Lion dance is a form of Chinese traditional dance, where the performers dress up in a lion costume and emulate the movements of the lion, accompanied by traditional music of beating drums, cymbals and gongs which synchronise with the movements of the lion. The fundamental lion dance movements can be found in many Chinese styles of martial arts.
It is believed that once upon a time an emperor had a terrible dream where evil troubled the land. So the emperor prayed to the gods for help. The gods told him that the lion being the king of the beasts would be able to fight back against these evils and protect the land. The Chinese people had not seen a lion before and so the monk combined all the magical and lucky animals he could think of, so making a lion.
The symbolic lion dance is normally performed as a ceremony to summon fortune and good luck, whilst warding away evil spirits, this vigorous dance is closely associated with the Chinese New Year celebrations and so is traditionally performed during these festivals, amongst others.
The lion costumes are beautifully coloured and come in many different variations. The lion head is beautifully adorned with fur, feathers, glitter and constructed from papier mache around a bamboo frame, with distinct features such as large blinking eyes (, a mirror on the forehead (to ward off demons), a snapping mouth and a unicorn horn in the centre of the head. The costumes are traditionally blessed before the performance to spiritually protect them.
The lion dance requires elegance and strength of the two person team used to bring life to the lion. The front controls the head, mouth, eyes and leads with skilful movements, whilst their partner acts as the body of the lion and must work in perfect co-ordination with the head.
The traditional performance of 'Cai Ching' which literally means 'plucking the greens' is the customary performance used to encourage good fortune and prosperity. In which the lion curiously approaches an offering of green vegetables and a red envelope containing money. Where the lion will chew the greens and spit them out, but keep the red envelope, which is the reward for the lion dance troupe.
During the 15 day Chinese New Year period, lion dance troupes are traditionally hired to perform at homes, schools, business premises, hotels and shopping centres to bring in good fortune during this very auspicious occasion. Although it is not unusual for lion dance troupes to also be hired outside of this period to bring in good luck and fortune for other ceremonies, events and the opening of new businesses.
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Chinese New Year 2016 is 'The Year of the Monkey' and runs from 8th February until 22nd February. NAMA can help you to make your celebrations a special time. A Lion and Dragon Dance are the ideal way to see in the Chinese New Year and are perfect for parties, events and educational school workshops & demonstrations.
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