Troupe opens lion dance to women in California

Chinese New Year

During Chinese New Year one iconic image is seen through the community, during celebrations and business openings, the lion dance.

It’s an essential part of the festivities but the tradition has mostly been dominated by men.

CGTN’s Mark Niu met with one San Francisco troupe trying to change that.

At the YMCA recreational facility in San Francisco’s Chinatown, a special guest comes to bring luck and prosperity to local residents.

The lion dance is also associated with chasing away ghosts and evil spirits with a show of strength primarily through men.

But at this Lion Dance Me club, 70 percent of the performers are female.

“It’s like a really big honor that I get to represent like the female’s while in other groups it might not be as normal because you only see males. So I feel like this group is really special,” said Janet Ngu a lion dancer.

“The story of course goes back to the times when you had martial artists. The two strongest martial artists would come out to the village, and it would be men. People would think men signify strength, protection, all those type of things that they would protect girls. That was the perception of how lion dance was to be done. I would say I’m the only group that’s female dominant so the guys have to watch out,” said Norman Lau founder of Lion Dance Me.

Sixteen-year-old Jayde Wong prepares to do what the club refers to as “jumping the jong”, something that resembles more of a high-risk acrobatic performance.

Club Founder Norman Lau said it took him five years to learn what Jayde has learned to do in just a year’s time.

“I hope this inspires a lot more girls to try it out, because I know. Maybe not a lot, but some girls might be too intimidated to try it out if they know it’s all males. so hopefully will be like oh, hey there’s a girl that can go to these high levels so maybe I should try it out,” said Jayde Wong a lion dancer.

Lion Dance Me’s founder said he’s rarely seen a female perform the jong, and definitely never seen one perform one as high-level as this.

It takes dedication as the high school students practice at least four to five days a week but they said all the bumps and bruises are well worth it, especially seeing the fascination and appreciation of the crowd.