9 February 2009

Chinese Lion Dance

Here are some photos from the Chinese Lion Dance we saw this weekend at our local Chinese supermarket. We've seen numerous lion dances during our years in Hong Kong and Singapore, but this was the first acrobatic display we've come across. It was a riot of colour and sound, a lot of fun and well worth watching.

Traditionally, the lion dance, which is believed to usher good fortune, as well as ward off evil spirits is performed at Chinese New Year as well as for business launches and the welcoming of dignatories. Legend has it that in the early Ming Dynasty, an evil beast would appear every year at the Foshan area of Guangdong Province. The tormented citizens retaliated by making lions shaped with the bamboo and painting them in brilliant colours. They danced with the lions to the beat of gongs and drums, to scare off the beast.

The lion dance calls for the perfect co-ordination, agility and nerves of steel of two dancers. The first controls the head and determines the movements, while the second dancer, who acts as the body, must work in tandem with him.

The lion's head, which is usually constructed of papier mache and bamboo, complete with eyes that blink and a mouth that snaps, is brilliantly adorned with colourful patterns,fur and glitter and can weigh up to 15kg. A considerably heavy burden to hold aloft while moving vigorously, leaping from pole to pole many feet off the ground! Quite scary to watch too!

Enticed with gifts - usually ang pow (money in red packets) attached to a vegetable - the dancers try to get these gifts, making it look as though the lion devours them. The lions toss oranges from the basket for onlookers to catch. The children love it! The dance is commonly performed to the beat of the tagu (Chinese drum) and gong, accompanied by the clanging of cymbals.

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