Champions of an ancient art compete in Phoenix

Native American dancer Derrick Suwaima Davis is a master at maneuvering five rattan hoops around his body, creating intricate patterns, while keeping time to the singing and drumming of the musicians behind him. Davis, who is part Hopi, part Choctaw, and lives within the Hopi community, conveys the Hopi story of creation through his hoops.

This month, Derrick Suwaima Davis will join dozens of other Native American hoop dancers from the United States and Canada at the Heard Museum in Phoenix to compete in the 11th Annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest. The dancers, both male and female, range in age from 2-year-olds to 70-somethings. For their intricate, athletic routines, the dancers use 5 to 50 hoops (about Hula Hoop size).

Hoop dancing is thought to have originated in healing ceremonies among the Taos tribes of northern New Mexico. Other tribes adopted the dance, and its popularity spread through powwows and exhibitions. These days, dancers compete with one another for speed, precision, and the number of hoops they can handle and interlock into forms such as butterflies, spheres, snakes, eagles, or bears. “Hoop dancing takes a lot of mental preparation,” says Davis. “It’s like weaving a basket–you have to remember what goes where.”

11th Annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest: Heard Museum, 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix; (602) 252-8840 or

Here are some other places to view hoop dancing. Public Native American dance performances: 5 p.m. Fri; free; Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort, 7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Rd., Scottsdale, AZ; (480) 991-3388. Native American dance shows: $8; Rawhide 1880s Western Town, 23023 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale; (480) 502-5600 or

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