Dancers wow crowds at Hoop Dance Championships

Nakotah LaRance wins 25th annual World Championship Hoop Dance competition

Nakotah LaRance, 25, Hopi/Tewa/Assiniboin, dances the winning hoop dance Feb. 8 at the 25th annual World Championship Hoop Dance competition. Katherine Locke/NHO

Nakotah LaRance, 25, Hopi/Tewa/Assiniboin, dances the winning hoop dance Feb. 8 at the 25th annual World Championship Hoop Dance competition. Katherine Locke/NHO

PHOENIX - A bright blue sky and warm temperatures greeted a captive audience this past weekend when 71 contestants competed over two days at the 25th annual World Championship Hoop Dance contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

With unseasonably warm temperatures in the 80s, the dancers spun and leapt to the beat of the native drums and singers. The dancers told stories with hoops that created intricate symbols of animals and symbols that hold great meaning for Native tribes.

Hoop dancing is a long-standing tradition in many Native cultures. It can involve the use of more than 50 hoops. The continuous circle of the hoops symbolizes the circle of life and the continuous change of the seasons.

Each participant was judged on precision, timing/rhythm, showmanship and speed.

In the end, late in the day on Sunday, as the sun was going down and after a dance off for third and fourth place, Nakotah LaRance, 25, Hopi/Tewa/Assiniboin, took the top prize in the adult division from seven time world hoop dance champion and last year's champion, Derrick Suwaima Davis, 47, Hopi/Choctaw, by six points in a blazing and crowd pleasing performance.

The senior division winner was Terry L. Goedel, 59, Yakima/Tulalip.

The teen winner was Tyrese Jensen, 16, Navajo/Pima-Maricopa.

The youth winner was Jaron Yazzie, 11, Navajo/Apache.

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