Dragons, lions roar with diversity


Passion and interest have kept Rishivigknesh going in dragon and lion dances.

PETALING JAYA: The gradual change in public perception of dragon and lion dance performances as a sporting activity has attracted eager participants from diverse backgrounds.

Veteran drummer Mariam Abdul Nazar has been a member of the dragon and lion dance troupe for 14 years.

Last year, Mariam took part in the 14th Genting World Lion Dance Championship with her team – the Khuan Loke Dragon and Lion Dance Association – and emerged as first runner-up.

“It was truly an unforgettable moment and a dream come true for me.

“Being part of the team has given me many opportunities to travel to different countries to compete,” said the 28-year-old.

For Mariam, dragon and lion dancing has become a big part of her life.

“I thought I had to quit after getting married and having children, but I missed it so much. The team members are like family to me,” said Mariam, adding that she is thankful that her family is supportive of her in this activity.

Mariam also said more non-Chinese are participating in lion dance performances nowadays.

“About five years ago, it was rare to see non-Chinese, but now, I see more teams with non-Chinese members,” she said.

Young dragon and lion dance performer Haikal Hakimi Abdullah, 15, has been in the Wen Wei Lion and Dragon Dance Association for three years.

“I see myself taking this sport more seriously. Currently, I am learning high-pole lion dance.

“Hopefully, I can go to more competitions, especially for dragon dance and high-pole lion dance,” he said.

Haikal loves being together and training with his team members.

“I am good friends with them. My favourite part is when we eat and make jokes together,” he said.

He practises at least twice a week with his older brother, who is also part of the team.

Rishivigknesh Balakrishnan, a 21-year-old college student, has been performing with a dragon and lion dance troupe for the past eight years, beginning when he was 13.

It is his deep interest in lion dance that has kept him going.

“It’s a tough sport that requires a lot of stamina and strength, and to be in sync with the instruments is very difficult.

Roaring onto the scene: (Clockwise from left) Mariam posing with her trophies at the 14th Genting World Lion Dance Championship; passion and interest have kept Rishivigknesh going in dragon and lion dances; and Chow hopes to win the Genting championship one day.Roaring onto the scene: (Clockwise from left) Mariam posing with her trophies at the 14th Genting World Lion Dance Championship; passion and interest have kept Rishivigknesh going in dragon and lion dances; and Chow hopes to win the Genting championship one day.

“But I will continue performing and competing for as long as I can,” he said.

Rishivigknesh said he has taken part in many local and international competitions with his team.

“I enjoy the thrill of competitions and hope to win the Genting Lion Dance championship one day,” he said.

Similarly, Henry Chow Heng Lee, 21, aspires to stand on the podium at the prestigious championship.

“It is the biggest competition for the lion dance. Every team member hopes to compete on that stage and win,” he said.

Chow also said dragon and lion dance performances are becoming more systematic as there are a lot of rules and a stringent point system for competitions.

“Dragon and lion dance performances are more multicultural because they are both a sport and a hobby,” he said.

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