Each year, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona hosts the World Hoop Dance Championships where Indigenous hoop dancers from all over the world gather to meet, compete, inspire and represent their home communities. It was my second year attending and representing my Cree and Saulteaux roots from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation and Lake St. Martin First Nation. Little did I know, that my inner critic would get the best of me and that it would become a very teachable moment in my life that I’ll remember for a long time.
The days leading up to the event were full of excitement, boatloads of support from our communities back home and reminiscing about that buzz I had felt after my first year. I traveled down with 6 year old Rylee Sandberg and her family and we had coined ourselves as the “Winnipeg Female Hoop Dance Team”. We received immense support from our families and communities as we prepared for our big trip by promoting ourselves through social media, t.v interviews, school workshops and extra performances.
The big day arrived and I was excited to meet and dance alongside all of the dancers who I look up to and cheer on Rylee. We drove down to the Heard Museum bright and early under the Arizona sun and after a long day of sitting in the sun and watching all of the tiny tot, youth and teen divisions perform, it was my turn to dance. My nerves intensified as I walked up to the northern drum and told them to give me a nice fast beat.
Once the drum began, I instantly knew I was in trouble. My mind was a blur and everything I had practiced in my routine was thrown out the window as I tried to keep up with the fast pace. Once I finished, I shook all of the singers hands and walked away with my head low and my eyes filling with tears. I was in a panic, out of breath and felt completely disappointed with my performance. I quickly shuffled to the restroom quickly disregarding many comments that I did fantastic. I was just too engulfed in my own self critique and funk. I swear this story gets better though, hang in there.
I went to go sit in the lounge where many other hoop dancers were. Celina Cada-Matasawagon was one of the first people to offer wise words of support when I was feeling my lowest. She reminded me of the reason why we dance and that we should just go out there and have fun and not dwell on the idea of placing. She reminded me of everyone back home rooting for me and that it’s important to keep my head up and keep going because of those young ones looking up to us. She said a lot of things that I needed to hear and I was incredibly appreciative of that. That evening we discovered that Rylee had made top 6 in the youth division. That evening was full of mixed emotions. My earlier disappointment in myself was overpowered by an overflow of love and happiness for Rylee and for all the kind words and support everyone had for the both of us.
That second day was another wondrous day. I was in better spirits and continued to meet and talk with the other dancers, partake in honour songs and support Rylee all the way up until she placed 3rd over 31 other youth hoop dancers in her division. I also found Celina and gave her a huge hug and told her that I was appreciative of what she had did for me. At the end of that day, the winners were all announced and everyone was saying their goodbyes. At that moment I also experienced the utmost love and support from the hoop dance and Indigenous community. Everyone asking if I was coming back and that I did a great job. Dallas Arcand and Tracy Bone also offered words of advice that I needed to hear exclaiming that even though I may not have placed, I was still a champion in everyones eyes including our home communities and the youth that I teach. They told me that I’ll get there one day and that it’s important to not give too much of myself away and to look after myself too. They also thanked me for all the work I was doing back home by planting those seeds and offering teachings to the younger generations. Those were words I definitely needed to hear as I emotionally gave them hugs and thanked them for their kind words of advice.
This year’s hoop dance gathering in Phoenix was another amazing year. I learned so much more about myself, met amazing influential people and felt all of the positive supportive vibes from everyone there. I learned that we are all human and we make mistakes and that’s okay. Our harshest critique is ourselves and it’s important not to be too hard on ourselves and to look after ourselves first before anyone else. It’s important to enjoy life as a journey and not as a competition, to go with the flow and not focus all of your energy on the top prize. It’s important to remember why you started in the first place and to do it simply for that reason and for all the reasons that you stand for. This year proved once again that everyone in the hoop dance community is incredibly supportive of one another and we value ourselves in building each other up and looking out for another.
Below I will post some snapshots of the championships. Thank you once again to everyone for your overflow of support and love. I am incredibly grateful, appreciative and humbled to have such wonderful people surrounding me. I am looking forward to what’s to come, looking forward to keep on doing what I love and to continue to discover and learn through this crazy rollercoaster we call life. I’m so cliche. Anyway, hope you enjoy the snapshots. Take care for now.