2023 Happy New Lunar Year of the Rabbit and Cat

Happy new year to everyone around the world. It’s been a rough past 3 years with the covid-19 pandemic and there’s definitely a feeling here in Sydney, Australia that people want to move on with their lives. In saying that, I don’t think I have seen a lion dancing schedule as packed as what I’ve seen this year. There have been performances in and around Sydney for the better part of a month starting before lunar new year started and stretching through to the 15th day!

A new trend that I’ve seen more of is large shopping centres getting in on celebrations and hiring lion dance troupes to perform at set schedules. I think it’s testament to the impact and influence of the large multicultural diaspora living in and around Sydney. I like the idea of spreading this aspect of Chinese/ Asian culture but I do sometimes wonder where the line gets drawn between a cultural celebration versus a chance for corporates or businesses to use lion dancing as a means of entertainment/ marketing like moving from Christmas decorations to Easter decorations to Valentine’s Day to halloween etc. One example that comes to mind is lion dancing at night clubs. I don’t think I’d enjoy lion dancing at a night club. The other trend this year was seeing a stacked performances schedule on New Year’s Eve which just happened to fall on a Saturday. I suppose a big part of it is that despite lunar new year being part of the lunar calendar, we follow the Gregorian calendar including its 5 day work week and 2 day restful weekend. Which means, for a lot of shopping centres who are trying to make the most of lion dancing as part blessing, part entertainment, part attracting as many visitors to their centre as possible, it makes sense to try to get performances scheduled on the weekends in and around the new year date itself. It just feels a bit weird in a way because my memory of lunar new year when I was a kid was that lion dancing performances would happen on New Year’s Eve at the temples and then a bit of a break before they hit off about a week or two after lunar new year because a lot of the shops in Cabramatta where closed over the festive period as store owners would take possibly the only holiday break in the whole year. Now, we’re able to watch daily performances if we wanted to! I wonder how it is around the rest of the world. I do feel that Melbourne and it’s Asian suburbs seems to run a lot of its celebrations earlier than lunar new year itself (eg Footscray, St Albans running their cho tet 1-2 weeks before the actual lunar new year date). Whereas it seems like New York and the east coast of USA is about to hit its Super Saturday this weekend which would be the second weekend after lunar new year. Let me know what you guys think of these trends.

This year I did get a chance to participate in lion dancing performances with the Dragon Style team which is always fun. Our team was running a little low on available performers so rather than sit comfortably at the drums, I had a wonderful time flitting between playing the instruments, subbing into the tail as well as head for a few of the performances. We had a few performances mainly in different shopping centres. I don’t mind it as much given it’s a continuous stretch of approximately 1 hour performances. It gets the adrenaline pumping and when you see a shop after shop getting in on the atmosphere and putting up chengs and red pockets it definitely adds to the excitement.

I also had the pleasure of catching a few other teams performances. I really love the fact that quite a few of the teams have a social media presence and were kind enough to post their schedules out. That way it was much easier to plan out where to go and guarantee I’d get to see them.

I got to catch the Qing Fong team on New Year’s Eve at the Ming Yue Lay temple in Bonnyrigg. It’s been my rite of passage since being a kid growing up watching the Teo Chew Association perform here before dashing off to Kuan Yin temple in Canley Vale to watch Yun Yee Tong perform and then the best firecracker and fireworks show ever at midnight. The Qing Fong team ran through a gamut of routines and even brought out a dragon. I think it’s cool that all the members gets a chance to show off their hard work for everyone to see. They also appeared at Ashfield Mall where I just happened to be. And I saw a few of their performances in and around Cabramatta. Shoutout to them and their mini little firecracker! It was a nice touch in the absence if the real deal.

Over at Kuan Yun temple in Canley Vale, Yun Tee Tong were tearing up the place with their lion routines and kung fu demonstrations. Sifu Peter showed everyone how his qigong skills by bending a long metal rod and having concrete blocks smashed off his back whilst having his neck impaled with super sharp spears. It’s always cool to see the old timers come back and get in on the drumming action. I did so catch them around Cabramatta on a super hot and sweaty Sunday day and watched them participate in a wui si (lion greeting) with the Lion Dance Academy.

I didn’t see much of the Lion Dance Academy apart from their lion greeting with Yun Yee Tong and a throw back moment when they were on the rooftop of J’s Kitchen Steakhouse and I could picture the Teo Chew Association guys up there.

I saw THQ Cabra out and about. Fortunately, lots of firecrackers to accompany their shows as well as their many colourful lions. I hope firecrackers don’t ever lose favour with the council. I think it adds so much more to the atmosphere of the performance. It definitely beats having no firecrackers or the confetti canons. One new thing I’ve noticed is an addition of a new drum beat to their drum beat!

I managed to briefly catch the Jin Wu Koon team live at Burwood Plaza but was pleased to watch a video of their crazy jong routine at Market City.

Up in Chinatown, I got to see the tail end of the Choy Lee Fut team’s Chinatown performance. They’ve changed up their lions this year from their usual red lions. This time they had a triplet of 3 gold lions that were prancing around. It’s a shame they didn’t have firecrackers because that was always a sure thing in the past. I wonder what happened with it. Maybe council didn’t approve. In any case it was still enjoyable and nice to hear a different drum beat to most of the other teams around. Out in the city, I also got to see the Chinese Youth League do a short run down the length of Dixon Street. I like them. Actually, I really like their musicians. They have a nice musical quality to how they play with a variation of tempo and volume and flower drumming thrown in.

And finally, I saw the Yau Kung Mun team and their lion dance kids and lion dance teens teams hit it off at Eastwoods Lunar New Year celebrations, they had a monster eye dotting ceremony as well as a super cool Jong performance. It’s weird because I get bored quickly watching videos of jong performance and frequently find myself skipping through the routine but it’s something else watching it live. It’s almost like holding your breath to make sure the performers pull off their stunts and don’t get injured. So shout out to the dancers putting it all on the line for a wonderful performance. And of course, it all finished with a bang courtesy of a pair of firecrackers.

Me having a go at the drums