Thursday, January 15, 2009

When The Lion Dances

"What's that ruckus?", you ask. The lions are here and they're not sleeping tonight! They stand ready to pounce, their roar masked by the deafening beat of the drums and clashing cymbals. More lions will be on the prowl as we close in on the Lunar New Year.

The world turns topsy turvy when the lions dance at Chinese festivities. Men have always ridden on beasts, but never beasts on men. Just look who's on top of elephants, camels and horses. The lions have it better in the Chinese culture because the men do all the work while the felines just bat their eyelids seductively and clank their wide lower jaw shut as they prance around.

Thankfully the lion that visited The Living Room (courtesy of the Zhou Guan Sports Centre & Lion Dance Troupe) was vegetarian. It was an eye-opener prying into the world of a lion dancer, getting inside the head of a lion (above: Pam in the lion) and feeling the weight on your arms as you make sudden jerks under the $2,000-plus costume that's made in Hong Kong and weights about 10 kilogrammes in all.

(above from l-r: Wong Gek Heng, Calvin Wong & Laurence Wong with us!)

The weight distribution is almost half borne by the person who manipulates the head movement (usually the lighter of the two dancers who concentrates on the facial expression of the lion) and the guy behind who's hunched over almost 45 degrees to literally hold up the behind (this guy usually the stouter and stronger of the two; he has to be able to carry his buddy on his shoulders and hold him steady when the lion stands on its hind legs).

It's one sure weight-loss strategy to be under the lion's skin. Our guest Laurence says their troupe's on the hunt for females to join the pack. Don't worry if you think the lion's are way too huge or heavy, we were surprised to hear they come in smaller sizes too!

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