Arts & Entertainment

Thousand-year old Chinese dance tradition struggles amid Covid restrictions

Bangkok, Feb 17 (efe-epa).- The Lion Dance is a form of tradition originating in China dating back thousands of years, which is usually performed during Lunar New Year celebrations to bring good fortune for the year ahead.

This year, however, most troupes have seen bookings for their performances disappear because of restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The Lion Dance street performance is normally held on auspicious occasions and other Chinese traditional, cultural, religious festivals, including special celebrations, business opening events, and wedding ceremonies.

The colorful and noisy street dance is performed by two people in a lion costume, one in front, at the head of the lion, and the other one at the back. The dance — which also features elements of martial arts, kung fu and acrobatic skills — is performed by imitating the lion’s movements to the music of beating drums and cymbals and gongs. Firecrackers are also used to chase away ghosts, devils and evil spirits, which, according to tradition, are believed to be afraid of loud noises.

The Lion dance troupes in Thailand are established from generation to generation and have become an integral part of Thai-Chinese culture. More than 50 lion dance troupes have been founded in Talad Phlu, a neighborhood with a strong Thai-Chinese community in Bangkok.

Most performers of the Lion dance troupe are recruited from members of the founding family and other young people in the neighborhood.

As the Lion dance is an acrobatic performance the dancers need to focus on physical fitness and strength, martial art skills and techniques. Many dancers start to practice soon after they learn to walk. Performers of the acrobatic pyramid performance start from only two or three-years-old.

But in 2021 the Covid coronavirus pandemic has cast a shadow over the dancers, as the Lunar New Year celebrations which fell on 12 February 2021 were either cancelled or scaled down because of public health concerns. The restrictions have badly affected all the troupes’ income.

With 30 to 50 active members in each troupe, the financial hardship is taking a toll. Many have been forced to look for side jobs selling or delivering food.

Jeerapat Vilaipong, leader of Luk Chai Mongkol Lion and Golden Dragon Dance troupe, said this year his performances had dropped by 100 percent during the second wave of the pandemic. Luckily his troupe had been booked for several shows before the government toughened health measures before the Lunar New Year.

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