Lunar New Year is February 12, marking the start of a new year on the second new moon after the winter solstice.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, celebrations will be muted and will miss a familiar tradition – the lion dance.
Guam’s lion dance team is a big part of the Lunar New Year festivities, banging gongs, banging cymbals and beating drums as the colorful dragon dances for good luck. While one student holds a lion’s head, a second squats under a fabric forming the body. Regular practitioners follow a fast-paced routine as they mimic a sleeping animal, prepare to pounce on a carcass, and spit out a mouthful of lettuce, which represents prosperity.
Lion dance performers travel across the island, working from hotels to restaurants to other businesses. The lion dance team usually performs more than 100 times in the space of five days. This represents 20 performances per day, each lasting 15 to 30 minutes.
This year, practices are cancelled. There will be no performances.
“My favorite memory was hanging out with the team because for me it was my second family,” said So Jung An, who has been involved with the organization since 2017. so close.”
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The troop, made up of 16 members, welcomes teenagers and students from the age of 12 to train.
“At first, I was hesitant because I thought it was only for Chinese people,” An said. Although being Chinese is not a formal requirement for membership, the majority of the dance group is Chinese.
Roxanne Lee, office administrator at the Chinese School of Guam, said the lion dance in the 1980s when she was a member was mostly made up of students from the Chinese Student Association, a separate entity from the Chinese school.
While studying at the Chinese School of Guam, Kiana Ng, a sophomore at St. John’s School, decided to join the tradition to connect her Asian ancestry and her American upbringing. Teachers at the Chinese school, where Ng studied for years, introduced her to the lion dance team.
“Before I joined Lion Dance, I had a broad and general idea of what Lion Dance was,” Ng said. “After going to the practices, I learned that there is a specific reason for everything: the lion brings good fortune and happiness, he eats lettuce and sends it back to people to wish them good fortune and happiness, and loud noises scare away the evil spirits that come.”
Every performance is a little different, Ng said. Drummers vary the fundamental routines and the gong adds a high note to the performance.
“With the cymbals, it’s the icing on the cake. You can’t lion dance without the cymbals and the noise,” Ng said.
Ng’s circuitous route to his ethnic heritage is not uncommon in the island’s Chinese-American community.
Chelsea Luo, a senior at St. John’s School, said she grew up without strong Chinese practices, but lion dancing taught her the values of respect and diligence. During his two years with the lion dance team, Luo was a drummer and instrumentalist.
“Sometimes I want to change it up and add my own flavor to it,” Luo said. “Sometimes one drummer starts the beat and another keeps it going during the performance.”
Contact journalist Anne Wen at [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Pacific Daily News: No lion dance performances for Lunar New Year