Lion dance troupes hope MCO will end soon so they can perform at gigs for CNY

The troupe members during a rehearsal before the first MCO that took effect in March last year.

LION and dragon dance troupes in Penang are in for uncertain times this Chinese New Year in light of the movement control order (MCO).

Some troupes have decided to cancel performances to safeguard the health and safety of their members while others are taking the wait-and-see approach.

Hong Guan Sports Gymnasium troupe leader Law Choon Lim, 28, said although his troupe is prepared to perform during Chinese New Year, they would not be able to do so if MCO is extended.

“Lion and dragon dance performances are not allowed during the MCO.

“We will have to wait for the Government’s announcement before we can make any decision for this year.

“My team of 30 lion dancers had been training and practising their steps every week from Monday to Friday prior to the MCO but training had to be stopped when MCO started, ” he said.

Law added that the number of bookings had dropped by half due to the bad times.

“Some of our regular customers have made their bookings for our performance but the number of bookings has decreased by at least 50%.

“For those who have made their bookings, they have no intention to cancel our performances.

“We are all waiting for the Government’s announcement before deciding what to do next.

“If the MCO is lifted, we hope that the Penang Wushu, Lion and Dragon Dance Association can discuss the standard operating procedures (SOPs) with the state government so that we can continue to perform during the festive season, ” he said in a phone interview.

Penang Meihu Culture and Sports Association committee member Loh Chin Hoong, 30, said his troupe decided to cancel all performances this year due to the pandemic.

“There will not be any performance at all.

“We have to adhere to a lot of SOPs to perform at events or at houses.

“As our troupe members are mainly primary and secondary school students, their parents are worried about their safety.

“Prior to the MCO, we used to train every week to maintain the performers’ skills and stamina.

“For those performing on high stilts,stopping training for a week is considered a long time.

“We have to keep the momentum going and it is not encouraged to stop training for a long time, ” he said.

Loh, who is an assistant coach and performer, added that his troupe members only rested for a day or two throughout the 15-days celebration the previous years.

For the first two days of Chinese New Year, they would focus on their community in Gertak Sanggul by visiting some 100 homes in the villages there.

After the third day of the lunar new year, they then performed at events or at regular clients’ houses.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had announced that the MCO would be enforced in all states except Sarawak until Feb 4.

Meanwhile, Penang Wushu, Lion and Dragon Dance Association president Datuk H’ng Ban Choon said they were uncertain if lion and dragon dance performances could be held this year as the performances usually draw large crowds.

“If the MCO is extended, there will be no performance during Chinese New Year.

“But if performances are allowed, we will have to come up with SOPs and guidelines to ensure public health and safety.

“Chinese New Year is the period where lion and dragon dance troupes generate income for their group members.

“However, we understand that some sacrifices have to be made to contain the virus for the good of everyone.

“We hope that the situation will improve and life will be back to normal again, ” he said.

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