Eagle, a Lakota Sioux and master hoop dancer, his hoops represent the different colors and sizes of trees signifying diversity of life. Another hoop dancer by the name of Pete Four Winds, uses the four colors to symbolize different races including Indian, Asian, African, and European. As he puts his hoops together, it shows that we as a human race may look different, but we are all the same.
 Hooping. “Kevin Locke on Elevating the Human Spirit Through Hoop Dance.” Hooping. Last modified January 7, 2013. Accessed October 25, 2015. http://www.hooping.org/2013/01/kevin-locke-on-elevating-the-human-spirit-through- hoop-dance/
 Zotigh, Dennis. “History of the Modern Hoop Dance.” Indian Country Today, May 30, 2007. Accessed October 30, 2015.
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