Tony Duncan

Tony Duncan claimed the top prize in the adult division of the Heard Museum Virtual Hoop Dance Contest.

PHOENIX — Tony Duncan of the San Carlos Apache/MHA Nations earned 135 points out of a possible 150 to win the adult division of the first ever Heard Museum Virtual Hoop Dance Contest on Saturday.

Duncan, a resident of Mesa, is well known to local and social media audiences, was the 2011 world champion and claimed the top prize of this year’s virtual contest, competing in a field of 23 contestants. Duncan earned $2,500, a press release from the museum said.

Scott Sixkiller-Sinquah, Gila River Pima/Hopi, the 2020 world champion, took the second-place cash prize of $1,500 with a score of 134 points. The third-place prize of $1,000 went to Tyrese Jensen, the 2017 world champion, who scored 127 points. The top three prizes were awarded in a highly competitive group of adult division dancers, which included Derrick Suwaima Davis (Hopi/Choctaw), a seven-time world champion.

The top three winners were announced in all four competitive divisions: youth (age 6-12), teen (13-17), adult (18-39) and senior (40-plus). The Tiny Tots Division (5 and under) — a crowd favorite, and a non-competitive age division — was also featured in the program.

In all, 80 dancers took part in the virtual contest, the press release said.

The top prize in the senior division was awarded to Terry Goedel (Yakama) from Saratoga Springs, Utah. Kailayne Jensen (Diné), also from Mesa, took the top prize in the teen division. Jensen won the youth division in 2018, 2019 and 2020 and took the teen title in her first year competing in that age division. Both Goedel and Jensen scored the highest overall point count in the contest, each earning 138 points.

The event included public voting for the first-ever “Viewers’ Choice” awards. Dancers in each age division whose contest videos received the most “likes” on YouTube earned a $250 cash prize.

Since 1992 the Heard Museum has been home to the World Championship Hoop Dance contest, a competition that intensifies every year as dancers continue to add increasingly difficult movements to their routines, integrating difficult manipulations of the hoops. Dancers’ scores are based on judging categories: precision, timing, rhythm, showmanship, creativity and speed. This year online viewers watched a roster of 80 hoop dancers, representing 40 tribes from the U.S. and Canada, making it one of the biggest competitions in the event’s history.

“The Heard Museum has been honored to host this contest for 30 years, and although this year’s event was virtual, it was just as riveting as ever,” David M. Roche, Heard Museum Dickey Family director and CEO, said in the press release.

The event is usually held on the museum’s grounds in Phoenix and attracts about 5,000 spectators.

The online program was emceed by Dennis Bowen Sr., who has hosted the contest since its first year at the Heard in 1992. The online program was produced and directed by Eric Hernandez (Lumbee). Hernandez, a performer and past competitor, is a veteran of Cirque du Soleil and founder of the popular social media group CirqueLife.

The 2021 Heard Museum Virtual Hoop Dance Contest final results are:

Adult division

  • First place: Tony Duncan (San Carlos Apache / MHA Nations)
  • Second place: Scott Sixkiller-Sinquah (Gila River Pima / Hopi)
  • Third place: Tyrese Jensen (Diné / Pima Maricopa)
  • Viewers’ Choice: Josiah Enriquez (Pueblo of Pojoaque)

Senior division

  • First place: Terry Goedel (Yakama / Tulalip)
  • Second place: Moontee Sinquah (Hopi / Tewa / Choctaw)
  • Third place: Celina Cada-Matasawagon (Ojibway)
  • Viewers’ Choice: Celina Cada-Matasawagon (Ojibway)

Teen division

  • First place: Kailayne Jensen (Diné)
  • Second place: Rito “RJ” Lopez (Akiemel O’odham / San Carlos Apache / Arkara / Hidasta / Mandan)
  • Third place: Mitchell Shonkwaiataroroks Gray (Mohawk)
  • Viewers’ Choice: Joseph Romero (Pueblo of Pojoaque)

Youth division

  • First place: Mateo Ulibarri (Pueblo of Pojoaque)
  • Second place: Jai’Po Harvier (Pueblo of Pojoaque)
  • Third place: Isiah George (Santa Clara Pueblo)
  • Viewers’ Choice: Keeli King (Eastern Shoshone)

Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at