Lunar New Year Calls Out For The Traditional Lion Dance: Women Dancers On The Rise

By Kumar Rahul (KR) on Jan 30, 2017 09:56 AM EST

With preparations for Chinese Lunar New Year Celebrations on its peak, Chinese dance troupes are toiling hard to add perfection to their "Lion Dance" moves. It is considered as one of the main events in Chinese New Year celebrations.

According to The New York Times, one of these dance troupes, the Chinese Freemason Athletic Club Dance Troupe belongs to Chinatown in lower Manhattan. It has been performing since 1956 and is one of the 220 groups dancing their way through lower Manhattan Chinatown during the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations. The celebrations commenced on Saturday and will run until February 15th while the Lunar New Year Parade is in its 18th edition and will be held on 5th February.

The club has recreations of video games available at the helm for teenagers but it is famous for its Lion Dance teaching. The dance troupe currently has 60 members which include people belonging to different age groups and from various social backgrounds coming to learn the coveted art. The dancing involves large papier-mâché lion masks twisting and turning to drum beats.

Generally, a team of two people is for the dance, one managing the lion head and the other its synthetic tail. It takes a lot of practicing to hold and swivel the mask weighing around 30 lbs on one's head with the help of forearms, while the feet needs to be strong and flexible to maintain the balance. The troupes don these giant lion heads and colorful synthetic tails and go from one venue to the other, entertaining spectators and collecting money.

According to Public Radio International, the Chinese Freemason Athletic Club will be performing its 61st annual parade this year. Compared to the years when the club started with only 10 troupes, now there are around 40-50 troupes taking part during the festival. The club accepts both Chinese and non-Chinese members who also have to learn martial arts; an integral part of the Lion Dance.

There are numerous stories involving the origin of Lion Dance and almost all of them comprise of a monster named Nian who used to frighten villagers. While some stories depict the villagers finally coming together to scare the monster away with drumbeats and crackers, others include the story of villagers making a monster of their own in the shape of a lion to fight off the beast.

The Chinese Lunar Year, 4714 according to the calendar, began last Saturday. It marks the Year of the Rooster which is traditionally believed to bring prosperity and happiness.

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TagsLion Dance, Lunar New Year, New York City, manhattan, China

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