PHOENIX – The hoop dance has rarely been a competition for Scott Sixkiller Sinquah.
Of course, Sinquah is a world champion hoop dancer and one of the best at it. But he doesn’t dance the hoop to win. It does this to pay homage to the traditional healing aspects of the dance for which the style is known. He also dances for his fellow dancers and that friendly connection that has been lacking since the pandemic struck.
Sinquah, which is Gila River, Hopi, Choctaw, and Cherokee, will be missing this part the most next month when the popular Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest changes from an in-person event celebrated in Phoenix to the virtual stage.
In an ordinary world, Sinquah would defend his 2020 World Championship title in front of hundreds of people. But little is ordinary these days, and the museum decided this year to hold the event online for security reasons. The museum’s annual art market in March will also be virtual.
The change in format of the competition did not discourage the participants.
Sinquah is one of 89 registered dancers who will take part in the pre-recorded online event scheduled for Saturday. Of those, 82 belong to competitive age groups, an increase from last year’s record high of 80, according to the museum.
The show starts at 11 a.m. and is expected to last a little over an hour.
“It’s good that they still have the contest, even though it’s virtual,” said Sinquah, who has danced in the contest for years. “It’s good because there are people who have never had the chance to travel to Arizona. They’ll be able to do their hoop dance, and that’s a positive side of the virtual event.
Do not call the champion of Sinquah.
“I don’t see the other dancers as a competition; I see it as a brotherhood, ”Sinquah said. “For me it’s funny, because to see the other dancers, and they say ‘Hey, champion.’ I don’t think of myself as the champion, I just love to dance.
Famous hoop dancer and three-time world champion Nakota LaRance will be missed at this year’s event. LaRance, a longtime dance teacher even at age 30, passed away in July. He devoted much of his time to teaching young Native Americans how to dance the hoop.
LaRance students from the Lightning Boy Foundation in New Mexico are expected to participate in the virtual event. The group have traveled all over the world to perform and regularly participate in the Phoenix event. LaRance’s sister, Sonwai, who learned to dance with her brother, also teaches the students.
Sonwai LaRance said training for this year’s event has been a challenge for her and the students due to the pandemic. Sonwai wasn’t sure she wanted to compete this year with the sudden loss of her brother on her mind, but said Nakota wanted her and the students to dance.
“It’s just wonderful to see the transition these kids make from the hoop dance to the hoop dance and to see the people they become,” said Sonwai LaRance. “It means so much because you see these children going from shy little buds to beautiful, big, beautiful blooming flowers. “
The “flowers” are also part of Nakota’s talent, if her fans keep a close eye on the youngsters they will see it, Sonwai said.
“When they’re serious and doing their best, you can see Nakota through them,” she said. “So his legacy is carried on by the passion of these children. Nakota was a world champion hoop dancer and he taught future world champions to come. “