Intro to Native American Hoop Dance

I'm sure if you are a part of the hoop community online you have occasionally seen some really cool videos of Native American Hoop Dancing! These performances are truely inspiring to watch. This type of hoop dancing can at times include up to 40 hoop!! Crazy right?

For Example, check out this awesome performance!!

Tony Duncan at the 2011 Adult division Hoop Dance Championship

There are many differences between Native American hoop dance and our hoop dancing. This type of hooping is not what you generally think of. No one is really waist hooping and this isn't the type of hooping you would see in an old school Wham-o commercial. Native American hoop dance is a style of its own within the Native American culture that is unlike anything many hoopers would expect.

  • Native American hoop dance is passed down. You will not find videos teaching it, or classes to attend. This is not something that can be learned on youtube or at your local dance studio. It is generally taught by an older family member or family friend and passed down a generation. This means there is much less of an opportunity to learn and fewer people participate in this type of hoop dance.

  • Native Americans use natural materials such as wood , bamboo, or reeds to make their hoops. They do not use polypro of hdpe like most "hoopers" use. You also will not see any fancy morph tape or crazy colors. The colors used for their hoops often match their outfits , represent colors of their tribes, or hold some type of personal significance to the hooper.

While we are hooping to music and getting our "flow" on, Native Americans are focused on story telling. With no beginning or end, the hoop represents the never-ending circle of life. They use many hoops to depict shapes of animals and parts of nature to tell a story within their dance. Generally the dance is started with one hoop and as each hoop is added a new element is added. This builds the hoops into different shapes. The shapes formed by the hoops are symbolic representations of animals such as eagles, snakes, butterflies or coyotes. They can also represent elements such as water or air, as well as life events like marriage or death. The intro to the video below touches on some of the things the hoops represnt and what they can build into and show within a hoop dance performance.

  • In elaborate sequences of moves, the hoops are made to interlock, and in such a way they can be extended from the body of the dancer to form appendages such as wings and tails.

  • Native American hoop dancing is mainly performed by men, although some women do participate and compete occasionally. This is quite the opposite of what we see as hoopers. Generally in our style of americianized hooping we see a majority of women hooping with men being a bit of a minority. In Native American hoop dance modesty is also greatly valued. Their clothing is made to make sure they are always covered where as in the U.S. you may see many hoop dancers with more risque costuming for performances.

Overall, Native American hoop dance is completely different than what we view as hoop dance. It is amazing to watch the talent and years of practice put into each performance. Watching for different story telling elements is always really interesting as well. It is awesome to look at hooping from the perspective of another culture and realize that even though there are so many differences, we all hold a meaning and love for our circles.