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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Lion Dance

Lion Dance cookies I made this week for the Chinese Lunar Year.

Growing up, few things were as exciting as a lion dance. The sound of distant drum beats would get my heart a-thumping - it meant a lion dance troupe was making its round in our neck of the woods. Shouts of excitement "Moe See, Moe See" (lion dance in Cantonese) could be heard as everyone in the neighbourhood would dash out of their houses to watch the majestic lions parading down the streets, prancing about lively as the martial artists beneath cavorted and  gyrated in a whirlwind of motion to the clamour of a ginormous drum, gong and cymbals. The sound of exploding firecrackers and scent of burned gunpowder in the the air always added to the fun and excitement.

Interestingly, the lion is not native to China and only existed in myth, Yet the lion dance is such an integral part of the Chinese New Year. There are many legends surrounding the mysterious origin of the dance . A more popular one tells of a monk who dreamed that China was about to be plagued by many evils. On waking, he prayed fervently to the gods for a way to avert the coming catastrophe and his prayers were answered with a vision of a lion, the king of all beasts that would protect the people and overcome the evils. Because the monk had never seen or heard of a lion before, he created his own from many other mythical creatures including the dragon and unicorn. This certainly explains why the ‘lions’ used in the dance don’t look too much like real ones!

Lion dancing has evolved over the years. Today, lion dancing has become  one of the most breathtaking forms of performance arts in traditional Chinese culture as lion troupes from all over the world compete against one another at international level. It’s jaw-dropping not only because of the life-like movements and expressions of a lion that are mimicked by its dancers, but also because of the element of danger that is present. Performed on high poles (some as high as 16 feet and with a mere diameter of  8 inches), a pair of highly-trained experts blanketed under a heavy costume, leaps from pole to pole. The lion even balances itself precariously on the high poles on its hind legs meaning that the rear dancer has to raise the lead dancer high in the air! A slight error in judgement can easily cause both dancers to fall down from a great height, yet they somehow manage to coordinate their movements so effortlessly.

I am thinking - the rear dancer must be having a more challenging role as the lion's hind legs. I mean, the back guy is bent over the entire time! He is required to duplicate the lead dancer's stances while remaining in an awkward, stooped posture with restricted vision. I was told that all he could see is the pair of legs in front of him! He 'sees' by following  the lead dancer's steps and jumps as best he can, thus ensuring that the lion moves as a single unit. This dancer may also be called upon to lift the lead dancer high in the air like a lion on hind legs. It can't be easy having to bear the weight of the lead dancer and the very heavy lion head atop a pole that is 16 ft tall ! On the contrary, Hubby told me that the lead dancer plays a more important role. In addition to some fancy footwork, he has to bear the heavy lion head, simultaneously working the mechanisms inside the head.  He has to wiggle the head, flutter the eyelids, open  and close the mouth and flap the ears to express the lion’s mood.
image credit - http://modelmakingresearchiadt.wikispaces.com/
Watch this video. Our Malaysian team won the World Champion Trophy back in 2004. It has a slow start but be blown away at the 4:42 minute mark when the lion leaps onto the poles.  It's truly awesome!

13 comments:

betty said...

That must be impressive to see in person with the lion's dance, Veronica. So intricate in the way it is performed too! Such cute cookies :)

betty

Joyce Lansky said...

These look good and fun, but had a recent blood test that means leave this stuff alone.

http://joycelansky.blogspot.com/2015/01/mm-dance-marathon-time.html

Hena Tayeb said...

those are gorgeous!

alissa apel said...

That's so neat to learn about. I'd love to see one in person. I love the cookie to.

mail4rosey said...

Ah, now these make me happy!! For selfish reasons. My oldest son was the hind end of a lion for years in his Kung Fu class. It was an integral part of our life for most of his childhood from middle school until he graduated. I too, got excited when I would hear the drums beating. :)

:) I love the cookies.

Jessica Groesbeck said...

I love that I get to look at your beautiful cookies AND learn stuff while I catch up on your blog :)
xoxo

Agy Lee said...

Wow, this is the best cookie I've seen!

~ Noelle said...

That cookie is awesome! (Way to go) and I would love to go and learn (and see in person) all the different events :)

Heather Grow said...

Very cool. I've never seen the lion dance in person. It sounds like an amazing experience.

Kimberly Lewis said...

Hello cute lady! I’m loving it. Pinned and tweeted. Thank you so much for partying with us. I hope to see you tonight at 7 pm. We love to party with you! Happy Monday! Lou Lou Girls

Emily @ Two Purple Couches said...

Your cookies are stunning! And I can't imagine the thrill of seeing the lion dance in person! Wow!

Glenna Anderson said...

Your cookies are gorgeous! I wish I had the patience to learn to decorate them. Thanks for sharing with Creative Spark Link Party. I hope you can join us again this week, the party is live today.
Glenna @ My Paper Craze

HeQuan said...

Im wondering if youre selling the lion dance cookies you made?

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