The Hoop Dance Today

          The hoop dance today remains a popular display of Native American dance.  It is still generally performed as a solo, but there is more room for artistic expression with non-traditional inspirations and diversity in their movement.  Also, the movement itself has become faster and more dynamic.  The skill that is needed to perform this dance today is something that these dancers practice starting at a young age.  Most hoop dancers dedicate themselves to this Native American dance style and do no perform or compete in other dances.  


            In the present day, the hoop dance can be seen at many functions including powwows, historical sites, educational and entertainment venues, and competitions throughout the United States and Canada.  Native American dance competitions started in the early 1990’s and have grown into an increasingly popular affair, and is extremely competitive among different tribal communities.  The first World Hoop Dance Competition was held at the New Mexico State Fair in 1991.[1]  Dennis Zotigh, a Kiowa, San Juan Pueblo, and Santee Dakota Indian, proposed theidea for a competition to his father, Ralph Zotigh, who at the time was the director of the New Mexico State Fair.  He convinced him to do the competition because he wanted to determine who the best hoop dancer in the entire nation was.[2]  The first year drew in many competitors from all over and was such a huge success that they had to move it to a larger venue the following year.  The competition ended up moving to the Heard Museum, the museum of American Indian Art and History, located in Phoenix, Arizona.  It was also renamed the Tony White Cloud Memorial World Championship Hoop Dance Contest in honor of all of White Cloud’s contributions to the modern hoop dance.  The Heard Museum’s Annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest is still the largest and most popular hoop dance competition in the world            .

          Zotigh came up with the judging system in 1991 and that is the same method they use today.  There are five categories that they judge the dancers on: precision, timing/rhythm, showmanship, creativity, and speed.  Five judges score the dancers from one to ten using the International Olympic Likert Scale: the score of one representing the lowest score possible and ten representing a flawless performance.   Checks and balances are also built into these categories to ensure fairness.  There are five divisions for the dancers to compete in:  Tiny Tots (under 5), Youth (ages 5-12), Teen (ages 13-17), Adult (18-49), and Senior (50+).[3]  Even though these events are highly competitive, they also offer a place for all of the Native American tribes to come together and feel a sense of unity and community just like at a powwow.  It is another place for them to celebrate their heritage and culture. 

[2] Dennis Zotigh: Dedicated for the Descendants of Harry Hall. “Letter from Dennis.” Dennis Zotigh: Dedicated for the Descendants of Harry Hall. Last modified October 17, 2014. Accessed November 11, 2015.
[3] Johnston, 4.

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