Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Totem artist profiles - Eric Hernandez

Eric Hernandez, age 22, is from Covina, CA, and he is a Hoop Dancer in Totem, one of the most important characters in the show.
Eric has two older brothers, and he is of mixed descent - his mother is full-blooded Lumbee (a North Carolinian tribe of Native Americans) and his father is a mix of Spanish, Irish, and Mexican. Eric has an uncle, Terry Goedel, who is from the Yakima tribe in Washington, and a world-champion hoop dancer. This was Eric's first exposure to hoop dancing - his uncle Terry taught him when he was 10 years old.
Eric quickly began accompanying his uncle to pow-wows and school performances.
In highschool and junior college, Eric played basketball and football, but he never entirely drifted away from hoop dancing. He was offered a scholarship to Brigham Young University, to be part of their Living Legends program, and was excited for the opportunity. But he only stayed at BYU for one year, because partway through that year, Cirque du Soleil called.
It was not the first time they had called Eric. Cirque's talent scouts had seen videos of Eric's hoop dancing, and when he was 19, in junior college, they called him with an offer to be a backup hoop dancer for Totem. At the time, he knew nothing about Cirque du Soleil, and he declined the offer. But when they called back two years later, he took a closer look. This time they wanted him to be the primary hoop dancer (to replace our original hoop dancer, Nakotah Larance), and they were ready to fly him to Montreal for contract-signings and costume-fittings. Eric signed on.

It wasn't the easiest transition for him at first. The hoop dancing he was asked to do was quite different from the style he'd originally performed. In Eric's original act there were no fewer than 14 hoops, and the whole routine was performed in one small space. He never threw or caught the hoops, and he moved to a slower beat. Now he is using 5 hoops, filling the entire stage, throwing and catching them, and moving at a rapid pace. But his coach in Montreal, and his backup hoop dancer, Shandien Larance, helped him, and by the spring of 2012 Eric had joined us on tour, in San Jose, CA.

Eric has been lucky to have had friends and family in every city we've visited so far. He loves the adventure of traveling, and is looking forward to going overseas. He appreciates that, as a hoop dancer, the exposure to such a wide audience is a fantastic opportunity. And he is honored to be sharing a valuable part of his own culture.

Here is a great video Eric made recently documenting his trip back from California to re-join Totem in New York.


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