ShanDien Sonwai LaRance is a champion hoop dancer and instructor. Growing up immersed in Native American arts and traditions, she shares her culture around the world, acting as an unofficial ambassador for Native American and First Nations peoples. Through the years, the LaRance family dance troupe traveled around America showcasing hoop dance and performing at pow wows and festivals. The experience opened doors for them to travel extensively and build relationships across nations and cultures.
Growing up in Arizona with her artistic family, she was taught how to hoop dance when she was eight years old by her eldest brother, Nakotah, a multiple world champion hoop dancer who passed away tragically in 2020. At the age of eighteen, she followed in her brother’s footsteps and “ran away from home” to join Cirque Du Soleil’s Big Top show, “TOTEM”, where she toured the world for 8 years, performing 300 times annually. When LaRance is not under the Big Top, she returns to her home on the Tewa Reservation of Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico, where she teaches the hoop dance to the Indigenous youth. Reflecting her high aspirations, she is now pursuing careers in film, television and modeling.
For her LIFT project, LaRance will create a video course for Indigenous youth on how to hoop dance, presented as a rigorous dance and fitness exercise. The episodes will focus on hoop making, rhythm, footwork and dance steps, ending with basic dance skills and the manipulation of 1-5 hoops. The video course will be shared on online platforms and for the final presentation, students will participate in an international dance competition.
I have seen these students blossom into young healthy, proud, outgoing indigenous people. It warms my heart to see how Hoop Dance has truly changed their lives.
—ShanDien Sonwai LaRance (Hopi, Tewa, Navajo and Assinaboine)