Who’s under the Chinese New Year dragon?

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On Feb. 21st, 2016, Alan Nguyen, member of the Summitt Lion-Dragon Dance team, performed at the Chinese New Year celebration in the Chinatown Center in North Austin. The team has been performing this traditional dance in Austin for over 12 years. Photo by Reshma Kirpalani / American-Statesman

 

Firecrackers lit up the Chinatown center in North Lamar on Sunday as throngs of people rang in the Year of the Monkey.

The crowd was lead by the Summitt Lion-Dragon Dance team, comprised of kindergarten through college students who have practiced this age-old dance form in Austin for over 12 years. Students lined the inside of giant dragons and lions, jumping around, dancing, and climbing onto each others shoulders for the finale of each act. In many Asian cultures, the dragon represents good luck, while the lion represents an evil mythical creature.

Crowds pop fire crackers to scare away the  lion and symbolically cleanse the new year of all evil. “A lot of the students are moving away from their own cultures because they’re more Americanized,” said dance instructor Linda Cao. “The purpose of this group is in part to expose a little bit of Chinese and Vietnamese culture to these kids.”

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At the Chinatown center, owners lined up in front of their stores to receive the dance group, ready with red envelopes filled with money which they fed into the mouths of the dragons and lions. The performance lasted for over three hours.

“It gets really hot,” admitted group member Arthur Cates. “It feels like you have three blankets on top of you.”

But like so many of his teammates, Cates feels that the group keeps him tethered to his culture and has become like a second family.

“It might not be fun during the time, but afterwards when you’re bonding with the whole team, it’s really worth it,” Cates said.

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