Native hoop dancers to compete in Santa Fe

Native hoop dancer competition to host inaugural event Aug. 6-7

Hoop dancers will take part in the Nakota LaRance Memorial Youth Hoop Dance Competition held at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture on Aug. 6-7. (Courtesy of the Lightning Boy Foundation)

bright spotWhen Steve LaRance moved to New Mexico 10 years ago, he found no native hoop dancers in the state.

LaRance, who lives at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, co-founded the Lightning Boy Foundation, dedicated to empowering Native American youth through traditional art and dance.

The First Nakotah LaRance Memorial Youth Hoop Dance Competition will take place at Santa Fe’s Museum of Indian Arts and Culture on Museum Hill on Aug. 6-7.

LaRance’s son Nakotah was a nine-time world champion hoop dancer who performed with Cirque du Soleil. He later worked as the master instructor for the Pueblo of Pojoaque Youth Hoop Dancers. In 2020, he died at age 30 after falling while climbing a bridge in Rio Arriba County.

The Lightning Boy Foundation was founded to honor the life of Valentino Rivera. Rivera died at the age of 8 after a car accident and 14 subsequent surgeries.

Hoop dances, a tradition in many Native American cultures, tell tribal and individual stories through the use of as many as 50 hoops, which represent the circle of life and are decorated with tape and paint to represent the changing colors of the seasons.

The hoop dance originated in northern New Mexico’s pueblos before spreading across the country and into Canada, Steve LaRance said. It was originally a healing dance.

“If somebody was out of balance, physically, spiritually, it was one of the dances the medicine man gave to restore balance,” he said.

For the competition, the dance celebrates the beauty of Mother Nature and all the gifts she blesses us with, LaRance said.

Twenty-one hoop dancers will compete in four divisions according to age, beginning with tiny tots (children age 5 and under), through college students aged 19-24. The dancers come from across the U.S. and will dress in traditional regalia.

The competitors will use hoops in different designs representing Mother Nature, LaRance said. The eagle symbolizes all the winged animals of the sky, the butterfly represents insects, the flower stands for agriculture and the horse for four-legged animals, he added.

Each division will produce three monetary prize winners; the tiny tots will divide “a pot of money,” LaRance said.

“They’re dancing to traditional Native American music and drum groups,” he added. “We’re trying to instill self-confidence and empathy through these cultural traditions.”

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