A hoop dancer creates an intricate pattern of hoops across his arms

Hoop Dance

More from this show

This “Art in the 48” episode explores the origins of Native American hoop dance and through a conversation with the MC of the world-championship hoop dance competition.

“The hoop dancer dances within what encircles him, demonstrating how people live in motion within the circling spirals of time and space. They are no more limited than water and sky. Their bodies going in and out of multiple hoops. It’s just incredible to see,” said Paula Gunn Allen, native American poet, novelist, commentator and teacher.

The hoop dancing tradition is used in rituals and celebrations across many Native American tribes and groups, each one slightly different in technique, meaning and detail than the other.

The hoop is a symbol of completeness, wholeness and the never-ending circle of life, called “recurrence” by Allen.

The hoop is also an important tool in healing rituals, often used by tribal holy men and women in order to see ailments and restoring balance and harmony. Hoop dancing was also used as a way to bless an upcoming harvest.

“When we dance, we experience the rhythms of nature, like our heartbeats, like seasons, like gestation periods,” said Vanessa Brown, a Navajo hoop dancer.

Each and every tribe has a different origin story and practicality for hoops, whether it be teaching dexterity, or spiritual work.

Today, Tony White Cloud is known as the founder of modern hoop dance, gaining momentous awareness around mainstream media in the ’90s. In 1991, the first hoop dance competition was founded by Ralf and Dennis Zotigh. The following year, the competition was first held at the Heard Museum of American Indian Art in Phoenix, where dancers of all ages could compete. In recent years, performers included 100 of the top Native American, Canadian and First Nations dancers, with hundreds of audience members in attendance.

A watercolor of a woman in a yellow dress holding a seedling with the words Plant the Seed: A few simple steps today will give you peace of mind tomorrow

Plant the seed of support for public broadcasting

Three young people face away from the camera. The middle figure has an arm around each of their friends; the other two each have an arm raised in triumph. The trio are looking out across the landscape.

How does bullying affect our students? 

A photographic portrait of famed abolitionist and political activist Harriet Tubman.
airs Oct. 4

Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom

Photo shows three young men of the tv show la otra mirada episode
airs Oct. 2

La Otra Mirada

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: