Lion Dancing Every time when you see youth swiftly glistening over the rampaging ungodly Earth accompanied with the blistering heated wonder of the orb-like sun, it can take you back to your exhilarating days with no headaches, worries, or obligations also known as, childhood. Worries, headaches, obligations, these are enemies within ourselves that we must overcome. These flea-like worries are infesting everyone. We are being overwhelmed by these creatures. The only ways to fight off such beasts are to find relaxation, comfort, and soothing.
These can come in different ways such as an event, a ritual or even a location that eases your mind in tranquility. I have a special event where I can be at ease and just enjoy: the lion dance. There are not many people who have knowledge of the lion dance and probably couldn’t understand too much on how this dance excites me, intrigues me, captivates me with such power. But I assure you, that this lion dance has meaning and it can even spark your curiosity. I witness this event every year in south Houston, at my grandparents’ apartment complex.
The lion dance is an event during Lunar New years, opening ceremony or just a celebration held to bring happiness to all the people. There are two different types of lion dancing, north and south. The type I witness is the south which is a more symbolic dance. It is usually performed as a ceremony to exorcise evil spirits and to summon luck and fortune. This dance requires drums, cymbals, a gong, a Buddha, usually two lions, and a head of lettuce with a red envelope my family calls, Li Xi. Li Xi is a small red envelope with an extravagant design on the front which contains the fee for the dance.
It is usually distanced from the earth towards the grand sky attached to a head of lettuce for the lions to brawl over and devour. Lion dancers are usually required to be two of the top martial artists in the school or club. The music behind the dance plays a big role in how and when the stances and dazzling movements are displayed. The beating of the deafening drums portrays the heart of the lion. It helps determine the beat of the lion and how and which the lion dances. The cymbals and gong provide the entertainment and usually is accompanied by the shaking of the head and ears, as well as the blinking of the eyes.
This adds to the affect of the liveliness of the lion. Without the music, the lion can not move. It knows not how. There is a sequence which lion dancers follow. The lion dancers begin with a bow, then goes to basic kung-fu stances with some freestyle, sleeping of the lion and lastly, the eating of the lion. There is also freestyle lion dancing in between the basic steps. The basic kung-fu stances and freestyle illustrates how powerful and dominant the lion is. Even basic stances and free styling of the lion dance requires extreme teamwork and synchronization.
Some basic moves are rolling the body of the lion, twirling the lion itself, shaking the head and ears, and lastly blinking. Doing these moves in certain order, adding in a little footwork can add a life-like affect on the lion. The next part in the sequence is the sleeping of the lion. Basically the dancers sit with their legs partially spread in a 75 degree imitating a sleeping lion with its limbs stretched out in front of its massive body bobbing its head. Although, the whole part sounds dreary, there is a sense of excitement on how the music taunts the lions. The last part of the dance is the eating of the lettuce.
The Buddha will guide the lion towards the head of lettuce for the lion to devour it, a bit simple part of the dance, but putting everything together is a very exciting innovative idea by the Chinese. As I head out towards the lion dance, I go through a maze-like structure. On my way towards the dance, an oppressive smell of gunpowder fills the unruly air. You can hear the deafening explosions from the fire crackers dominating the skies. This place yet so full of commotion, I can just be at ease. I can just enjoy what I see, the amazing spectacles that the Lion Dancers perform for me.
It eludes me in a carefree manner much like a mindset of a child. After some odd minutes, the maze is at its end. Just a few more steps towards the carefree experience I have been striving for. Up the stairs, and around the corner is the great spectacular I have been in search of, the lion dance. The oriental designed lions, such use of dazzling colors. A blinding white base, with a bold red trim demonstrates the wise lion. The single horn at the top is dignifying. Such ferociousness of the imitation of a lion, it holds my interest on how they made it resemble the current lions so well when they didn’t exist in those parts of Asia.
The thundering of the drums which so boldly overcomes the explosions from the firecrackers initiates the dancing of the lions. The Lions with such pride and honor bow towards one another in a sign of respect and agreement for the battle. The Buddha in high spirits guides the lions while they brawl for the red envelope and lettuce. The footwork and movements of how the martial artists imitate the lion is astounding. One glance at their movements and you are already captivated in their so real illusion of two lions clashing in a battle of the king.
You can feel the heat waves crashing down on your body as if you’re in the wild, the strong wind current carrying the scent of days old raw hide. After a few minutes, the booming of the drums carries you back to reality. The lions are still demolishing one another for the pride of the lion. The thundering of the drums dies down into almost like whispers of trees in a secluded forest. The lions spread their legs out as they sit down imitating the lion sleeping, during this the Buddha tries to wave his fan to help them sleep and keep it quiet.
BOOM, a sudden thunder of the drums starts the awakening of the lions. The lions’ heads start to shake violently and the Buddha tries to quiet it down, but the drums dies down in the wind into utter silence. BOOM, another violent drumming starts to awaken the lions. The lions’ heads start to shake violently but the Buddha quiets it down again, and the drums turn into a whisper in the wind. BOOM, the drums start back up in full force it may even be more powerful than before almost like the titan gods themselves fighting amongst each other. The lions awaken fully and the Buddha guides them towards the lettuce.
They twirl and roll and stand as tall as the sky. Finally one of the lions have caught the lettuce head and the Buddha entices the lion to devour the lettuce head, slowly the lion inches its way closer to the head, but suddenly leaps back like an act of caution of the unknown. Slowly the Buddha guides the lion back to the head of the lettuce, but this time the lion devours the lettuce and the lion dancer kicks the lettuce spreading it all over. The invigorating dance is over and everyone gets in lines to receive Li Xi of their own. The visual presentation of these lions is magnificent.
The graceful movements and primitive brawling of the lions puts my mind in an excited state with an ease of worries. Everyone needs a location, ritual or event that help them relax, and lion dancing is where I can relax. Although, lion dancing is not the typical type of relaxation one would usually receive without special circumstances. Just how the lions only think of brawling for the lettuce, it throws away the worries and brings back a primitive-like relaxation to my mind. Everyone needs a type of way to relax. We can not allow ourselves to be devoured by such infestation as worries.