In martial arts, Post Oak and Laurel Oak classes are learning more about lion dances and dragon dances. It is easy to get the two animal dances confused and mixed up. We watched videos of both type of dances in preparation for our own version of the dances. Both dances synchronize their movements and actions to the sounds of drums, cymbals, and gongs. I have included the three videos we watched in class as a visual explanation.
A monk had a dream that sorrows and evils were plaguing the land, so he prayed to the gods to stop the evils from happening. The gods told him that a lion would protect and fight the evils; however, the Chinese people had never seen a lion before. At the same time, they knew a lion was the king of all animals. Thus, the monk combined all the magical animals and made a lion.
A Chinese lion has the eyes of a rabbit, mouth of a camel, antlers of a deer, scales of a carp, whiskers of a catfish, talons of an eagle, legs of a tiger, ears of a cow, and the body of a serpent.
Lion dance is operated by two performers who are underneath the lion. Basic lion dance fundamental moves can be found in most Chinese martial arts. Many young martial artists train to lion dance and specialize in movements or tricks. Lion dancer troupes visits houses and shops to eat the lucky green vegetables and oranges tied to red envelopes to bring good fortune to them. The lion eats and spits out the green and keeps the red envelope as payment. The lion dancers also presents a scroll out of the lion’s mouth to wish prosperity, longevity, or good luck to those watching. Lion dances scare away evil spirits and bring good luck!
Dragons are wise and caring, guarding the wind, rain, and rivers. The dragon in the parade symbolizes the coming of spring rain and sunshine. Dragons are believed to bring good luck to people, which are reflected in their qualities of great power, dignity, fertility, wisdom, and auspiciousness.
The main color of the dragon is selected based on the atmosphere and what the Chinese people wish for the new year. Green symbolizes a great harvest, yellow symbolizes the solemn empire, golden or silver colors symbolizes prosperity, and red symbolizes excitement. The dragon’s scales and tail are mostly beautiful silver colors and glittering all the time to provide a feeling of a joyous atmosphere.
It takes about fifty people to move and make a dragon, which is about one hundred feet long, dance. They use poles to hold the dragon’s body up to wave it back and forth as they walk up and down the street. The dance team mimics the supposed movements of this mythical creature in smooth, curvy movements. These movements in a performance traditionally symbolize historical roles of dragons demonstrating power and dignity. Dragons eat green lettuce and red envelopes for good luck. Firecrackers explode all around as the dragon dances to say good-bye to the old year and welcome the new year.