Kwong Ngai Lion Dance troupe carves name at international level

KUALA LUMPUR, The amazing acrobatic movements as well as gravity-defying tricks and ‘ultra-nimble’ footwork showcased by members of the Kwong Ngai Lion Dance troupe has led the group to international success.

The group, comprising 30 members, has been winning various competitions including the Asian Dragon and Lion Dance Championships in Macau (2017) and China (2019); Crocodile World Hong Kong Luminous Dragon and Lion Dance Championship (2018), MGM Lion Dance Championship in Macau (2017); and Malaysia Lion Dance Championship in 2016 and 2018.

Founded in 2002 and based in Kepong, the Kwong Ngai Lion Dance troupe has been actively participated in various domestic and foreign competitions as part of its efforts to promote the Chinese traditional dances to the global audience.

According to the group leader, Clement Tan Kee Boon, the dragon and lion dances will be maintained and preserved through participation in competitions, to open the eyes of the audience to the beauty of the dances.

If we want these dances to remain relevant, we must have the deep interest and must go out to compete. If there is a competition people will be interested to watch it but if it is just a showcase I think this tradition will eventually disappear, he said.

Tan said the interest in lion dance among Chinese teenagers in urban areas has also diminished, which has led to the recruitment of students from Sabah.

In Sabah there are still a lot of people interested in lion dance and we have opened a branch there. Maybe because here (Kuala Lumpur) things are so modern that they (youth) are no longer interested in the dance, he said.

To date, 10 out of 30 of his students, aged 21 to 31, are in the professional category and able to perform and qualify for the competition.

He said his troupe would be as busy as bee with packed schedule (to perform) ahead of the Chinese New Year celebration this weekend.

One of the senior dancers, Wong Jang Yeou, 22, said he began to venture into the lion dance as a hobby because he enjoyed watching lion dance performances at festivals as well as on the television.

I have this deep fascination and love watching lion dance performances, either live or on television since I was small until one day I fell in love with it, he said.

Wong, who attended the Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Taman Ehsan, said he joined the Kwong Ngai Lion Dance troupe since 2011 after having watched the group performed at his school.

Since then, he has never looked back and practiced tirelessly to ensure that he would continue to be selected for performances and competitions.

The first international competition he participated in was the 2nd Sungai Kolok International Traditional Dance Competition in Thailand in 2013.

Commenting on the formula behind the group’s success, Wong, who is responsible in controlling the lion head, said the harmony between the dancers – both at the front and the tail of the lion – was crucial to ensure smooth movement and other acrobatic actions as designed by the group’s leader.

Meanwhile, Lee Chong Lim, 29, the person in the tail, also began his career as a dance with the troupe after regularly following his friend practising for lion dance which eventually piqued his interest in these traditional Chinese dances.

Lee, who has more than 14 years of experience, said performing lion dance is not an easy task because some mistakes can cause accidents such as falls and injuries.

One month prior to the competition we will be training three times a day including Saturdays and Sundays.

My part (in the tail) can be painful sometimes but it is something that we have to endure to ensure that the shape of the lion remains the same. So, throughout the performance, I have to keep changing my positions, as the ‘head’ leads the lion and sets the pacing, direction and footwork, said Lee who had suffered a severe knee injury during a competition in Indonesia.

In fact, he said, having the stamina also crucial in ensuring that they could perform the 10-minute dance routines perfectly, apart from dealing with the heat, being cooped up in the lion suit.

Source: BERNAMA (News Agency)