When people think of lion dancing, the last thing that comes to mind would probably be the music behind the lion’s movements. In fact, during performances, the audience rarely concentrates on the musical instruments – the focal point of the lion dance is the lion. Honestly, I think this should be changed. Drumming is an art form in itself. It’s just as hard as learning the lion dance movements. A lot of people who learn drumming after learning the lion movements get discouraged easily because of this difficulty. Not only do drummers have to continuously play the beats, they have to look after the lion and adjust the music according to the situation. Basically, the music is what keeps the dance alive – it is the lion’s heartbeat.
When I first started lion dancing, I didn’t get to go under the lion head. Before I was able to learn the lion’s movements, I needed to be able to play the cymbals first. Playing the cymbals is a lot easier than playing the drum for most people. I was able to learn the cymbal beats pretty quickly, so my Sifu decided to teach me drumming too. The first thing I learned was the “proper” way to hold the drum sticks. I was taught to hold it gently with my thumb and index finger, like this:
Picture taken from http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/jun/19/food-guilty-pleasures-jay-rayner
I got a new camera (Panasonic Lumix DMC-S1) recently and decided to film a short duration of a lion ear getting painted. Unfortunately, my camera only records in 2gb segments and it doesn’t let you know when it reaches the limit. That explains why there’s a small chunk of the video missing, if you pay attention really closely. This is also my first video I’ve made (since 8th grade, the Windows Movie Maker days) using Sony Vegas. It took me about 6 hours to figure out everything…all for a 45 second video.
There is 24 minutes of footage condensed into about 30 seconds. It may seem like a long time for me to take almost half an hour to paint just the red portions, but my hands were shaking and I was worried about my hand touching freshly painted portions. That actually happened once but the smear wasn’t too noticeable. I fixed it right away and it’s not there anymore.
After reading some comments about The Lion Horse, I’ve come to a realization that I completely neglected the existence of traditional Hok San lion dancing. This was very stupid of me because traditional Hok San lion dancing is probably the closest cousin to traditional Fut San lion dancing, as compared to northern lion dancing, Qilin dancing, etc. I should have mentioned that I was speaking solely from a Fut San hybrid point of view. Here’s a list of the possible reasons for this ignorance:
I’ve only seen two pictures of traditional Hok San lion heads, EVER. At one point, I thought the most traditional Hok San lion heads were the older ones made by a prominent master in Malaysia. I don’t want to mention his name because I have mixed feelings about his contributions to the lion dancing community. Maybe I’ll write a blog about him one day. Anyway, I’ve never seen a video of traditional Hok San lion dancing either. Maybe the differences between traditional and contemporary Hok San lion dancing are so slight that I don’t notice them.
Picture taken from http://ykmusa.com/picsperf1.html
Picture taken from http://ykmusa.com/picsperf1.html
I’ve never been trained in Hok San lion dancing. The closest thing would be a hybrid style which incorporates aspects from both Hok San and Fut San lion dancing. I learned about the modified horse stance from this hybrid style.
A lot of teams use Hok San and Fut San lion heads interchangeably. I’ve seen some teams do Fut San lion dancing with Hok San heads, and vice versa. A lot of newer teams are creating hybrid styles that blur the line between Hok San and Fut San lion dancing.
Now that I’ve realized my ignorance in traditional Hok San lion dancing, I really want to learn more. It’s quite unfortunate that I can’t find much information about it on the internet. I think it’s time for me to ask some older and more experienced lion dancers about this topic.
Scientists have recently discovered a fascinating creature in the mountains of southern China. It has the thin legs of a horse and the large head of a lion. Surrounding its face is a massive amount of loose, fluffy hair. They call it the Lion Horse.
Something as simple as a horse stance can be done in multiple ways. Kung fu, Tai Chi, Karate, and even Tae Kwon Do utilize the horse stance. Although they all do the horse stance in a similar way, each style still has their own differences – even if it’s a small detail like the angle of the knees and feet. In southern Chinese martial arts, two major methods of horse stance exist. 二字鉗羊馬(Yee jee keem yeung ma) is the less common version mainly used in Wing Chun, featuring slightly bent knees and inward pointed toes. The more popular version, 四平馬(sei ping ma), is used in most other southern styles. Traditionally speaking, this is also the horse stance used in lion dancing. But recently, another version has appeared in the contemporary styles of lion dancing. I like to call it the “modified horse stance”. Continue reading