Who am I?
Ever since I was a small child I have loved the Chinese lion dance. I grew up in Cabramatta, the small but densely populated Chinese Vietnamese community of Sydney Australia. I was always surrounded by the Chinese lion dance. I remember during my childhood every Chinese New Year I would run out onto the streets and watch with great excitement as each kung fu school would proudly parade their dancing lions around the town from shop to shop, the lions gobbling up the hanging lettuce heads from above each shop door and the firecrackers blasting to leave a ground covered in red confetti and the air filled with gun powder smoke. During class I would sometimes hear the firecrackers blast off in the distance and I would long to leave class. On weekends I would delightedly make my way to the shops where rows of colourful kung fu school flags would line the street. My ears were trained to recognise the sound and rhythm of the lion dance drum and my eyes were concentrated on spotting a gathering crowd in the distance. There was something about those drums and the way those beautiful lions danced amongst the flashing firecrackers that drew me to watch the spectacle year after year.
During my teenage ears I finally mustered up the courage to join one of the top kung fu and lion dance schools in Cabramatta. Unfortunately my sifu shortly retired and the school closed. During that short time I was able to start my education about the Chinese lion dance and learn some dancing. I quickly learned the drums as I was so accustomed to the drum rhythm from my many years of watching and listening.
It was not until I further pursued my kung fu in Hong Kong that I really learned about the art and its intricacies. The seniors in Hong Kong practised the traditional Fut San style of lion dance and were a treasure of knowledge. They also introduced me to the unicorn dance native to the Hakka people, another art which I have developed a keen interest for.
Throughout the years, I’ve seen lion dancing change dramatically in my area from the lions itself, both number of lions used and how they look, to the schools dancing them, to the way firecrackers are cleaned up etc etc. And…. It just doesn’t bring back the same memories or as much excitement to me as it did when I am a kid and that’s not from lost interest in the art.
I will admit, I’m a traditionalist when it comes to lion dancing as part of a kung fu school and I have long yearned for the old days to return. Streets lined with flags of the various kung fu schools, fierce looking futsan lions danced properly by the seniors rather than 10 lions who bob up and down not knowing wat to do.
And my desire to make my own lion head? It first started about 5 years ago when my kung fu senior enlisted my help in restoring one of our old lion heads. That experience gave me some of the skills I needed in making a lion head from scratch.
I thought it would be a cool project to do and since I love lion dancing, and love seeing old lions, I thought I’d try my hand at making my own old school lion.
Thanks to the build and repair section of Liondancing.org/forum, I have been able to learn a lot about restoring lion heads and little bits of useful information of fixing and making certain parts of the lion. Armed with this knowledge and one of the school lion heads as a model, all I needed to do now was to get the materials and get stuck into it.