8 February 2023
The Art of Hoop Dance
In 2019, Ballet Arizona established the Tribal Nations Advisory Council with the goal of cultivating stronger relationships with our local Native communities. A key focus of the Council is to ensure Native youth in the Valley have the opportunity to learn the art of hoop dance.
The following year, we created the Native American Hoop Dance program, first led by Ginger Sykes-Torres (Navajo), a World Champion Hoop Dancer and Council member, and now Eva Bighorse (Navajo) who has toured internationally performing Native American dances including Hoop Dance.
According to the Heard Museum, “the art of hoop dance honors cultural traditions shared by multiple Indigenous communities, with roots in healing ceremonies, traditions and practices. Today hoop dance is shared as an artistic expression to celebrate and honor Indigenous traditions throughout the U.S. and Canada… Passed down from one generation to the next, hoop dancing communicates individual and tribal stories using hoops to create symbols and depict animals of great meaning in Native communities. The continuous circle of the hoops symbolizes the circle of life and the continual changing of the seasons.”
During the pandemic, a small group of Native youth met for virtual classes once a week before finally moving to in-person lessons at The School of Ballet Arizona in the summer of 2022. The program has continued to grow, now offering beginner and intermediate classes, with more levels hopefully on the way.
Students participating in this program have the opportunity to engage in cultural mentorship with leaders in their communities and participate in an art form that promotes physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
“The Native American Hoop Dance class at Ballet Arizona is truly one of a kind,” says Ginger Sykes-Torres. “The Council worked to create this cultural opportunity for Native American youth to learn an intertribal dance rooted in tradition while building confidence, coordination, and self-esteem. Starting this class was important because it facilitates inclusivity between the Native American community and SBAZ. I hope it will allow the students to branch out and engage in ballet and other forms of dance.”