As millions of people from around the world prepare to watch the Super Bowl on Feb. 12, one University of Wisconsin-Platteville student will be showcasing his talents and sharing his culture with football fans in Glendale, Arizona. The NFL invited Nedallas Hammill, the 2020 teen world champion Native American hoop dancer, to perform Super Bowl weekend. In the coming days, Hammill a native of New River, Arizona, will travel home to prepare for his upcoming performance.
“I’m excited to go back to Arizona. It will be one of the bigger shows I have done. I’m nervous and excited to get my name out there,” said Hammill, a sophomore business administration major. “I will hoop dance and my uncle will be doing the singing.”
Hammill, a member of the Dine’ (Navajo) Nation and Ho-Chunk Nation, began hoop dancing at 4 years old. He started learning with five hoops, advanced to seven, 10 and now dances with 13, however, he has incorporated as many as 28. According to Hammill, the creation of hoop dancing varies amongst Indigenous communities, but the symbolism of the hoop represents the circle of life with no beginning and no ending.
“The Ho-Chunk tribe’s story is about a warrior’s journey,” explained Hammill. “A warrior went out because he felt lost. Throughout his journey, he discovered many things of beauty and nature; the eagle taking flight, the butterfly coming out of the cocoon, the flower, sun, moon and stars. When he got back to the village, he wanted to tell his people what he saw, but he couldn’t put it into words and instead he crafted the hoops to tell his story.”
Hoop dancing is a family affair, notes Hammill. His dad created Native Spirit Productions, a company specializing in musical, cultural dance performances and artisans. Hammill’s goal is to take over the business one day.
“I have been all over the United States and outside of the country hoop dancing. It’s given me a chance to meet a lot of different people,” he said. “To share my culture is cool. I enjoy hoop dancing. I want to make it my career. To share the art is not only good for the educational aspect, but it’s also something I would like to do for the rest of my life.”
Following Hammill’s Super Bowl weekend performance, he will travel to Phoenix to compete in the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest on Feb. 18-19. This will be his first time competiting since the COVID-19 pandemic. The event allows the dancers to perform different styles of hoop dancing.
“Some will take a more contemporary style. In the younger categories, people incorporate break dancing techniques,” said Hammill. “What I enjoy most is telling the story. Whenever I’m hoop dancing, I like to put emphasis on my moves. When I do the Eagle, I don’t want to just show it off a little bit and then go to the next formation – when I make the Eagle, I want to tell the story of the eagle taking flight and flying around – then eventually morph into the next formation.”
As Hammill looks forward to his own performances, he encourages the campus community to attend Native American presentations.
“If you’re able to see a Native American performance or a pow-wow, I would take that opportunity. They are always super cool,” said Hammill. “I enjoy listening to Native American singing. I would encourage anybody who would like to listen to something new to give it a shot.”