What is lion dance?
Lion dance is a form of traditional dance in the Chinese culture, in which performers mimic a lion’s movements in a lion costume and is also an important element to the Chinese culture. It is considered to be a vigorous form of dancing that combines art, history, and kung fu. There are two schools of lion dance, North and South. The Southern school of lion dance is then divided into two styles, Foshan (Buddha Mountain, in Cantonese: Fut San) style and Heshan (Crane Mountain, in Cantonese: Hok San) style.
The Southern lion dance is often mistaken as the Dragon dance. Lion dance usually consists of two dancers per lion, where as the dragon dance normally features ten or more dancers per dragon. The Southern lion dance is the most popular and famous of the two schools. Unlike the Northern lion dance, there are no gender distinction in the lions, the Southern lions are all male.
Heshan (Hok San) Style:
The Heshan style of the Southern lion dance is known as the more contemporary style. The lion heads are usually smaller, has a rounder mouth, and the horn on top of the head is rounded like a fist. Their tails are shorter, which is often favoured by competing teams/troupes. Heshan style is not as strict on stances and therefore allows for the movements to seem much more relaxed and natural. The Heshan style of lion dance are much more choreographed, thus making it more difficult to “freestyle”, however, the lions are much more animated and life like. The Heshan style has been made famous and popular by the Grandmaster of Kun Seng Keng Lion Dance Troupe, Sifu Siow Ho Phiew from Malaysia. They have won consecutive Lion Dance Champions of the World held in Genting, Malaysia.
Foshan (Fut San) Style:
The Foshan style of the Southern lion dance is perhaps the oldest form of lion dance. The lion heads ranges in sizes, the horns on top of the lion heads are more sharp, and its mouth is squared. The tails also ranges in length. The Foshan style uses more strength and “forceful” movements to make the lion seem much more fierce. Kung fu forms the foundation for training and is often incorporated into the performances. Because of the close relations to kung fu, the Foshan style focuses much more on the stances. The Foshan style is often the preferred style of many kung fu schools.
Southern Chinese Lion Dancing
Written By Head Instructor Jostein Haugland of Green Dragon Kung Fu
The lion dance is an important tradition in various festivities and holidays such as Chinese New Year’s, the opening of a new business, weddings, dedications and presentations. The lion, a mythological creature symbolizing strength, wisdom and good fortune is thought to dispel evil influences thereby making way for wealth and prosperity.
Each lion is brought to life by two individuals (in most cases students of a kung fu school), one in the head being fleet of foot and lighter in stature than the one in the rear who must be solid and strong as it is he which must support the weight of the foremost individual during various stunts and tower-like maneuvers. Lion dancing helps develop one's kung fu as the skills necessary for this performance require strong stances, quick accurate stepping, quick thinking, and stamina.
Another important element in this performance is the music, which is performed by three or more individuals playing a drum, gong and cymbals. Long hours of practice are necessary not only for each individual to perform correctly and vigorously, but to bring the music together with the performance. For the performance to be effective, all members must be united as one, as any one element being substandard will detract from the performance.
A well done lion dance is a total experience involving many of the senses. Of the antics and exaggerated movements of the colorful lion, the synchronized pounding and clanging of the percussion instruments to the deafening sound and the sulfurous smell of the fire crackers.