KUALA LUMPUR (January 31): Having not performed for almost two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the lion dance troupes are ready to mesmerize the audience with their endearing stunts and acrobatic moves, accompanied by the pounding drums and the deafening shock of cymbals.
With the green light from the government for lion dance performances on the occasion of this year’s Chinese New Year, the troupe of the Kun Seng Keng Lion and Dragon Dance Association of Kuala Lumpur has been busy since the start of the months to respond to invitations to perform at various venues and its schedule is full until the 28th day of the Lunar New Year celebrations, which begin tomorrow.
This is no ordinary lion dance troupe – it is, in fact, an eye-catcher wherever it performs as it includes multi-racial performers.
According to their trainer Yess Cheong, 18 of the association’s 40 members – aged between 13 and 30 – are non-Chinese, including Malays, Indians and natives of Sabah and Sarawak.
“Each year we receive applications from students and individuals from various racial backgrounds to join our association,” he told Bernama, adding that their troupe members were busy undergoing rigorous four-day training. six hours a day since November of last year.
Rigor, strong team spirit
Ms. Seliva Kumar, 21, a member of the association’s lion dance troupe, said she was proud to be a member of one of the leading lion dance troupes in the capital.
He said the agile movements, unique acrobatic acts and drumbeats drew him to the Chinese cultural art form that is an integral part of Chinese New Year festivities.
“Five years ago, I saw a lion dance performance outside a store during Chinese New Year and was captivated by the performers who were able to perform stunts while standing on top of poles.
“I’ve also started watching lion dance shows on TV…I especially like the colorful and unique lion costumes draped by the dancers which help to liven up the atmosphere, especially if there are children there as well. to watch them play,” he said.
He said his interest in lion dancing prompted him to search for a sifu or master who could teach him the art, which eventually led him to the Kun Seng Lion and Dragon Dance Association. Keng from Kuala Lumpur.
Seliva Kumar, who has been with the association for five years now, said that before a performance, he and his fellow cast members would have to go through intensive training for about three months.
He also said he doesn’t mind traveling all the way from his home in Sepang to Kampung Baru Subang, Shah Alam – where the association’s premises are located – for training sessions with his teammates.
“Before we learn the lion dance moves, we need to learn drum, gong and cymbal beating technique. Our intensive training is also aimed at building discipline and team spirit and creating good chemistry between us (troop members) as these are the prerequisites for a good performance,” he added.
Comply with SOPs
Another member of the same troupe, N Vinay Raj, 17, a seventh-grade student from Subang Jaya, said his interest in Chinese arts and culture drew him to lion dancing two years ago.
“In school, I loved watching my friends perform in lion dance shows as part of their extracurricular activities.
“After becoming a member of this lion dance troupe (of the association), I not only learned how to perform the lion dance movements and play the related musical instruments, but also learned to better learn about Chinese culture from my teammates,” he said.
Among the tough acts that Vinay Raj and his fellow cast members do during a lion dance performance, he performs stunts on top of a 2.5 meter high pole.
“It takes a lot of skill because we have to learn how to balance our body properly. Just a small mistake can lead to an accident,” he said, adding that he and his teammates support and motivate each other all the time, regardless of race and religion.
Their coach Cheong, meanwhile, said that in view of the ongoing pandemic, the biggest challenge for the troop is to observe physical distancing as part of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent transmission of Covid. -19.
“Since our performances require the performers to support each other physically, it is quite difficult to adhere to the SOPs. So what we’ve done now is shorten our performance time at any location to one hour, from three hours like it was pre-pandemic,” he said. .
Cheong, who joined the association when he was 12, also explained that learning the art of moving like a lion and performing pole-top stunts requires constant practice to improve his skills. physical strength and ability to concentrate.
“Usually at a show we would have two people performing the lion dance moves while perched on top of poles…one of them maneuvering the head (of the lion) while the other nobody would be in the back. It’s not an easy act to perform because the two dancers have to be able to communicate well with each other in order to coordinate their movements,” he said.
Cheong added that the Kun Seng Keng Lion and Dragon Dance Association of Kuala Lumpur, established in 2012, has participated in 12 competitions at national and international level, including in Macau, Hong Kong and China.
“Our participation in various competitions has allowed us to gain new knowledge from lion dance masters from various other associations, which has helped us to improve our own skills and correct our weaknesses,” he said. declared. — Bernama