Lion Dance Team &
History of Lion Dancing
Chinese lion dancing is part of the colorful pageantry and tradition of the Chinese New Year which revolves around bringing good fortune for the new year and removing the bad luck of the old year.
Lion dancing is an ancient ceremony that is a marriage of Chinese martial arts and folk lore. There is a complex, interwoven relationship of symbolism between the lion dance, the coming new year and the martial arts. Before the new year arrives, Chinese families make special preparations to end the old year and ensure an auspicious new year. When the lion appears, families hang out offerings of lucky money, or chan, in red envelopes for the lion to eat. By garnering the favor of the lion, the lion will chase away evil spirits and bad luck with the help of fire crackers. Since the lion is not indigenous to China, the lion costume tends to reflect a playful rather than ferocious animal.
There are basically two types of lions: Northern and Southern. The Southern lion is more colorful and larger. The multi-colored lion is used more often during Chinese New Year celebrations because the vibrant colors symbolize good luck. Old, established schools are represented by old lion heads, which have long white beards with a multicolored head and body. The black and white colored lions represent a youthful and assertive demeanor and are associated with younger schools. The construction of Southern lion heads is an art in itself, and there are few craftsmen today who know the traditional method.
The lion dancers convey the lions various emotions and are in part elicited by the Happy Man or Buddha, a costumed teaser who leads the lion on a merry chase, as well as interacting with people, through restaurants, businesses, streets or other areas where it’s performing. The instruments that typically accompany the lion are the drum, gong and cymbals although other instruments may be used which are integral to the dance. Drummers control the lions movements and create changes in mood and tempo. Each movement such as sleeping, awakening, walking, scratching to name a few has a meaning that the music helps to convey.