Monday, February 7, 2011

More Lion Dancing

The Chinese New Year celebration usually goes on for two weeks and in many countries it culminates in a huge dragon infested parade. It's no different here in Kuala Lumpur.
Part of the main celebrations surrounding the New Lunar Year are Lion Dances.

There are essentially two types of Lion Dances.
Northern Style, where Lions typically dance using the full body of the lion with jumping and rolling on the floor maneuvers, and Southern Style, where there is more concentration on specific movements of the head and body to show its behavior.

Southern Style is what we see most in Western countries and those associated with Cantonese people. All the pictures here are of Southern Style Lions.

The Origin of the Lion Dance differs depending on what you read and who you listen to.
Many believe it originated with a beast that appeared on New Years to attack and destroy the crops of farmers in the villages. The creature was named "Nien", meaning "year" in Chinese. Gongs and weapons were used to scare it off but it reappeared the following year. Villagers then created an imitation beast with bamboo and colorful paper and used the accompaniment of gongs, drums, and cymbals, to scare it off.

Today, lion dancing is performed on many auspicious occasions such as the dedication of a new building office or store as its believed to bring good fortune and wealth. Its always used during the Chinese Lunar New Year to beckon in a prosperous New Year.

The Southern Lion today is known to be a playful animal with an exaggerated head, huge eyes, and decorated with colorful sequins and lamb or rabbit fur.
Its movements are deliberate and accompanied by specific beats from the drum, gong, and cymbal. Different stances are performed to mimic sleep, waking, drunkenness, happiness, fright, merriment, anger, and suspicion.

Lion Dancing has evolved significantly over the years. Nowhere has is been perfected more in recent years than in Malaysia. There are huge international competitions held yearly in Malaysia and many of the top honors go to the Malaysians. And its not just home street advantage. The huge Chinese population in Malaysia, and particularly in Kuala Lumpur, has nurtured and developed the art of lion dancing beyond the typical.

Lion dance troupes are usually associated with martial arts groups, predominately Kung-Fu. In the 1950s and 60s it developed into a gangster-like cult with many of the Kung-Fu studios fighting with with each other. Knives were carried by the lion dancers and street fights materialized when different troupes performed too close to one another. Some acrobatic steps were even developed to kick and attack other lion dancers. Things got so bad in Hong Kong that the authorities had to ban Lion Dancing for a while. Today its highly regulated in Hong Kong and troupes must attain permits to perform.

Give and receive.
Lucky red envelopes are given to lions (through the mouth to the dancer) and in return gifts, such as oranges or a lucky coin, may be given by the lion.

Here are a mess of short lion dancing videos.
Most were taken on the same day at various locations throughout the city of KL.
Sorry about the quality of some of them but for some reason Goog will only allow me to post them at this lower resolution.

Lion Pole Dancing .
A very popular routine here in KL.

The Pavilion Shopping Complex is undoubtedly the flashiest Mall in this city where malls seem to be doubling every every five years.
Lion dancing performances have been happening daily for the last week.

Its easy to see why the Malaysian Lion dancers consistently win competitions.

Lion dancers at one of the Syarikat Makanan Salai Kiew Brothers outlets.
SMSKB is reputed to be the best smoked, dried meat in Kuala Lumpur.
Sometimes referred to as barbequed meat, its a little like jerky only thicker and more tender.
Chicken and Pork are the most popular and their main outlet in Chinatown will usually have long lines at opening time when freshly grill-dried meats are available.

The Lion Dancing at this particular outlet of SMSKB at the Pavilion lasted almost an hour.
Plenty long for a whole mess of good fortune for the New Year.

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