Imagine being 11 years old— and already a role model for other young Native Americans. For Nakota LaRance being a role model is a reality.
LaRance, a fifth grader from Flagstaff was the recent winner of the youth division hoop dancing championship that took place at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. He, along with 10 other youth competed for the coveted title.
“I am really happy, it was a great experience, said LaRance. “I just like going out there and competing and making the crowd pleased with what I do. Hearing the crowd’s applause and seeing their happy faces makes me feel great. Dancing and entertaining is just something I like doing,” he said.
Not only did LaRance bring home the youth title; he earned a cash prize of $500. LaRance indicated that the money was going to be used for his college fund. “I am already saving for my college education. I know the importance of college,” he said.
LaRance said he knew he wanted to become a dancer when he got a chance to see other dancers perform. “The first time I saw a pow wow dancer I just knew that was what I wanted to do,” he said. He started pow wow dancing at age 4, and eventually started hoop dancing.
It isn’t enough that LaRance is already saving for college; but his very own role model, mentor, and first teacher just happens to be four-time champion hoop dancer Derrick “Suwaima” Davis.
“He made my first hoops; he is definitely the person I look up to,” said LaRance, smiling from ear to ear. “He (Davis) taught me just about everything I know about hoop dancing,” said LaRance.
LaRance’s father, Steve, also provides guidance for his son. “I usually practice and ask my dad how something looks or how it is going,” said LaRance. “My dad will quickly tell me how everything is.” LaRance said that he also travels to other pow wows and watches other dancers perform. “I like to see other dancers do their routines and I like going around meeting new people.”
LaRance has been asked to perform at many events; last fall he performed for Coca – Cola in Atlanta. He just recently performed for the Arizona State Museum in Tucson and in the spring he will perform for the American Indian Science & Engineering Society’s spring banquet at the University of Arizona.
LaRance’s father Steve said that his son has become quite a role model. “I am really proud that Nakota is there to be a form of motivation and encouragement for other youngsters. They see him perform and they can see that they too can do it.”
LaRance comes from an artistic family. His parents Steve and Marion LaRance are sculptors, painters and jewelry makers. His dad also recently won best of show at the Arizona State Museum Indian Art Fair. His little brother, Cree, who is five, won 5th place in the youth division at the Heard competition, while his little sister Shondien, eight, is about to begin jingle dancing.
While it seems that LaRance has his plate full he still gets to do activities that a normal boy his age would do. “I love basketball, computer games and drawing, especially comics,” he said.
Anyone interested in having Nakota LaRance perform may contact him at: P.O. Box 2872, Flagstaff, AZ 86003, (520) 526-2300.