This past August 26th, the Intermountain All-Women Hoop Dancing Championships were held and the event was a huge success. The first competition of its kind, ever, included 42 dancers from the United States and Canada. The one-day event consisted of two rounds to determine the ladies hoop dancing champion.
Sandra Yellow Horn of the Peigan Nation won first place at the inaugural competition, while Violet John of the Kehewin First Nation took the runner-up trophy. The event was held at “This is The Place Heritage Park” in Salt Lake City, Utah,
I had a chance to ask Violet John, former Miss Indian World 2006, about the competition and her thoughts on hoop dancing. John said she was happy to see this competition take place because it will draw attention to women in hoop dancing.
“It’s very rare to see female hoop dancers and to have this first ladies hoop dancing competition is so good for the women and young girls to get involved in this beautiful dance,” said Violet. “Three of my daughters are hoop dancers and this event will only encourage them and other young girls to start dancing in the future. It was so nice to travel to Salt Lake City and compete here.”
Hoop dancing has a long-standing tradition. This unique dance can involve the use of more than 50 hoops. Hoop dancing communicates individual and tribal stories using hoops to create symbols and depict animals or other life found in nature. The continuous circle of the hoops symbolizes the circle of life and change of seasons.
It is not clear which tribe founded traditional hoop dancing because many tribes have a history of the practice in various ceremonies. Traditional hoops were made from wood of a willow tree, whereas modern-day hoops are made from reed and plastic because of the durability of the material when travelling.
The hoops are then decorated with tape and paint to symbolize the changing colours of each season. Traditional hoops are still used on rare occasions. Native hoop dancing is traditionally a male-only dance, but over the past few decades women have picked up the dance. In 1994, Jackie Bird from South Dakota became the first woman to compete in the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest.
Saanii Atsitty, the Intermountain All-Women Hoop Dancing Championships organizer says judges are looking at precision, timing, rhythm, craftsmanship, creativity and originality. For the ladies’ competition judges also look at grace and elegance. The two rounds of competition for the ladies consisted of 5 minutes and 7 minutes in the final round dancing to Northern Drum, White Bull, and Southern Drum, Southern Soul Singers.
“I think the first go-round went well and created great interest and excitement,” said Atsitty, organizer of the hoop dancing competition. “We are glad to create a space and platform for these beautiful women and girls to showcase their dancing. We are looking forward to the 2nd Annual next year.”