Every winter, the Heard Museum hosts the world championship hoop dance competition. Accompanied by a group of musicians, the dancers use their hoops to create symbols of eagles, baskets, flowers, insects and more to the beat of the music.
The two-day event has many participants competing in five age categories, ranging from those under five to those over 40. Dancers are judged on their precision, rhythm, speed, showmanship and creativity.
The event is a mix of athleticism and artistry. But it’s much more than an entertaining affair. It honors the cultural traditions of various Native American tribes and Canadian First Nations who use the hoop dance as part of their healing ceremonies. Dancers use up to 50 hoops to create a series of fascinating movements.
During the competition, visitors can also explore the museum and sample native dishes from the vendors or the museum restaurant.
Know before you go
The competition takes place every year in February. See the Heard Museum website for dates and times of future events. Dances are performed in the amphitheater. Arrive early or bring a folding chair as the view may be obstructed. If you can’t make it in person, the Heard Museum is streaming the contest live via Facebook.
Free parking is available in a nearby car park. Don’t forget sunscreen or water; there is no shade and the Arizona sun can be harsh.