The Lion Dance & Dragon Dance
My son is obsessed with lion and dragon dances, they are our favorite tradition during the new year season. We are lucky because our local library, Chinatown and community centers all host events so we usually see at least three performances every year. My dad also found a YouTube channel that is dedicated to lion dance competitions and my son is a huge fan.
I am hoping that his love for the lion dance continues and we can get him involved in a group when he’s older since it’s a fun cultural group to be a part of (and you get a lot of great exercise!). I actually participated in our Chinese School’s lion dance troupe during high school and started off as the tail and eventually moved up to navigate the head.
So why lions and dragons? These two animals are thought to bring good luck and fortune and so they are very popular performances during the new year, weddings, business openings and other festivities. It is very common to see the host of the event or spectators giving the lion red pocket money during the performance. The lion dance is performed by two individuals, one person managing the head and the other the tail. Usually the lion is brightly colored and the two performers wear costumes matching their lion. Unlike the dragon dancers, the two performers are usually mostly hidden beneath the lion’s body so that they look and move like the lion. There is a joker who leads the lion around and interacts with it, sometimes throwing a ball, feeding the lion and teasing it. The lion dance performance is complimented by a steady beat created by drums, cymbals and a gong. There are even lion dance competitions around the world with amazing stunts and feats of acrobatics.
The dragon team is much larger and will vary depending on the size of the dragon. There could be 10 or more people required to maneuver the dragon. Each person holds up a different section of the dragon by a rod and together everyone moves to simulate the movements of the dragon. This takes a lot of coordination and is a good arm workout. There is usually a person leading the dragon around holding a ball and there can be a team of musicians as well.
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