THERE was no wonder when Khuan Loke Dragon and Lion Dance Association from Sungai Way, Petaling Jaya was crowned winner of the 19th Malaysia National Lion Dance Championship.
The troupe’s rousing performance at the Arena of Stars in Resorts World Genting was evident enough.
Beating nine other teams at the finals with a score of 9.4 points to clinch the grand prize of RM18,000, Khuan Loke had the highest number of difficulty moves, 19 in all, according to chief judge Hooi Kok Hong.
The troupe also had the support of a very vocal fan club who cheered lion dancers Yap Yan Qing, 22, and Wong Chun Kit, 28, from beginning to end where they finished with a 180° somersault, ending from a 1m-high pole to land on all fours firmly planted on the ground.
“No doubt, they were in the right form. Their movements were smooth and well-timed with no long pauses in between, a good sign of the dancers’ endurance and stamina, ” said Hooi.
Troupe leader Eric Fong revealed that the Wong-Yap partnership began in 2017, drawing from Yap’s talent to breathe life into the lion’s head and Wong’s prowess in the stunt department.
“This is the troupe’s first victory since taking part in the Genting lion dance competitions in 1998.
“Before this, they took second place in the 1999 and 2005 nationals and the world championships in 2000 and 2006, ” said Fong.
Behind this win is also a story of courage.
Head coach Albert Fong said a fall sustained by Wong on Chinese New Year last February required hospitalisation and eye surgery.
Despite his injury, Wong continued to fight for a place in the Genting competition with Yap, and emerged champion for central region, beating 25 teams in the process.
Despite having undergone eight months of daily training, there will be no break for them as they aim to compete in the 2020 World Lion Dance Championship.
As reward for the two dancers and six instrumentalists, the association will add another RM10,000 to the prize money to be divided among the eight.
Coming in third with an equally breathtaking performance with 15 difficulties and 9.29 points, was Kelab Tarian Naga dan Singa Taman Aman.
They were the only troupe in the finals to perform the 360° rotation with not one but three full circle turns.
This stunt, a display of balance and strength, made the crowd go wild. Observers commented chances of them walking away with the championship would have been stronger if not for the reduced number of moves in their routine and a 180° somersault ending on a shorter pole than that of the Khuan Loke troupe.
For Persatuan Kebudayaan Kepong Hong Teck who had performed 10 difficulty moves, the finals came to a heartbreaking end when front dancer Loh Xing You, 19, fell between the 18th and 27th pole, prompting judges to deduct 1.1 points for the error.
The crowd that held their breath upon seeing Loh crash to the ground, broke into loud cheers when he got back on the poles and continued the routine without further mishap.
When they were done, Loh and his partner Lim You Jian, 21, received another round of applause from the arena. Lim was also seen hugging Loh and shedding tears after their performance.
Later, a review revealed the fall was caused by an old knee injury sustained by Lim. It had chosen to return right after the duo had completed a 1.4m-long jump which saw the two dancers landing on a single pole.
They were to carry on with the next move, a wrap-around forward dip that required Lim to hold on to Loh.
But upon impact, Lim experienced a sudden sharp pain in his right knee, causing him to freeze and drop Loh.
Troupe vice-president Ben Soo said attention would be given to Lim’s injury. “We will send him for physiotherapy first to see if his condition will get better, ” said Soo.
Present to witness the competitors performing their routines and on hand to give away prizes were Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Steven Sim, Selangor and Federal Territory Dragon and Lion Dance Association organising chairman Leong Lik Thong, deputy chairman Lim Ah Chye, vice-chairman Lim Seng Chan, treasurer Neo Chong Jin and Resorts World Genting assistant vice-president (Entertainment and Events) Roger Ong.