AZ Derrick Suwaima Davis, from old Oraibi on Hopi, won an
unprecedented seventh adult title world hoop dance championship
at the Heard Museum Feb. 8-9.
Davis won the title capturing 234 points out of 250, besting
the second place finisher by 14 points.
The two-day event Feb. 8-9 featured 64 competitors from the
United States and Canada, with two dancers coming from as far away
as the Canadian province of Ontario. More than 3,500 people were
present over the two days of the competition at the museum's Scott
L. Libby Jr. Amphitheater.
Dancers were judged on a slate of five skills - precision, timing/rhythm,
showmanship, creativeness and speed. To earn a spot in the finals,
a dancer had to survive a first and a second round of competition.
Six finalists competed in the adult division's final round.
Davis said on Hopi the cultural practice of dry farming is still
in place and like anywhere, there are times of adversity and prosperity
and that his dancing expresses that.
"When I dance... it is my paint and my canvas to express who
I am," Davis said.
He learned to dance when he was young around powwows where his
family encouraged him. He heard and learned stories that all influenced
the way he danced.
But it was not until he was older that he understood how the
rhythms of the native drums and rattles and dance space were all
connected to who the Hopi people are - how those things were all
connected to the Hopis' relationship to the plants, animals, insects
and everything above and below the surface of the earth.
Davis said he felt the light came on a few years ago about what
the dance truly means, though he does not feel he has learned everything
"I think I am still learning hoop dances, there is much room
for improvement," he said. "Not just in technique but just in life."
While some cultures use the hoop dance to heighten their warrior
status, Davis said Hopi does not have a warrior, militant philosophy.
Instead he has found the hoop dance to be about healing and restoring
"I use that philosophy when I'm dancing," he said. "I make that
choice in my life to live as best I can in a healthy fashion...
finding a balanced choice."
Davis said not everyone makes their own hoops but he does. He
said making the hoops is not hard but shaping the hoops takes some
time. He wets the hoops and lets them dry in a form and then glues
"It takes about three days but it is not three days of work,"
he said. "It's mainly getting them to the right shape."
While using willow would be closer to the original way of making
the hoops, Davis uses rattan instead because willow pinches his
body when he is dancing.
During the dance Davis' hoops reflect what he sees in nature,
like eagles or hummingbirds or insects. He also creates some geometric
shapes that symbolize the idea that no one knows everything in the
"There are some things that we as human beings should still
be figuring out," he said.
He explained that he uses five hoops in his dance. The hoops
represent the different stages of life and the difficulties represented
in each, ending with a hoop that encourages everyone to remember
why they have an opportunity called life.
"If everybody reaches their full potential it would be a better
place," he said. "Understanding that no matter what culture you
belong to, we all go through rites of passage. That is like picking
up the hoops and making different designs as we go through the dance."
Davis said he could not dance as well as he does without the
music of ThunderBoy singers under the direction of Ryon Polequapgewa.
"You can dance better when you have awesome music so they helped
me along to get this title," he said.