The Independent London Newspaper



Pride of place: behind the scenes with the Chinese New Year lion dancer

Lion dancers Henry Wan, Anthony Tan, Francis Yang, Chilam Or, Peter Wai and teac

Lion dancers Henry Wan, Anthony Tan, Francis Yang, Chilam Or, Peter Wai and teacher Kelvin Chan

Published: 27 January, 2017

TEAMS of lion dancers in spectacular costumes will weave and dance their way around the streets of London this Chinese New Year, but there is more to it than meets the eye, according to the dancers behind the lion.

“It looks like we are just dancing, but there is a lot of practice behind it,” said Peter Wai, part of one lion team who will take part in the celebrations this weekend. We train five days a week.”

The movements are based in martial arts and are a great cardio workout, according to the team. It takes at least two people to carry the lion – the head is worn by one dancer, resting on their shoulders. Making an OK sign with the other hand, they use three fingers to open and close the lion’s mouth – a skill that must be perfected for when the lion rises up to grab lettuce from above the door of businesses. 

The lettuce is a sign of good fortune – when the lion flings it into the crowd like a bride’s bouquet, it is believed that whoever catches it will have good luck with money. With roots in history and tradition, the lion dance is believed to date back as far as 3ad, though there are numerous theories and myths about its exact origins. The traditional dance is also performed at weddings, festivals and other special occasions. 

Team leader Kelvin Chan, who has been lion dancing for more than a decade, studied the traditional skill from a range of different masters across China. Now he trains the others in the group – some of whom have been dancing since childhood and some who have joined more recently to learn about their culture. 

Mr Wai, who is originally from Hong Kong, said: “I’ve been in this country for years. Fourteen years ago I left home and I have never done anything like this, so I thought I would learn some Chinese traditional stuff. So I studied with Master Chan. We are trying to advertise the Chinese culture, it is our roots. It’s a Chinese tradition and it’s good to learn new skills. It’s also great fun, good exercise and I’ve made some great friends from different backgrounds.” 


Post new comment