the drunken lion team shakes their stuff!
Lunar New Year is over! It was a privilege and an honor to perform quite a bit over the last three weekends for various organizations, restaurants, communities, and businesses. As a tail in the lion, I didn’t see most of the people who came out to see us, except for a brief glimpse when we bowed at the end, but that’s fine with me. I heard through the fabric of the tail the level of enthusiasm our audiences expressed for what we were doing, and that was amazing in a way I’ve never really experienced before.
Promoting Chinese culture is part of the mission of our school, and helping with that, being a part of it by getting into the lion going out there in front of people was terrifying, exciting, and awesome. And on a more personal level, I’ve performed before, in choirs and bands and in plays and musicals, but mostly when I was much younger. Readings are a kind of performance, but it’s within my comfort zone. Going in among crowds of people, scooting between tables in restaurants, inhaling gunpowder from fireworks and then going up on enormous stages in front of a thousand or more people, using my body to animate a giant puppet… it was an amazing, unforgettable experience. It was so special, for example, to parade through the kitchen of a restaurant where my school typically eats during the New Year season, and then eat there! How cool is that?
basically my job is to twerk like miley inside of that thing
I think what made the experience so different from my other performance experiences was relying—and depending—on my body in a more intensely physical way than I ever have before. And someone else’s body—lion dance is a partner exercise, after all. Working closely with my head, developing our trust and understanding of one another, keeping our enthusiasm going when we were both tired, was another amazing part of the overall challenge, and something I’ve never experienced before.
While admittedly the drunken lion routine was more about character and story than risky tricks, for me as a relative newcomer to lion dance it was still excitingly demanding work. After the first performance weekend, which included I think 11 performances in 24 hours, I was more tired than after climbing a 14er. But it was exhilarating learning and now knowing my that my body and will can work together like that.
It’s said that lion dance is an expression of one’s overall kung fu, and moving forward into the Year of the Horse as I continue my practice, it’s really exciting knowing I’m becoming more able to make my body do what I want it to. I’ve never been particularly powerful, graceful, fast, or strong, and I continue to struggle with all of those aspects of athleticism each time I practice. But the great thing is… lion and kung fu are a journey. I have no idea where it will take me, but getting there is tremendous fun!