BYU Living Legends hoop dancer keeps family tradition alive

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Michael Goidel, a 22 year old hoop dancer joins Living Legends, following the footsteps of his parents and siblings here at BYU
Michael Goedel, a 22-year-old hoop dancer, joined Living Legends where he is following the footsteps of his parents and siblings at BYU. (Jazz Yutung Cheng)

Years of practice, family inspiration and culture pride have led Michael Goedel on his journey to becoming a Living Legend.

He arrived in Provo at the beginning of Winter Semester to attend BYU. He’s currently following in his father’s footsteps by joining the Living Legend’s native section. 

Living Legends is a dance group that consists of several choreographed Polynesian, Latin and Native American performances.

Michael’s father Terry Goedel frequently hoop danced for special Native American cultural presentations around the nation. Terry, like other Native American hoop dancers, would typically dress in sacred attire that portrayed a mix of traditional and personal style.

Hoop dancing is a form of sharing culture and celebrating unity, according to Michael and Terry.  They said it is all about embracing the Native American culture while valuing individual worth and appreciating their roots.

“The hoop dance is a story of a young bird and its life until it’s an eagle. It takes you through these experiences with plants and animals that help it find its identity and purpose,” Michael said. “It’s like us; through aging we discover our divine potential as children of God. We have a unified potential and embrace our talents and abilities.”

Michael watched as his father smoothly weaved himself in and out of up to 21 hoops while keeping rhythm during each performance.

Terry said when Michael was 10 years old, Michael and his sisters and cousins asked him to show them how to hoop dance.

“I took them around with me to shows about 40 times a year,” Terry said. “They were not only my students, but my family. They never argued or complained because it was something they really wanted and that’s how they learned.”

Terry joined Living Legends in 1971 when it was called “Lamanite Generation.”

It was there that Terry met his wife, Joan Goedel, and learned to hoop dance. Two of his three daughters also joined Living Legends decades later and met their spouses within the dance group.

Michael said it was always his goal to attend BYU and be in Living Legends, although he initially attended BYU–Hawaii after graduating from high school. He learned several traditional Polynesian dances while working at the Hawaiian Polynesian Culture Center.

“It was a lot of fun learning at BYU–Hawaii, but I’m a hoop dancer and this group is where I can represent my own culture,” Michael said.

He went on to serve a full-time LDS mission in Rochester, New York, after living in Hawaii for a few semesters. Michael said he used his talents on his mission as a way to attract people to the church by seeing him perform.

“It was a good missionary tool. There’s a good number of Native Americans there in New York and hoop dancing brought the people to us,” Michael said. “We would set up firesides called ‘Latter-day Lamanites’ and hoop dance.”

He took his hoop dancing further by joining Cirque du Soleil in Montreal, Canada, and touring in Australia. He joined the native section and participated in a show called “Totem” for several months before transferring to BYU.

He said dancing for Cirque de Soleil helped him perfect his hoop dancing skills as a performer and open up to more people.

“When I started hoop dancing, I was still shy even up until I left for my mission,” Michael said. “Hoop dancing has taught me to put myself out there in a way other than words. It helped me share my feelings and thoughts in a different way of who I am.”

Ken Sekaquaptewa, a friend of the Goedel family, has witnessed Michael’s progress as he has performed and competed with his father. Sekaquaptewa said over the years he has seen Michael’s dancing improve and become more professional.

“When you see him dance, you can see his dad’s influence,” Sekaquaptewa said. “His skills have become a lot smoother and polished over the years. When you see him, he’s just like his dad.”

Terry Goedel and his son, Michael, at the World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona in 2015. (Michael Goedel)

Sekaquaptewa was also a hoop dancer for the Lamanite Generation with Terry in the ’70s. He said he always thought Terry was one of the better hoop dancers and believes Michael is on his way to becoming just like him.

Michael has competed and placed in the Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest several times over the years. He won 4th place in the adult section of the World Championship last year.

Michael said his biggest achievement is finally being a part of the Living Legend’s team and performing at BYU.

“I was excited to be in the group. BYU was the best crowd I’ve ever performed for,” Michael said. “They were the most responsive with so much culture pride. I loved it. I didn’t expect the whole theater to be full.”

Terry said seeing his youngest child perform for Living Legends was an emotional and inspiring experience.

“When I look at the group now, I can’t believe the progression that has been made compared to the small group of dancers back in ’72,” Terry said. “When I see them on stage, I’m brought to tears. I never could’ve dreamed to see the evolution of this group.”

Michael hopes to use his skills as a hoop dancer to teach youth on Indian reservations. He also said it would be his dream to use his gift to help others.

“On the mission I decided I wanted to help kids because on a lot of the Indian reservations, the lifestyle is rough,” Michael said. “I would like to set up a hoop group of native kids from the reservations because it could help build their self-esteem.”

(Michael Goedel/Devin Supertramp)