MEDIA INVITED TO COVER INAUGURAL
“HEARD MUSEUM HOOP DANCE LEGACY AWARD”
DURING 2013 WORLD CHAMPION HOOP DANCE COMPETITION
Heard Museum Hoop Dance Legacy Award to be Presented to Jones Benally
Media are invited to cover the inaugural Heard Museum Hoop Dance Legacy Award, which will be presented to the unofficial dean of the Hoop Dance, Jones Benally (Diné). This first-ever award will be presented to him on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 1:30 p.m. at the Heard Museum.
Benally has been a hoop dancer for more than 75 years, traveling the world as a cultural ambassador sharing culture and song. His dancing has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show and in Arizona Highways magazine. Benally has also performed for Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. He has appeared in many films and documentaries and continues to dance at ceremonies to heal the sick. Benally, who is in his 90s, is a traditional practitioner and works in Winslow, Ariz. at the Indian Health Services Clinic.
"I was raised in the traditional way,” Benally says. “At that time my grandfather, uncle, mother and father were only traditional and never spoke English. That's where I went to school. I learned from my relatives.”
We used to dance at ceremonies and when you became a dancer, you became a healer. You had to go through the ceremony and get initiated to dance. These hoops are made of different kinds of willow tree. Traditionally these hoops are made in different sizes with different colors, feathers and plants for the ceremony. Each hoop has a painted face on it for healing the patient. Those hoops are healers for sick people to release the sickness that they have. All the animals, and ceremonies are represented in the hoops. After the ceremony, when these hoops are used, they are put away and never used again. When it is used as a ceremony for a patient there is a special song that is used for healing. You can't use just any song for ceremony, it is not a public event, it is then only for the patient.
When Benally was a student at the Sherman Indian Institute in Riverside, Calif., he was asked to dance for shows all over the world. At first, his grandfather told him to only perform these dances at ceremonies. After a meeting between his grandfathers, he was given authority to share these dances with other people to show "what we still carry on," to participate on behalf of the Navajo Nation and to share his culture, Benally says. His grandfather asked him to participate for his nation. Benally has taught countless people the Hoop Dance.
"We are all brothers and sisters on this Earth,” Benally says. He urges Hoop Dancers to respect the cultural ways they are carrying on. “This is our culture, our backbone, it is very important to carry this on and teach our grandchildren. This is from the bottom of our hearts,” he adds. “It is good that a lot of young people learn the Hoop Dance for showing but the backbone of this dance is from our ceremony to release a bad spirit from the body. We have carried this on in this country before hospitals, since the beginning of time.
“The ones that created human people gave this dance to us to help us get well. When one learns the ceremony then that person learns the entire meaning and all the details and history of the Hoop Dance. That is why we must respect this dance."
Over time, the intertribal hoop dance has expanded to incorporate new and creative designs and extremely intricate footwork. Each dancer presents a unique variation of the intertribal hoop dance, weaving in aspects of his or her distinct tradition and culture. Individual routines are presented using as few as four to as many as 50 hoops, which are manipulated to create a variety of designs including animals, butterflies and globes.
Dancers are judged on a slate of five skills – precision, timing/rhythm, showmanship, creativeness and speed.
WHAT: 23rd Annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 9 and 10, 2013
9:30 a.m. Grand Entry – Saturday and Sunday
Competition will end at approximately 5 p.m. on Saturday.
The Adult final round will begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
The Heard Museum Hoop Dance Legacy Award will be presented to Jones Benally at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.
WHERE: Heard Museum, 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
COST: $18 general admission, $13.50 seniors (65+), $12 Heard Museum members and American Indians, $7.50 children 4-12, FREE for children under 4. Cost is per day and includes the event and museum admission.
INFO: Call 602.252.8848 or visit heard.org/hoop