Lion Dance, Celebrating the Asian New Year.
This time of the year is the celebration of the Chinese New Year. As a result, I spent my Saturday chauffeuring around my son and some of the other members of his Lion Dance club to 4 different venues between two cities (very close). We were out from 2 till after 10 that evening. My son is the only non-Asian member of the group. They all accept him in as if he is one of their own. He’s sort of like an understudy of the group, of which there are a few. He is, essentially, the “back-up” of the back portion of the lion. Which means he has to follow the foot steps of the front end, and, when he gets good enough, will carry the front man when they do jumps and lifts. For now, he steps and shakes his booty when required to do so.
It is physically demanding and requires them to stay in a bent over position for a large portion of the dance. They do a lot of running, push-ups, and some weight training to help them stay in shape. I have started to see a change in my son’s physique, which is normally of the “string bean” variety. However, he has always been incredibly strong (it use to take me and two other nurses to hold him down when it came time to give him his vaccines when he was just a toddler) and has been increasing his muscle mass around his shoulder and upper arm area, not to mention the workout his thighs and calves are getting.
Their first performance of the day was at the home of a man who was hosting an Asian New Year celebration for family and friends. Thank goodness after having the last few weeks of freezing temps and snow/ice, we had a break and the weather was near 70 on Friday and the day of their performances as well. (Didn’t last though. Back to 26 degrees as I type this on Sunday morning.) Everyone gathered outside as the show started.
The lions danced around and made a show for the audience while the host held his grandchildren up for a closer look.
As is part of the tradition, money was put in a high place above the ground for the lions to find and cause them to use their acrobatic skills to entertain the audience as well. “Where is that money? I know it’s here somewhere. I just need to stay on this guy’s shoulders long enough to reach it!”
I’m not exaggerating when I say it took “forever” for the red lion to try to get the money from the place it was wedged in the pole of the basketball goal post. He kept trying and trying. Both lions took turns and were getting nowhere. I felt sorry for them because I know they must have been exhausted by this point. Trying to get that big head around where he could reach his arm out and make a grab for it was impossible with that hoop in the way.
In the meantime, the band (which consists of a drummer and a guy playing the cymbals) played on and on and…excruciatingly…on.
Now, it was time to send the blue lion back in.
Finally, with a little help from one of the guests, the money was retrieved and the grand-daughter was a happy little girl with a smile from ear to ear. (That lime flavored icee didn’t hurt either.)
The guys had time for a little soccer and a snack, and then it was time to head back on the road to the next stop about 30 minutes away. We got there early so while they waited outside for a bit, I inspected those head pieces a little closer.
Now it was time to open the show. These guys were shakin’ their money makers!
A little crowd-pleasing dance through the audience and a few stunts
… and we were off to the next place, a high school celebrating diversity and talent.
Applause, applause … and off to the last show. This was a celebration at an Asian club where there was food, music and dancing, and maybe some drink (but I couldn’t really tell because I’m not familiar with Asian beer and I only had a 7-up anyway). Oh, and my son finally got his shot at fame here. Since him and his partner hadn’t been practicing as long as the other club members, they were allowed to cheat a little and use a chair. My son says their success rate in jumping and landing correctly without sliding (You try that with a pair of those slick-fabric pants on and a curtain around your head while one of you is holding a giant bobble-head of a lion!) is only about 50/50 right now, and a fall would look worse than being assisted by a chair.
A little switcheroo of players, and the last stunt of the night is performed while more money is gathered for the lion club.
Then everyone headed home and to bed. It was a long day. We did have fun, though. And I love that both my children explore all kinds of cultures and groups and get to know the world through their experiences. As a result, they can easily adapt to any situation or place. They live in the real world, as do I, and openly accept and are eager to learn about and embrace (whether they agree with them or not) anyone or anything new and different from what we are used to or know. Their friend base is larger because of this, their tolerance for others different from them is greater than the average person’s, and they have a desire to want to know more and experience more outside their own four walls of home and their city.
I wish more people would get out and experience something new outside of their own culture and what they are used to and what feels “safe” to them. Think of how much better a place the world would be!