Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Covid keeps lion dance backstage this year

With much of the country still subject to restrictions on movements, the traditional lion dance has been far from the spotlight, forcing performers who normally rake in high profits this season to find other means of earning a living.

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For the troupe of Xuan Wu Lion Dance Association founder Choo Kok Yew, costumes and other paraphernalia normally used during performances have been sitting unused in a warehouse in Kampung Baru Ampang.

But Choo makes sure that their equipment, especially the lion heads, stay in good condition throughout the MCO season.

He is proud of his troupe, which took home the trophy at a lion dance competition in China in 2019.

Several trainees select one of the 88 intricately designed lion heads stored at the warehouse to be used in today’s practice session.

They put on the remainder of their costume: the pants designed to look like the lion’s legs.

There are also shoes decorated with brightly coloured bobbles to match the colours of the lion.

This year, there is a new addition to the lion dance costume: the now-familiar face masks, made compulsory to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Some of the troupe’s equipment is stored in lockers.

Others, like the colourful lion heads, are arranged in rows on shelves.

The huge lion heads are the highlight of every costume.

The dancers are almost ready to hop onto the red poles. It requires long hours of training to be able to balance properly throughout the performance.

This fierce yellow lion dances and sways to the rhythm provided by the troupe’s percussionists.

The dancer holding the lion’s head leaps into the air, bounding from pole to pole.

The percussionists keep up a steady beat on the traditional drums and cymbals.

But with public performances still prohibited under the MCO, Choo is forced to seek other means of earning a living – including by selling pork burgers at a stall named after his association.

These days, with flipping somersaults out of the question, he flips burgers instead.

He and his helpers work hard to serve customers and to make ends meet, but they look forward to the day they can return to the stage.

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