My name is ShanDien Sonwai LaRance and I am a Native American Hoop Dancer. I was born in Flagstaff, Arizona 1992 and currently reside on my ancestral Tewa lands of Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico. My Tribal affiliations are Hopi, Tewa, Navajo and Assiniboine. Born to Native American Artist Marian Kaawaadeh Denipah-LaRance (Painter and Jeweler) and Steve Wikiviya LaRance (Sculpture and Jeweler).
I started Hoop Dancing at 8 years old. Taught by my older brother Nakotah LaRance who grew to become a 9-time World Champion Hoop Dancer, Actor, and Hoop Dance legend and Inspiration. At 19 years old I left home to join my brother at Cirque Du Soleil, working as a Lead Dancer and Character for a Big Top Show titled “TOTEM”. The next 9 years of my life was dedicated to hoop dancing, exercising, and traveling the world, unknowingly becoming an unofficial spokeswoman for my Native American and First Nation People. During this time, I was able to share my culture to thousands of people around the world, traveling to over 20 countries including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, France, Germany, Spain, Russia and more.
In 2013 My father and older Brother co-found a Hoop Dance Youth Group in Pojoaque Pueblo, New Mexico, now known as the Lightning Boy Foundation. When not on tour I would return home to New Mexico where I could help to instruct our Indigenous Hoop Dance Students. Pre-Pandemic 2019 I became the All Females Intermountain Hoop Dance Champion.Due to the Pandemic our Circus show was shut down and was unable to return. In 2020 we lost my older brother Nakotah to a tragic accident. Since then I have dedicated my Hoop Dance career to his memory. I have also become the lead instructor to the Lightning Boy Foundation which has grown to become a well-established nonprofit organization that has taught over 200 Native American Youth how to Hoop Dance. I am now creating a Website titled Handsome Star Hoop Dance in memory of my brother Nakotah which will allow me to have a greater outreach to All Indigenous peoples who want to learn how to Hoop Dance.
The Native American Hoop Dance has become my way of life. To be able to share this cultural, energetic dance and make it an opportunity to explore the world while representing my true self and my indigenous culture has been a blessing. My responsibility now is to continue passing down this healing dance to our Native American youth and allow them to become the new leaders of our people and go forth in this world proud, healthy and culturally connected to their Indigenous Roots.The Native American Hoop Dance was originally a Healing Ceremony performed by the Medicine Men of Taos, New Mexico.They would perform this Ceremony with a single Hoop made of willow reed, if you were feeling physically, mentally, or spiritually ill. As many aspects of our culture were lost during the European Conquest so was the Hoop Dance. It was restored by a Hoop Dancer named Tony White Cloud, who started creating designs and images that he would find in nature using more than one hoop. Eventually it became a Pow Wow and Competition Dance. I myself only Dance with 5-6 Hoops, but other Hoop dancers could use up to 50-75 Hoops. The biggest Hoop Dance Competition is held in Phoenix, Arizona every year in February at the Heard Museum. The Competition all Hoop Dancers aspire to win. The Hoop Dance has an uplifting energy to it and tells a story of the land, plants and animals of our Indigenous Cultures and Heritage. Most hoop dancers finish with an image we call mother earth, trying to leave behind the message that we as stewards of the mother earth must respect and protect her for the plants, animals, and our future generations to come.