Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hoop Dancers

 Hopi Hoop Dancer Scott Sinquah

Last Saturday I indulged in some of my favorite things; The Heard Museum in Phoenix, colorful hoop dancers, a gathering of photo geeks, and learning stuff.  Arizona Highways Photo Workshops brought together excellent instruction and breathtaking dancers in vibrant costumes.


A number of fascinating Native American Hoop Dance pearls turned up during my research:
  • ·        Hoop dancers manipulate as many as 50 hoops, telling stories with figures which represent the eagle, butterfly, globe and snake, for example.
  • ·        Historians differ in their accounts of hoop dancing's origins, but most agree that some form has been practiced in North America for at least 600 Years.
  •  ·        Though hoops were once made of plant materials like reeds, they are now more commonly made of plastic tubing wrapped with colorful tape.
  •  ·         As in many cultures, the circle has deep and varied symbolism.  Several sources mention the admonition that mischief breeds mischief ("what goes around comes around,") though more  pedestrian interpretations such as the cyclicity and connectedness of life are more common.
  •  ·         Hoop Dance encompasses the traditions of many North American tribes, and continues to evolve to include movement from hip-hop and other modern forms.

Footwork; Navajo Dancer Tyrese Jensen

In the morning we were indoors working with studio lighting.  I've traveled with Navajo photographer Leroy DeJolie during previous workshops.  He is consistently focused on students and has a knack for teaching that makes his workshops a pleasure.  I especially enjoyed back lighting models against a black backdrop and creating black & white images.  B & W emphasizes texture and pattern which might be easily overlooked in a brightly colored image.

Pagentry; Navajo Dancer Nathan Largo

The afternoon shoot was outdoors, in available light.  Instructor Jeff Kida (Photo Editor, Arizona Highways Magazine) says "I can find [light] better than I can make it," although in the spirit of full disclosure, he can make it really well too.  We started in the arena where the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest is held each year (The 23rd Annual Contest will be held February 9-10 2013).  This was a complex challenge, as the light was bright and harsh, and backgrounds were a distracting mix of sidewalks, fences, buildings, and flagpoles, not to mention fellow photographers traversing this theater in the round. 

Kinetic; 5-year-old Kailayn Jensen

I settled into a mindset which I also use for photographing wildlife , following the moving target that the dancers create and concentrating on anticipating their next moves while thinking about camera settings and the relationship of the subject to the background.  It's a meditation, really, and not all the images are keepers.  Not hardly.

Kailayn Jensen; a rare quiet moment in the studio

I'm so grateful for this opportunity to interact with the dancers and hone my skills.

More Hoop Dance images are on the website.

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