Derrick Suwaima Davis

Photo Credit:  Ken Ross Photography

Photo Credit: Ken Ross Photography

Artistic Director, Choreographer, Seven Time Hoop Dance World Champion, Farmer

Dance has been the defining element of Derrick Suwaima Davis’s (Hopi/Choctaw) life, either as a competitor – he is the only adult, Seven Time Hoop Dance World Champion – or as a Choreographer & Artistic Director and professional dancer.

Suwaima has traveled the world sharing his dance, including speaking of his cultural values and philosophies of tolerance, balance and understanding. He encourages all to pursue progress with an awareness of and respect for the natural world and preservation of cultural ways.

My personal practice is…

That of encouraging well-being for all creation through my hoop dance.

How did you discover your practice?

I experienced Native American art, song and dance at a very young age. I observed my parents and grandparents and in time found hoop dancing as a way to express our cultural values appropriately.

I strive to translate their lessons and examples of how to live an inclusive and balanced life, in harmony with nature, into my dance movements. For example, when creating a butterfly in my dance, it represents the insects and all the other life in the field as well as how all insects help with all growth, including the wild foods and the medicine that it becomes.

Why do you practice?

My dance helps me understand and celebrate how I fit into the world.

How frequently and for how long do you practice?

When it comes to Hoop Dancing, I don’t practice the dance itself, yet all of my life experiences help me with my dance.

When I am at Hopi, I am always busy. I am constantly internally singing different tunes, and that helps my mental focus. Physically, I am challenged as there is always work to be done, whether it’s chopping wood, cultivating the field or helping re-roof a structure. All these activities help me have clarity and maintain physical strength and conditioning. If I don’t do these other things in my life, the meaning and purpose of my dance is not strong.

What’s something that gets in the way of your practice and how do you move through it?

Ego can get in the way as does too much to do, and too little time.  I move through it by planning, scheduling, and understanding that it’s okay to ask for help.

What supports you in staying committed to your practice?

As I share my dance and energy with people, the appreciation and encouragement I receive in return from family, friends, and audience members strengthens me.

Also, I am blessed to be able to stay connected to my community, which allows me to stay committed to my dance. For me everything is alive and we are here to take care of each other and be grateful for our mutual support. The interconnectedness of all life becomes apparent to me whether I am tending a corn field, making a drum, fixing a roof or sharing my dance. In all these things, I believe I am being who I really am and living my purpose.

What role does your practice play in your work?

They are one and the same.

While I work I keep my thoughts positive so that what I am working on will have positive energy and this will carry through to all aspects of my life.

Derrick, Hoop Dancer

Describe someone you know whose practice inspires you.

My grandfather diligently took care of his family, corn field and cultural rituals. Although he is no longer physically here, I carry his words with me and remember his actions.

A practice I’d like to explore is….

Enhancing my knowledge of sand stone houses. The ability to build and maintain them are skills I am presently trying to develop.

I’d also like to work with troubled youth, and put them in a simple environment where they would need to learn basic survival skills and communication skills, and achieve old-school accomplishments. I would like to help them build something, and then have them be proud of the outcome.

Anything else you’d like to share about your practice.

I am fortunate to be able to pay attention to my life’s purpose, and I hope that others can do the same and gain a full respect and awe for their time on earth.

Click here to view one of Derrick’s winning hoop dances.

One Response to “Derrick Suwaima Davis”

  1. christopher short February 15, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    It’s great to see traditional art forms like hoop dance reach an audience outside just the Native American communities. Thank you for recognizing Derrick and his incredible dancing . He recently won the 24th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest and I’ve uploaded the video here: