Focus

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Ten talking points about lion dance

LION dances have been in Malaysia for such a long time that it would be hard to picture Chinese New Year celebrations without seeing at least one.

Lion dances are enjoyed by people of all ethnic groups and most of us are familiar with it.

However, it is still important to learn more about lion dance today and its origins, lest it loses its cultural significance over time.

This week, StarMetro spoke to Malaysia Khuan Loke Dragon and Lion Dance Association chief instructor Albert Fong, who has been performing and teaching lion dance in several countries for more than 28 years.

1 KIP Hotel’s lion dance performance kicked off their launch.2 Hong Teck Dragon and Lion Dance Association team at the 17th Malaysia National Lion Dance Championship in Genting Highland.3 The Huo Yuan Jia Wushu Academy specialises in the Northern lion dance style.4 The LED lion dance performance during the Chap Goh Meh festival at Kuan Yin Tong.5 Siti Saleha Mohd Salleh is proud to be dancing for her sixth Chinese New Year.6 Pertubuhan Kebudayaan Seni Dan Kesukanan Tawau team that finished third at the 17th Malaysia National Lion Dance Championship.7 Ng Kok Koon (left) and Wong Guo Lin suiting up practice.8 Albert Fong of the Khuan Loke Dragon and Lion Dance Association.9 Ching Yi Lion Dance troupe’s young drummerpounding away.10 Cititel Mid Valley general manager Edwin Low receiving a tray of blessings which signifies a good prosperous year ahead.

1. Two styles of Southern lion

The Southern lion dance follows one of two main styles called (in Cantonese) Fut San (Buddha mountain) and Hok San (crane mountain). Fut San is the older and more powerful style that incorporates martial arts moves, while Hok San is the more commonly seen dance style in Malaysia. It is described as a more expressive style accompanied by vigorous drumming, making it the more popular one to watch.

Hong Teck Dragon and Lion Dance Association team during their performing at the 17th Malaysia National Lion Dance Championship in Genting Highland recently

2. High pole origins

High pole lion dance performances these days are quite impressive to watch in competitions, but believe it or not, the standards for international competitions these days were actually pioneered by lion dance associations in Malaysia. The idea of performing on poles was inspired by Mei Hua Quan, a style of kung fu performed on pillars, but it was Malaysia that began increasing the height of the poles in competitions to about two to three metres tall. Many countries later began to follow these standards.

Shaggy-looking lions: The Huo Yuan Jia Wushu Academy specialises in the Northern lion dance style.

3. Two forms

There are two forms of lion dances – the Northern and the Southern. The Southern lion dance is the most commonly seen form in Malaysia, but there are a few troupes that can also perform the Northern lion dance. The Northern lion dance is usually performed with a pair of lions and sometimes an additional dancer holding a ball. It is a more playful, cat-like style compared to the Southern lion dance.

ipagoh040315 9... Members of the audience touching one of the LED lion dance performers during the Chap Goh Meh festival at Kuan Yin Tong on Mar 4.

4. Colourful characters 

Traditionally, lion dance costumes were only made in specific colours but as time passed, taboo colours such as blue slowly became accept - able. These days, it is pretty common to see lions in various shades of pink, and some even come with LED lights for night performances. Lion dancers are sometimes accompanied by quirky characters such as the Big Head Buddha or Cai Shen (God of Prosperity), who serve to entertain spectators.

Siti Saleha Mohd Salleh is proud to be dancing for her sixth Chinese New Year come Monday, Jan 26.

 5. No age or gender limit 

In the 1970s, Malaysian lion dance associations only permitted men aged 21 and above to join. But today, even children may start from as young as seven years old and girls are permitted to join some associa - tions too. Fong says that associations such as Khuan Loke started doing this more than a decade ago as this was common overseas in countries such as the US, and because the interest in taking up lion dance was dwindling.

Very entertaining... Pertubuhan Kebudayaan Seni Dan Kesukanan Tawau team that finished third during their performing at the 17th Malaysia National Lion Dance Championship in Genting Highland recently

 6. Different music 

Southern lion dance music only needs a lion drum, a Chinese gong, and bronze cymbals. Both Fut San and Hok San styles have unique music patterns that correspond to specific lion dance moves. On the other hand, Northern lion dance as well as dragon dance use traditional Chinese orchestral music instead, where instruments such as the suona (a Chinese double-reeded horn) can be heard. As these instruments are rare in Malaysia, the song can instead be played over a radio, but Fong says this loses its cultural significance.

Lion head and body: Ng Kok Koon (left) and Wong Guo Lin suiting up for a practice session in their Northern lion dance costume.

 7. Different appearance 

Northern lion costumes comprise a gold-painted wooden head and a full shaggy outfit for dancers, which can be very warm to wear in Malaysia’s tropical climate. Southern lion heads were tradi - tionally made from papier-mâché over a bamboo frame, but Malaysian-made lion heads use a rattan frame instead, which is much more durable. The older Fut San lions in the 1970s had tails up to 3.6m long, meaning that there was more space between the head and tail dancers. But today, most Southern lions have shorter tails.

Interview Albert Fong of the Khuan Loke Dragon and Lion Dance Association for Top 10 Interesting Lion Dance Facts. Rep: Noel

 8. Southern lion head design 

Lion heads have colourful facial features that also include a horn, mirror, and pom-poms. The horn serves more as a symbol that is commonly found on all legendary Chinese creatures, including the Nian monster, the legend that is most strongly associated with the lion dance. The mirror serves to chase away evil spirits, but the purpose of the pompoms appears to have been forgotten over the course of time and are now mainly decorative.

Cititel Mid Valley general manager Edwin Low receiving a tray of blessings with lettuce leaves, mandarin oranges and pomelo as it signifies a good year ahead filled with prosperity.

 9. Spreading fortune 

Lion dances are common at the opening of lion dances in this context is cai qing, which translates as the “plucking of greens”. In Chinese, different pronuncia - tions of cai can mean either “pluck”, “vegetable”, or “fortune”. Lion dancers will pluck apart fruits and vegetables such as pomelos, oranges and lettuce, arrange them decoratively on a tray, and hand them back to the business owner, which symbolises the passing of good fortune to the business owner.

A young boy from Ching Yi Lion Dance troupe pounding on the Chinese drum at the DRB-Hicom Chinese New Year celebration held at Rumah Charis.

10. Learning lion dance 

Newcomers to lion dance are usually taught how to play the music first, start - ing with the bronze cymbals. More expe - rienced members will then learn how to play the gong and the drum, before mov - ing on to becoming a lion dancer. Skills required for the head and the tail are slightly different and subject to individu - al preference. It is a myth that head dancers should ideally be small in stat - ure compared to the tail dancer


 

Tags / Keywords: Central Region , CNY2016 , Top 10 , lion dance , facts , Khuan Loke , Albert Fong

advertisement

Powered by

advertisement

advertisement