performs for enthusiastic audience at 83rd annual Hopi Festival
of Arts and Culture
world hoop dance champion Nakota LaRance performs at the 83rd
annual Hopi Festival of Arts and Culture.
(photo by Ryan Williams
- Navajo-Hopi Observer)
FLAGSTAFF, AZ - Nakotah LaRance wowed the crowd at the 83rd annual
Hopi Festival of Arts and Culture July 2 treating the crowd to a dazzling
performance of his world hoop dance champion skills at the Museum
of Northern Arizona.
Nakotah started out as a fancy dancer, which is a flashy dance
usually performed by young men to attract visitors to powwows. Before
his dance, 8-year-old fancy dancer Lowell Chimerica, from Moenkopi,
danced. Charlie Chimerica sang for Nakotah.
Steve LaRance, Nakotah's father, said the hoop dance used to
be a healing ceremony. If someone was out of balance, a medicine
man would dance to bring that person back into balance.
He said, according to a study done by the Heard Museum, that
the hoop dance originated in the pueblos of the Southwest and Hopi
is part of the pueblos.
Nakotah's dance includes symbols of the eagle, a horse, a crocodile
or water serpent and the ladder of life, representing an infant,
a child and an adult.
In 2015, Nakotah won the top prize at the 25th annual World
Championship Hoop Dance competition beating out seven time champion
Derrick Suwaima Davis. He repeated the win in 2016 becoming a two-time
The dancers tell 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 is judged on precision, timing and rhythm,
showmanship and speed.
LaRance has been hoop dancing since he was four years old at
powwows he attended during the summer with his aunt and cousins.
During one of those summers, he traveled with Davis, who was
also a fancy dancer at the time where Nakotah would watch him perform.
Davis made Nakotah his first set of hoops and taught him the basic
designs that are seen in the hoop dance.
LaRance's father, Steve, was also a big influence in creating
opportunities for LaRance to dance by getting him booked to perform
at conferences, powwows and art festivals. He also took LaRance
to an audition in Flagstaff one weekend for "The Tonight Show
with Jay Leno" in 2004, an appearance that opened more opportunities
After many years, LaRance still finds inspiration in the dance
because it brings people together in friendship and mutual understanding
about the circle of life and how each person has a relationship
He said after the world champion competition that he gets boosted
up when the audience enjoys the beat of the drum, singing and the
dance with the designs he creates.
LaRance said it is a challenge to compete against all the great,
and champion, hoop dancers that come from all over the United States
and Canada. In his first years competing, he had problems with dropping
his hoops and not creating designs as he had intended. But the biggest
thing to overcome has been to compete against Davis.
He said that to compete against his master teacher has always
been tough and Davis will not let up for anyone.