A little over a month ago, I traveled over 300 miles down south to Los Angeles for school. This was pretty much a brand new start for me – it is the first time I’ve ever lived on my own. The first month has been an experimental period, since I needed to find a balance between school and the basic necessities of life. Finding a new lifestyle pattern has kept me out of the lion dance loop for a long time. Being over 300 miles away from my lion dance groups at home, I needed to find a lion dance group in/near Los Angeles.
I must thank Lion Blogs for helping me out on this one. Without much effort from me, I think I’ve found the right lion dance group for me – the Immortals Lion Dance Team based in Monterey Park.
It all started with the blog post about my ignorance in Hok San lion dancing. Chris Low, who commented on the post, introduced me to Yogi Tam through email. Because Yogi came from a Jow Ga background in the East Coast, he knows traditional Hok San lion dancing. It just so happens that both Chris Low and Yogi Tam are in the Los Angeles area, so we planned to meet up one day. Yogi helps teach at the Immortals practices and invited me to check it out. I finally had a bit of free time this Friday, so I went to Monterey Park to check it out.
The first half of practice took place at Jeff Chan’s house, who is the founder of the team. Upon arriving, I was greeted by Yogi and Jeff Chan’s son, Vincent Chan. Probably one of the first things that I noticed was the MASSIVE inventory of lion dance equipment. Vincent showed me a lot of the lion heads that they owned, while simultaneously conversing about Luo An lions. We both agreed that they’re really nice traditional lions and it’s quite unfortunate that the company has shut down after retirement.
A small fraction of their lion dance equipment.
A variety of different masks, some of which I've never seen before!
More lion dance equipment.
Another collection of the more traditional Dai Tau Fut and other characters' masks.
One item that really caught my attention was a dragon head that Jeff Chan customized himself. He used one of Vincent’s childhood lions and transformed it into a dragon head. It was quite an impressive piece of artwork, showcasing extreme creativity.
Lion transformed into a dragon.
While I was talking to Vincent, a group of younger kids were practicing dragon dancing in the front yard. I believe there was one college student, but the majority of the kids were middle school students.
Dragon dancing practice.
After watching some dragon dancing practice, it was time to head over to an elementary school for the second half of practice. During this time, I noticed several things that stood out about this lion dance team – respect, discipline, and love. Before heading over to the elementary school, Vincent told all the kids to line up and introduce themselves to me. I was quite shocked that all of them did so with respect and courtesy. It’s quite rare to find middle school kids with such discipline nowadays. After the formalities, we all hopped into several vehicles headed for the elementary school. I sat in Vincent’s truck, with several middle school girls in the back seats. While driving, he asked the girls about their progress in school. Of all the teams I’ve been with, this was the first time I’ve heard that question being asked. The team has a genuine love for their students. Also, throughout my visit, I felt that Vincent was already treating me like a family member, even though I’ve only met him for several hours. My heart was truly warmed by this, especially due to the nonexistence of relatives in the Los Angeles area.
At the elementary school, there were more kids that showed up. After a brief warm-up session, everyone was split into different groups for different lessons. Being completely out of shape, I was dead tired by the end of practice. Hopefully, I will get back in shape soon.
Second part of practice at the elementary school.
I must give my thanks to the Immortals Lion Dance Team, especially Vincent Chan and Yogi Tam.
Check out their website at http://www.immortalsliondance.com.