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Each year the Arts Council of Big Sky brings a culturally rich artist to Big Sky for a multi-day residence in collaboration with the Big Sky School District. During their time at school, the artist works with a partner teacher to deliver two days of workshops that aim to help students build a deeper, authentic understanding of diverse cultures through the arts. 

The Arts Council of Big Sky is honored to announce this year's Artist in Residence World Champion Hoop Dancer, Jasmine Pickner Bell, or Cunku Was’te Win’ meaning “Good Road Woman” in Dakota. A member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe (also known as Hunkpati Oyate), Jasmine is the first woman to hold the hoop dancing Champion title, performing in her brother's place after his death in a tragic car accident. Originally a male-dominated dance, Jasmine restores the masculine/feminine balance within the sacred circle. While the hoop dance is traditional amongst many tribes in the US and Canada, each tribe has its own origin story. The Lakota and Dakota people's story is about being born from the Black Hills as a sacred healing dance. 

The hoop dance has been described as “the renewal of the collective human spirit.” It is a dance of healing, connectedness, and prayer. Even though Jasmine is in constant spinning motion while she dances, she never finds herself dizzy because she is aligned with a higher purpose. As she’s passing each hoop through her body, she says, “Your prayers are being connected and lifted up. You’re not only telling a story through the designs of the hoop dance, but you’re also praying and healing the people who are in need at that time.” 

Each of Jasmine’s designs has special meaning and significance. Some designs she creates from a dream or vision on a long drive. Others are family heirlooms, passed down with each generation. Each dance begins with one hoop, which represents yourself. Then, the dancer connects as many hoops as they can dance with or that completes the message they are aiming to share. This performance will be made in collaboration with 9th and 10th graders in Kate Riley and Jeremy Harder’s classes.

Education is central to Jasmine’s mission. From teaching kids and ensuring native traditions are not lost in today’s society, to bringing her audience on stage with her after her performances, she loves to share the hoop dance with everyone. As Jasmine says, “When you get done hoop dancing with me, you’re going to feel better. You’re going to go home and have a story to tell. You’re going to be able to share that story with your friends and family. And that’s what it’s about for me, and why I include the audience. Let’s connect together and really have that opportunity to share our hoops and leave here with a smile on our face.”

For Jasmine, the hoop dance goes beyond performance. It’s a way of life. Her hoops act as a metaphor to keep going when life gets tough. “Sometimes a hoop might fall and a design may fall apart. But you pick up those hoops, you keep going, and you keep dancing. No matter what, as hard as life gets, you’re going to still be able to jump through that hoop.”

We are so grateful for Jasmine sharing her gift with us here in Big Sky. This is not just a showcase or performance, but a way of life that is a healing dance. When Jasmine dances, she is also praying for those in need, dancing for those who cannot dance. Her dance incorporates her story, while thinking of everyone who needs prayers. Please join us in connecting and uplifting spirits in need.