Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lion Dance: A changing culture

Chinese New Year is coming up so it's lion dance time.
I was thinking, Lion Dance has changed a lot over the years, and it would be interesting to look at some of the differences. I remember doing lion dance as a teenager and over hearing an African American spectator, saying "Now you can't tell me that there isn't gang activity going on around here."
The gang stuff in Chinatown was actually on the decline, but one of the Si Hing's who grew up in New York, had never been in a gang but had been shot at because he had been mistaken for someone else, and grew up to be a psychologist said that the FBI probably had files on us just in case. In fact there were spectators in the crowd who just looked out of place and were so focused on taking a shot, but obviously not for artistic reasons.

Fast forward to now and I don't think lion dance has that connotation at all.
In fact, one could even say that lion dance  has gentrified even more than Chinatown has.

Maybe a lot of it has to do with the competition style lion dance that became popular internationally.

But locally I definitely noticed a shift right around the time that Gund Kwok Women's lion dance team came out. The types of gigs that they got and the types of members that they had made lion dance an activity for a whole new group of people.

A lot of women before would not thinking of joining a lion dance team because they did see it as somewhat gang related. But when there was a team specifically for Asian women, I feel like that got a whole lot of people into lion dance that otherwise would never have been involved.

Then their husbands or boyfriends, though not involved in the actual dance, still came to hold sticks etc. Firecrackers in New York were banned. And then suddenly you had a ton of really children at the parade. I mean I remember being a little child watching the lion heads, but I feel like it became far more family friendly in recent years.

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