Sunday, June 24, 2012

Totem artist profile - Shandien Larance

Shandien is one of our two Native American hoop dancers.  She joined the cast of Totem in summer 2010, as a backup for her brother, Nakotah Larance.  Nakotah was the original hoop dancer for Totem.  When Shandien came in, she was trained to replace Nakotah's first act in case of illness or emergency, and she was also integrated into his second appearance in the show (the act simply known as Hoop Dancer 2).  When Nakotah left Totem this spring, and was replaced by Eric Hernandez, Shandien kept her position in the show.  She is now backup for Eric in Hoop Dancer 1, and they do Hoop Dancer 2 as a duet.

20 years old, Shandien grew up in a close-knit family on a Hopi reservation near Flagstaff, Arizona.  Her older brother Nakotah started hoop dancing at age 4, on a pow wow trail with older family members.  When he was around 10 years old, he taught Shandien, and their younger brother Cree, to dance, and they began performing & competing with him at pow wows.

By the time Shandien was a teenager, Nakotah was making a name for himself in hoop dancing, winning major competitions year after year, and Shandien stepped back from it.  But when he signed on with Cirque du Soleil, Shandien rekindled her interest in the art form, and started practicing, on her own.  It wasn't long before Cirque tapped her for the role.

The Native American performers in Totem have a delicate and important role to fill.  As representatives of their traditional culture and religion, they try to showcase the unique beauty of their music and dance, without cheapening it or misrepresenting it.

Shandien, in the meantime, says she loves being on the Totem tour.  The best parts: meeting new people, having new experiences, traveling, seeing the world.  She does miss her home, family, and pets (4 dogs and a cat!) and she plans to start working towards a college degree online, with art school as an eventual destination.

This past week I got to watch Shandien perform as a soloist in Hoop Dancer 1 - she is now in rotation to do this once or twice a week - and she's shining out there!


  1. whyh did hr leave

  2. columbus ohio buckeyeSeptember 4, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    she really is great. I loved her

  3. Getting to see her perform was the best highlight of my visit home to NYC when she and Cirque Du Soleil: Totem came in March 2012 last year. It was even more special since she is a family friend! Mom and I never got to see her perform except her brother, Nakotah. Mom said she was her favorite above the other hoop dancer, Eric Hernandez. She really loved ShanDien's energy!

  4. Shandien... you were my favorite part of the show tonight! During the finale, my eyes were on YOU... you ROCKED IT... I love your fierce gaze and crisp moves... keep it up, girl. It's inspiring!!

  5. You are amazing. there was something about your intensity that made me sit-up and go "Wow" !!!
    I raise wolves and relate to your dancing.
    Very impressive !! You certainly ROCK !!