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Canadian wins title of world champion Hoop Dancer

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PHOENIX - Facing record crowds and fierce competition, Alex Wells, Little Wat First Nation, from Morley, Alberta, captured the prestigious World Champion title at the Annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest early this, at the Heard Museum.

Wells is the second consecutive Canadian titleist. He took the 2001 World Champion title, which includes a trophy and a cash award of $2,500, with 225 points in his first entry as an adult in the competition. Lisa Odjig, Odawa/Ojibwe, of Manitoulin Island, Ontario, won the title in 2000, but didn't compete in this year's event.

MacArthur Lucio, Navajo/Zuni, of Gallup, N.M., took second place with 222 points. Tony Duncan, Arikara/Hidatsa/Mandan/Apache, of Mesa, won third place with 221 points in his first year in the Adult Division. A maximum of 250 points is possible.

More than 11,100 spectators attended the event Feb. 3 and 4, enjoying the 80-degree weather. The event, considered the most competitive hoop dancing contest in North America, was sponsored by Motorola and The Arizona Republic.

Rounding out the top six competitors in the Adult Division were Daniel Tramper, Cherokee, of Cherokee, N.C., in fourth place (219 points), Vincent T. Davis, Hopi/Choctaw/Din?, of Chandler, Ariz. (218 points) in fifth place, and Derrick "Suwaima" Davis, Hopi/Choctaw, of Phoenix, Ariz. (218 points) in sixth place. The Davis brothers competed in a dance-off to break the tie. Both Vincent and Derrick Davis have won the world champion title. Vincent won in 1999 and Derrick is a four-time champion.

In the Senior Division, Tommy Draper, Navajo, of Kirtland, N.M., claimed the senior title ($1,000) with 220 points. Jones Benally, Din?, of Flagstaff, Ariz., placed second with 214 points. George Flying Eagle, Taos/Pueblo, of Albuquerque, N.M., took third place (205 points).

In the Teen Division, Jasmine Pinckner, Crow Creek Sioux, of Rapid City, S.D., claimed her first teen champion title ($500) with 216 points. She placed second in the 2000 competition. Shane Flying Eagle Platero, Taos/Navajo, of Albuquerque, N.M., took second with 209 points and Marcus Davis, Hopi/Choctaw/Din?, of Chandler, Ariz., placed third with 183 points.

The Youth Division title ($500) went to Nakota LaRance, Hopi/Tewa, from Flagstaff. (215 points). Kevin Dakota Duncan, Arikara/Hidatsa/Mandan/Apache, of Mesa, (209 points) placed second and J. Michael Loren Crank, Navajo/Comanche, of Springville, Utah, placed third (204 points).

Three dancers competed in the Tiny Tot Division - youngest was 2. The $200 cash prize, split evenly between contestants, was sponsored by Steve Wikviya LaRance, Hopi/Assiniboine, and Lynnae Lawrence, M.D., Hopi/Assiniboine, of Flagstaff, Ariz., in memory of their grandfather Steven Albert, Sr., a religious tribal elder from the village of Moenkopi.

The judges included champion dancers from throughout the United States and Canada including Jackie Bird, Mandan/Hidatsa/Santee Sioux, from Bushnell, S.D.; Rudy Bob, Navajo, from Yatahey, N.M.; George Growingthunder, Assiniboine/Dakota, from Northern San Juan, Calif.; Boye Ladd, HoChunk, from Regina, Saskatchewan, and Eddie Swimmer, Cherokee, from Cherokee, N.C. Swimmer captured the first World Champion title at the Heard Museum in 1991.

This year's master of ceremonies was Dennis Bowen Sr., Seneca, from Tuba City, Ariz., who entertained the audience with his Indian humor.

Winners were judged based on an International Athletic Likert Scale that includes five skills -precision, timing/rhythm, showmanship, creativeness and speed.

Singers included the Oklahoma Outlaws from Carnegie, Okla., and the Mandaree Singers from Fort Berthold, N.D. The Oklahoma Outlaws were led by head Singer Glenn Ahhaitty, Kiowa/Comanche. Ahhaitty has been singing for nine years at the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest.

The 2002 World Championship Hoop Dance Contest will be held Saturday and Sunday, February 2 and 3, 2002.

The hoop dance, which originated in Taos Pueblo, represents the circle of life and the never-ending cycle of life's constant renewal. In recent years, the hoop dance has become a popular element in dance circles, pow wows and contests across North America.

Today, the intertribal hoop dance incorporates speed and agility as dancers move their bodies through the hoops. Over the years, it has grown to incorporate creative designs, difficult manipulations of the hoops and intricate footwork. Each dancer presents a unique variation of the intertribal hoop dance, weaving in aspects of his or her distinct traditions and cultures. Individual routines are presented using as few as four to as many as 50 hoops to create a variety of designs including animals, butterflies and globes.

Dancers are judged on the International Athletic Likert Scale, which includes the following criteria: precision, showmanship, timing/rhythm, creativity and speed. At the start of competition each day, competitors dance in unison, winding their way through the crowd in an exciting grand entry.

The Heard Museum is a private, non-profit organization that was founded in 1929 by Dwight B. and Maie Bartlett Heard to house their personal collection of primarily Native American artifacts. Today, the internationally acclaimed museum is known for its extensive collections of Native American cultural art and fine art, unique exhibits, special events and innovative programming.