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Of Lions, Dragons, and a Birthday May 18, 2009

Posted by warriorspath in Uncategorized.
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When I got up yesterday morning I definitely did not say to myself:

“Today I will be the rear end of a CHINESE lion performing at VIETNAMESE celebration at the PHILIPPINE cultural center”

But guess what, that’s exactly what happened!

It all started the day before when after regular kung fu class I was informed that we were to hold a demo (demonstration) at the Philippine Cultural Center AND there is to be FREE FOOD! Of course I was down! Absolutely!

Then the next day rolls by and I get a facebook AIM that the meeting time was pushed up 2 hours ahead. So I scrambled to do everything I planned on doing prior; lift weights and do laundry.

When I got there (the kung fu school) I was given an official “demo shirt” as opposed to the regular kung fu uniform. After that the task of helping to set up the dragon feel upon me. The dragon consists of a very colorful and decorative paper mache head and tail connected by a long hollow cylinder of synthetic cloth. The head has flexible parts enough to allow it to move its eyes, mouth and tongue if you were to shake it.

What I was to do was to open one section of the dragon’s body and insert a tall metal pole with a wooden “rib cage” on end and then tie knots inside the body to the “rib cage”. There were 8 or 9 of these sections allowing 8 or 9 pole bearers to move and manipulate the dragon.

The Dragon Dance

The Dragon Dance

Next I had to wrap some plastic bags over the lions to prevent water damage because it was raining. The lions are composed of very large also paper mache heads with moving parts and a long colorful cloth extending out of the head to form the body. Now this was a pretty difficult task considering how HUGE these heads were!

Afterward, I was very much surprised to learn that because of the shortage of performers I had to take part of the lion dance. Something I have never done before and as they told us is very physically demanding.

Finally after getting everything in the trailer; including a massive traditional Chinese drum, a small gong, two pairs of cymbols, and some weapons, we headed off to the Philippine Cultural Center!

Now, I’ve been to the center before and because of the locale I assumed that the event was a Filipino one. But when we arrived I saw the signs in some foriegn language I didn’t not recognize, I quickly realized this was not the case. It didn’t take me long to figure out that it was a Vietnamese event. Though the nature of the event didn’t come clear to me until much later.

Itwas a very peculiar site, I had never known there to be a significant Vietnamese population where I lived but I guess I was wrong. There were several people in colorful traditional clothing and even a dozen or so Buddhist monks.

We set about carefully moving our things into the building and then relaxed waiting for our turn to go dance. At some point I had to wear the lion costume as the rear end, the back legs, with nothing but a cloth above to cover me, to entertain some children. That alone was more then a taste, the children tried to get underneatht he lion where I’m haunched over trying to get comfortable.

Finally our time came and the lions (three of them) went to dance. My partner and were on standby as the “relief”. We were to switch out the current team inside the lion, because like I said it’s a very grueling dance. Which I found out very quickly when I switched in.

Haunched over trying to keep in step with the lion’s head and holding on to the cloth lest it fly off of me at a sudden moment. That was hard enough but the cloth wasn’t exactly thin, thus it got real got real quick! Eventually I was saved and had someone switch me out. My partner switched out a lil bit after me and we were both sweating and breahing heavily.

The Lion Dance

The Lion Dance

After that I helped out with the instruments until we had a break. A very long break, during which time we found out that the festival was in celebration of Buddha’s birthday. Various other performers went up, mostly singing or story telling in Vietnamese, and extoling the virtues of Buddhism. Did I mention there were a lot of hot girls there? Yeah! haha!

An hour and a half later after having some free Vietnamese  food, we got to do the dragon dance, and demonstrate our basic form “say ping kuen” the four squar fist and the spear form. I am still fairly new so I was there on the sidelines trying to look productive haha…

Then when all was said and done we packed up our things into the trailer, headed back to the kung fu school, returned the equipment to storage, and that was my night!

This is an example spear form that was performed at the event

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