Empowering Native Youth through dance
Lightning Boy hoop dancers shine at World Championship

Mateo Ulibarri, who has been hoop dancing since 2019, was named 2023 Teen World Hoop Champion. (Photo/Aurora Oberlah)

Mateo Ulibarri, who has been hoop dancing since 2019, was named 2023 Teen World Hoop Champion. (Photo/Aurora Oberlah)


Josiah Enriquez took home 4th place in the Adult Division. Josiah has been a member of the Lightning Boy Foundation since its establishment in 2017. He has won multiple World Hoop Dance titles and is a master instructor for the youth hoop dancers. (Photo/Michael Rausch)

PHOENIX — The Lightning Boy Hoop Dancers brought home top honors at the 2023 World Champion Hoop Dance Contest, held at the Heard Museum in Phoenix Feb. 18-19.

The team had 24 competing dancers, seven of whom were first-timers at the event.

The Lightning Boys have been preparing for the World Championship all year, with countless hours spent in intense practices, workshops and live performances. The competition is the focal event of the year for the instructors and dancers.

In the youth division, JaiP'o Harvier took second place, Isaiah George came in third, Iris Paloma Rivera placed fourth, and Therese Ulibarri took sixth place.

In the teen division, Mateo Ulibarri was named champion, while Giovanni Benally placed fourth. In the adult division, Josiah Enriquez took fourth place and Mitchell Shonkwaiataroroks Gray placed eighth.


Award winners (left to right): JaiP'o Harvier, 2nd Place, Youth Division; Mateo Ulibarri, Champion, Teen Division; Josiah Enriquez, 4th Place, Adult Division; Isaiah George, 3rd Place, Youth Division. (Photo/Lightning Boy Foundation)

Co-chairs of the Lightning Boy Foundation, Felicia Rivera and Steve LaRance, were impressed by their team's accomplishments.

"So proud of all our dancers with the Lightning Boy Foundation,” LaRance said in a recent Facebook post, “This year we had our largest entourage ever representing LBF (at) the Heard Museum World Championship of Hoop Dance. Many of our dancers qualified for the 2nd round. All our dancers performed wonderfully."


Iris Paloma Rivera earned 4th Place in the Youth Division.(Photo/Michael Rausch)

The Lightning Boy Foundation is a nonprofit organization in Northern New Mexico that provides traditional hoop dance instruction and other dance programming to youth ages two and up. The organization is dedicated to nurturing and building confidence and integrity through culture and artistic expression, offering classes and workshops to Native youth to help them connect with their heritage and culture.

The foundation was established in honor of Valentino 'Tzigiwhaeno' Rivera, a boy who couldn't stop dancing. He passed at the young age of eight, a sacred number in the Native community, and left a clear mission and vision to fulfill.


Lightning Boy Foundation Hoop Dancers, Master Instructors and co-Chair, Steve LaRance (wearing the cap). (Photo/Lightning Boy Foundation)

To learn more about The Lightning Boy Foundation and their upcoming workshops, visit lightningboyfoundation.com.

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