Be a part of a creative and interactive community of talents! Build your connections, find resources, and extend your brand! Explore your opportunities!

All Of The Training That Goes Into Learning The Lion Dance For Lunar New Year

Jan 23, 2017

Brandon Lee, 15, practiced with a lion head during a rehearsal for the Chinese Freemason Athletic Club dance troupe in Lower Manhattan. CreditAn Rong Xu for The New York Times

The first thing you notice in the stairwell to the fourth-floor studio on Canal Street in Manhattan is the measured thumping coming from behind a metal door.

Just beyond the entrance, large papier-mâché lion masks were twisting and turning to the drumbeat. On a recent Friday evening, the teenagers made their way across the studio floor — sagging from decades of jumps and lunges — as they practiced Chinese lion dancing.

“You want to play in a circle,” Victor Fong, 24, told his students at the New York Chinese Freemasons Athletic Club. “Take it slow and do it again.”

The dance troupe, made up of 60 members, performs throughout the year but was now preparing for its biggest events, Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, which will begin on Saturday and conclude on Feb. 15. Teenagers comprise about half of the group, many of whom began lion dancing at 14.

“Everyone is a big family,” he said, shaking hands with other members as they walked through the door. “You know everyone.”

It is believed that the lion dance began in the third century.

Stories vary about how lion dancing came to be, but most of them include a monster named Nian who would terrorize a village. The villagers finally banded together and scared the beast away with firecrackers and drums. While lions are not native to China, some versions of the story include the villagers creating a monster of their own in the shape of a lion to fight off the beast.