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(Many Paths)
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Davis Wins Seventh World Hoop Dance Title
by Katherine Locke - Reporter, Navajo-Hopi Observer

PHOENIX, AZ — Derrick Suwaima Davis, from old Oraibi on Hopi, won an unprecedented seventh adult title world hoop dance championship at the Heard Museum Feb. 8-9.

Davis won the title capturing 234 points out of 250, besting the second place finisher by 14 points.

The two-day event Feb. 8-9 featured 64 competitors from the United States and Canada, with two dancers coming from as far away as the Canadian province of Ontario. More than 3,500 people were present over the two days of the competition at the museum's Scott L. Libby Jr. Amphitheater.

Dancers were judged on a slate of five skills - precision, timing/rhythm, showmanship, creativeness and speed. To earn a spot in the finals, a dancer had to survive a first and a second round of competition. Six finalists competed in the adult division's final round.

Davis said on Hopi the cultural practice of dry farming is still in place and like anywhere, there are times of adversity and prosperity and that his dancing expresses that.

"When I dance... it is my paint and my canvas to express who I am," Davis said.

He learned to dance when he was young around powwows where his family encouraged him. He heard and learned stories that all influenced the way he danced.

But it was not until he was older that he understood how the rhythms of the native drums and rattles and dance space were all connected to who the Hopi people are - how those things were all connected to the Hopis' relationship to the plants, animals, insects and everything above and below the surface of the earth.

Davis said he felt the light came on a few years ago about what the dance truly means, though he does not feel he has learned everything yet.

"I think I am still learning hoop dances, there is much room for improvement," he said. "Not just in technique but just in life."

While some cultures use the hoop dance to heighten their warrior status, Davis said Hopi does not have a warrior, militant philosophy. Instead he has found the hoop dance to be about healing and restoring balance.

"I use that philosophy when I'm dancing," he said. "I make that choice in my life to live as best I can in a healthy fashion... finding a balanced choice."

Davis said not everyone makes their own hoops but he does. He said making the hoops is not hard but shaping the hoops takes some time. He wets the hoops and lets them dry in a form and then glues them together.

"It takes about three days but it is not three days of work," he said. "It's mainly getting them to the right shape."

While using willow would be closer to the original way of making the hoops, Davis uses rattan instead because willow pinches his body when he is dancing.

During the dance Davis' hoops reflect what he sees in nature, like eagles or hummingbirds or insects. He also creates some geometric shapes that symbolize the idea that no one knows everything in the world.

"There are some things that we as human beings should still be figuring out," he said.

He explained that he uses five hoops in his dance. The hoops represent the different stages of life and the difficulties represented in each, ending with a hoop that encourages everyone to remember why they have an opportunity called life.

"If everybody reaches their full potential it would be a better place," he said. "Understanding that no matter what culture you belong to, we all go through rites of passage. That is like picking up the hoops and making different designs as we go through the dance."

Davis said he could not dance as well as he does without the music of ThunderBoy singers under the direction of Ryon Polequapgewa.

"You can dance better when you have awesome music so they helped me along to get this title," he said.

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