SELECTION FROM LION DANCE AT UK SUMMER CAMP 2009
OVERVIEW

Lion Dance

The Majestic Lion standing on a Mountain Top

The Lion Dance course at the UK Summer Camp from 18th to 22nd July 2009 was record-breaking. Course participants learned in 5 days all the fundamentals of Lion Dance what normally most people will take a few years to learn.

Moreover, members of most Lion Dance troupes usually perform only one particular part of the Lion Dance. The star performers play the Head, the Tail or the Drum, while supportive performers play the gong or the cymbals. They do not normally know outside their particular area of performance. But in the course, participants learned and took part in all aspects of Lion Dance. The Laughing Buddha part, however, was not in the course.


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Percussion Music of the Lion Dance

Lion Dance

Good Lion music is essential to enhance the Lion Dance. What makes the music good? When you hear it, you must feel joyful and excited, with an irresistible urge to see the Lion Dance. In this series, Grandmaster Wong analyses the rhythms of the gong, the cymbals and the drum, the three components that make up the percussion music of the Lion Dance.

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Rhythms and Patterns of the Gong, Cymbals and Drum

Lion Dance

Grandmaster Wong analyses the beats of the gong, the cymbals and the drum that make up the percussion music of the Lion Dance. The base of the Lion Dance muscic is two beats, like 1 2 1 2 1 2 etc. The basic strikes of the gong are simple: just strike at 2. The basic strikes of the cymbals are the same two beats: strike at 1 and 2. The strikes of the drum are more complex.

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Some Fundamental Lion Dance Patterns

Lion Dance

Some fundamental Lion Dance patterns are performed here. The Lion starts with the greetings. Then it shows Majesty. Next it jumps to both sides to Kick Three Stras, which is a characteristic feature of Lion Dance in Uncle Righteousness lineage.

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Hand Movements, Footwork and Lion Leap

Lion Dance

An effective way is to learn the hand movements and footwork of the Lion Dance without putting on the Lion Head and the Lion Tail. When you are familiar with the movements, you may then perform the dance with the Heal and Tail, and then to the accompaniment of percussion music. You should also learn how to leap about agilely, like leaping onto two tables.

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Majestic Lion Dancing to Joyful Percussion Music

Lion Dance

When you are familiar with the necessary hand movements and footwork, you can dance using the Lion Head and the Lion Tail with the accompaniment of joyful percussion music. The basic rule is that the gong-man and the cymbal-men follow the drummer, and the drummer follows the Lion.

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Bringing out the Emotions of a Lion

Lion Dance

To have a good Lion Dance performance, it is not enough just to dance some patterns to percussion music. One needs to bring out the emotions of the Lion. A Lion is joyful yet careful, courageous yet cautions. It does not, for example, just rushes up a Formation. It views it, tests it before leaping onto it to explore.

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Leaping Lion with a Variety of Percussion Music

Lion Dance

A Lion is very agile. It leaps onto its stances, it leaps in the air and it leaps onto formations. Appropriate percussion music accompanies the Lion. When it emerges from its den, rolling thunder drumming is used. Then it changes to majestic drumming or leisure drumming with a great variations of music patterns.

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Fundamental Features of a Lion Dance Drama

Lion Dance

A good Lion Dance performance is usually presented in dance-drama. Some fundamental features of a Lion dance drama includes emerging from den, presenting greetings, showing majesty, wandering joyfully, viewing and testing formations, exploding formations, conquering formations and capturing green, which represents the prize of the dance-drama. This series shows the first few of these features.

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Bringing Life and Excitement to the Dance

Lion Dance

The percussion music gives life and excitement to the Lion Dance. It must be spirited. It expresses the spirit of the Lion Dance, including joy, excitement, courage, thoughtfulness and nobility. An effective way to create good Lion Dance music is to differentiate loudness and softness in the music.

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Creating Excitement with Fast Beats

Lion Dance

While the drum provides the melody and the gong provides the base of the Lion Dance music, the cymbals provide the rhythm. It is easy to play the cymbals well once we understand their basic beats, which are 1 2 1 2 1 2 etc. In other words, there are two beats of the cymbals in one unit of sound. A good variation is to have three beats in the same unit of sound. In the same time to beat 1 2, you beat 1 2 3. For convenience we may call this the fast beat.

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Showing Majesty and Leisure Walking

Lion Dance

The movements of the Lion may be classified into two main categories, showing majesty and leisure walking. Grandmaster Wong explains the basic techniques in performing these two categories of movements. Once, the basic techniques are known, they can be employed to exhibit more sophisticated movements.

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Two-Five, Five-Seven, Seven-Seven-Seven

Lion Dance

As the percussion music follows the movements of the Lion, there are also two main categories of music, namely majestic music and leisure music. Two main patterns of leisure music are two-five, two-five, etc, and five-seven, five-seven, etc. A main pattern to show majesty is Four-Side Majesty and its music is seven-seven-seven-off-beat five- seven.

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The Base, the Rhythm and the Melody

Lion Dance

Once you are familiar with the basic patterns for leisure walking and showing majesty, you can add variations. Here Grandmaster Wong explains Three-Star Drumming, Five-Star Drumming and Rolling Thunder. The gong provides the base, the cymbals provide the rhythm and the drum provides the melody.

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Developing Desirable Qualities for Kungfu and Daily Living

Lion Dance

The Lion Dance manifests desirable qualities of excellence in kungfu and in life. The Lion is courageous yet cautious, powerful yet agile, majestic yet courteous. These qualities, developed in good Lion Dance, are transferable to kungfu performance and daily living.

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From Patterns to Sequences to Drama

Lion Dance

A Lion dance drama is made up of some dance sequences, like greetings, wandering over mountains and streams, viewing formation, overcoming hurdles, capturing green, and sharing prosperity. Each sequence is made up of some patterns. For example, testing formation is made up of cautious approach, triple jumps and showing majesty.

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An Expression of Joy and Excitement

Lion Dance

A Lion Dance is an expression of joy. A good Lion Dance performance must draw out the feeling of joy and excitement from the audience. This can be achieved through the Lion dance movements and percussion music, such as in Triple Jumps and Five Stars.

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Safety Precautions in Exciting Adventures

Lion Dance

Much excitement is created when the Lion leaps high up onto a cliff. It then drops downward to drink from a mountain stream. While the Lion is very courageous, it is also very carefully. It checks that everything is safe before commencing its exciting adventures.

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Capturing Green and Sharing Prosperity

Lion Dance

The climax of a Lion dance drama is Capturing Green. Green here symbolizes prosperity and is usually some fresh vegetable often with a red packet contain money for the Lion Dance team. The Lion has to overcome some hurdles before it can capture the green. The Lion is generous. After savoring the green, it returns it, symbolizing sharing prosperity with all those present.

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Southern Lion Performed Like Northern Lion

Lion Dance

In the past Northern Lion was aerobatic, whereas Southern Lion exhibited good stances. However, in the 1980s Sifu Chen Choy, a Choy-Li-Fatt grandmaster living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, introduced some historic changes to Southern Lion Dance. He made the Southern Lion aerobatic too, resulting in what is now known as "Nam Si Pak Mou" which means "Southern Lion performed like Northern Lion". This revolutionized Southern Lion Dance, and placed Malaysia as the leading Lion Dance country till now.

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Bringing Life and Excitement with Appropriate Music

Lion Dance

The rich Lion Dance music of our school was due much to the effort of Grandmaster Wong's sidai, Ng Yew Choe, in the early 1970s. He tape-recorded and studied the Lion Dance music of many schools, and added lively music patterns to the original Lion Dance music taught by Uncle Righteousness. In the 1980s Grandmaster Wong further enriched the Lion Dance music introduced by Lee Yew Choe. To help students learn the Lion Dance music more easily, Grandmaster Wong analyzed the music into units and beats, instead of teaching by listening and following as in the past.

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Co-Ordination between the Lion and the Accompanying Music

Lion Dance

In Lion Dance the music follows the dance. The Drummer plays the drum according to the movements of the Lion Head. The cymbal and gong performers follow the drummer. Nevertheless, to attain perfect co-ordination the Lion performers must synchronize themselves with the music. They time their movements according to the rhythm and beats of the drummer.

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Percussion Music for Kungfu and Laughing Buddha

Lion Dance

Besides music for Lion Dance, there is also music for the performance of kungfu and of the Laughing Buddha. The kungfu music of Uncle Righteousness lineage is systematic and outstanding. Grandmaster Wong also explains the functions played by the gong and the cymbals. Different moods can be created by varying the beats, timing and loudness of the gong and cymbals.

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Signature Greeting and Signature Pattern

Lion Dance

The signature kungfu greeting of Uncle Righteousness lineage is shown here. It incorporates the patterns "White Tiger Presents Claw" and "White Crane Flaps Wings", signifying the Tiger and Crane features of Uncle Righteousness kungfu. The signature Lion Dance greeting is also shown. Interesting it is the same as the Lion Dance greeting of the famous Shaolin master, Wong Fei Hoong. A signature Lion Dance pattern in Uncle Righteousness lineage is "Kicking Three Stars".

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Exhibiting Courage and Carefulness in Performance and in Daily Life

Lion Dance

A Lion is not only very courageous but also very careful. These qualities, as well as other qualities like majestic and joyful, must be revealed in the dance, and reinforced by appropriate music. Grandmaster Wong explains and demonstrates how to exhibit these qualities in the Lion Dance. These qualities should also be manifested in our daily life.

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Showing Majesty and Drinking from Mountain Stream

Lion Dance

The Lion notices a formation, which represents a high mountain. It exhibits joy and majesty. After making sure it is safe, the Lion leaps up onto the mountain. It checks the mountain for safety. Then it comes to a high cliff. With dexterity, it drops down to drink water from a mountain stream.

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Climax of Lion Dance Drama

Lion Dance

Capturing Green represents the climax of a Lion Dance drama. The Lion is very careful. It makes sure there are no traps around. Then it carefully but surely captures the Green, which is usually in the form of some fresh vegetable. It munches the Green, and savours its taste. It then throws back Green, symbolizing the sharing of prosperity.

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Capturing Heavenly Peaches at a Mountain Cliff

Lion Dance

After learning the basic patterns and sequences, the North American team puts them together to form a Lion Dance drama. This drama is called "Capturing Heavenly Peaches at a Mountain Cliff".

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High-Level Performance by Fresh Beginners in Lion Dance

Lion Dance

The England team now performs the Lion Dance drama, "Capturing Heavenly Peaches at a Mountain Cliff". It is quite incredible that although all the team members are fresh beginners in Lion Dance, they can give such a high-level performance.

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Patterns and Sequences in Lion Dance Music

Lion Dance

After the performance of the Lion Dance drama by the two teams, Grandmaster Wong goes over the Lion music with the course participants. Like the drama, the music includes various sequences, like "Rolling Thunders", "Kicking Three Stars", "Testing Formation", "Checking for Safety", and "Capturing Green".

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Why we Can Gain Much in Short Time

Lion Dance

One important reason why we in Shaolin Wahnam could attain remarkable results in a short time is because we learn with insight whereas most other students learn by route. Most students learn Lion Dance music, for example, by listening to an instructor's performance, then imitating him. Here Grandmaster analyses the music patterns and students learn the basics. Then they link the music patterns into music sequences, just like in kungfu training.

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Learning and Participating in All Aspects of Lion Dance

Lion Dance

Unlike in most other Lion Dance troupes where students normally focus on only one aspect of the Lion Dance, like focusing on performing only the Lion Head or only playing the cymbals and nothing else, our students are all-rounders; they learn and participate in all aspects of the Lion Dance.

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Shaolin Wahnam England Lion Dance Performance

Lion Dance

For fun Grandmaster Wong asks the two teams to perform for a competition. This video series shows the England team, with Sifu Nick as the Lion Head, Sifu Tim as the Lion Tail, Sifu Simon as the drummer, Sifu Robin, Das and Fluer as the cymbal-men, and Sifu Marcus as the gong-man.

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Shaolin Wahnam North America Lion Dance Performance

Lion Dance

This is the North America team, consisting of Sifu Michael Chow as the Lion Head, Sifu Joe as the Lion Tail, Sifu Mark as the drummer, Sifu Charles as the cymbal-man, and Sifu Anthony Spinicchia as the gong-man. The apparatus for the dance drama is improvised. As the legs of the top table come to the very edges of the lower table, they need to be held for safety. In an actual competition where the apparatus is specially made, there is no need for helpers to hold the table or any apparatus.

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Finer Points of Lion Dance Music

Lion Dance

Grandmaster Wong reveals some finer points of the Lion Dance music, including how to express moods and tempo, as well as create excitement and expectations. H also explains how to communicate between the Lion Head and the drummer.

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Majestic Lion Rides Dragon

Lion Dance

As a prologue to the grand finale, the England Team puts up a dance drama named "Majestic Lion Rides Dragon" with Sifu Simon as the Lion Head, Sifu Marcus as the Lion Tail, Sifu Robin at the drum, Sifu Nick and Das as cymbal-men and Fleur at the gong.

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Going Beyond Mountain to Search for Gold

Lion Dance

Each team is to perform two dance dramas, and each team member must play a different role in each drama. For the first drama, the North America Teams presents "Going Beyond the Mountain to Search for Gold" with Sifu Mark at the Lion Head and Sifu Anthony Spinicchia at the Tail.

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Going Across Golden Bridge to Capture Treasure

Lion Dance

For the second dance drama the North America Team presents "Going Across Golden Bridge to Capture Treasure" with Sifu Michael Chow as the Lion Head, Sifu Joe as the Lion Tail, Sifu Mark at the drum, Sifu Anthony Spinicchia at the gong, and Sifu Charles playing the cymbals. Team members set up their own formation with whatever material available and work out the sequences of the drama.

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Finding Three Treasures at Mountain Top

Lion Dance

The England Team performs "Finding Three Treasures at Mountain Top" for the second dance drama with Sifu Nick at the Lion Head, Sifu Tim at the Lion Tail, Sifu Simon at the drum, Sifu Marcus at the gong, and Sifu Robin and Fleur playing the cymbals. Team members have to use whatever material available to set up their own formation and devise their own dance drama.

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LINKS

Selection of Lion Dance Course at UK Summer Camp 2009

  1. Percussion Music of the Lion Dance
  2. Rhythms and Patterns of the Gong, Cymbals and Drum
  3. Some Fundamental Lion Dance Patterns
  4. Hand Movements, Footwork and Lion Leap
  5. Majestic Lion Dancing to Joyful Percussion Music
  6. Bringing out the Emotions of a Lion
  7. Leaping Lion with a Variety of Percussion Music
  8. Fundamental Features of a Lion Dance Drama
  9. Bringing Life and Excitement to the Dance
  10. Creating Excitement with Fast Beats
  11. Showing Majesty and Leisure Walking
  12. Two-Five, Five-Seven, Seven-Seven-Seven
  13. The Base, the Rhythm and the Melody
  14. Developing Desirable Qualities for Kungfu and Daily Living
  15. From Patterns to Sequences to Drama
  16. An Expression of Joy and Excitement
  17. Safety Precautions in Exciting Adventures
  18. Capturing Green and Sharing Prosperity
  19. Southern Lion Performed Like Northern Lion
  20. Bringing Life and Excitement with Appropriate Music
  21. Co-Ordination between the Lion and the Accompanying Music
  22. Percussion Music for Kungfu and Laughing Buddha
  23. Signature Greeting and Signature Pattern
  24. Exhibiting Courage and Carefulness in Performance and in Daily Life
  25. Showing Majesty and Drinking from Mountain Stream
  26. Climax of Lion Dance Drama
  27. Capturing Heavenly Peaches at a Mountain Cliff
  28. High-Level Performance by Fresh Beginners in Lion Dance
  29. Patterns and Sequences in Lion Dance Music
  30. Why we Can Gain Much in Short Time
  31. Learning and Participating in All Aspects of Lion Dance
  32. The Shaolin Wahnam England Lion Dance Performance
  33. The Shaolin Wahnam North America Lion Dance Performance
  34. Finer Points of Lion Dance Music
  35. Majestic Lion Rides Dragon
  36. Going Beyond Mountain to Search for Gold
  37. Going Across Golden Bridge to Capture Treasure
  38. Finding Three Treasures at Mountain Top

Courses and Classes

Videos of Lion Dance at UK Summer Camp 2009