Dragon Dance – A Great Way to Learn a Different Culture & to Get Fit!
Dragon dancing is believed to have its origins during the Han Dynasty, by the Chinese, who held the dragon in high respect as a benevolent creature who bestowed goodness, fertility, vigilance and dignity.
Seen by a largely agricultural people as the governors of clouds and rain, dragons were harbingers of good times and fertile crops, bringing abundance and good things to all. Contrary to the Western notion of evil creatures that breathe fire and eat people, Chinese dragons are revered as symbols of strength, good fortune, wisdom and longevity. As a sign of how highly the Chinese regarded the Dragon, only the Emperor was allowed to wear the shape of the Dragon on his clothing; for anyone else to do so meant capital punishment!
Dragons were said to inhabit every body of water, as well as in rain, and were linked to the great Pearl of Knowledge. They are diverse creatures, said to be comprised of: the horns of a stag, the eyes of a rabbit, the scales of fish, with claws of an eagle, footpads of a tiger, the ears of a bull and the whiskers of a cat. They could move swiftly on land, fly effortlessly through the air, and swim vigorously in the oceans. The dragon was a river spirit who was first called upon with dragon dancing by peasant farmers to appease the Dragon King to bring timely rains to the landscapes of China so that the farmers could be assured of plentiful crops to feed their families, have abundance and to enjoy a good life.
Dragon dancing has since evolved to become associated with festive times such as Chinese New Year and the Autumn Moon Festivals. It has also been linked to other key dates such as the opening of a new business, weddings, anniversaries and other memorable occasions. Dragon dancing symbolises the bringing of good luck and prosperity for all human beings on earth. Dragon dancing also brings good Fung Shui, or harmonious balance, to people and events. Accompanied by drums, cymbals and gongs, the gyrations and manipulations of a dragon “come to life” was met with loud noise and much fanfare. This served a number of beneficial purposes:
- Chasing away negative energies – the sound of the drums and cymbals purifies the area of negative and stale “chi”, allowing a fresh start to be made;
- Scaring away the evil spirits – the powerful dance and the presence of the Dragon scares away evil spirits from an occasion or a premises, ensuring that such occasion or that business will be unimpeded and all efforts will be met with success;
- Bringing in auspiciousness – being a symbol of strength and good luck, the Dragon brings good luck to all it favours.
In dragon dancing, a troupe of performers bring the creature to life by lifting the dragon on poles and then creating wave-like patterns by swinging each section in co-ordinated and successive motions. Patterns and tricks are created with spiralling movements to make the dragon twist and turn on itself, with performers jumping over and through body sections, creating dazzling visual effects. The dragon’s movements are limited only by the creativity of the performers’ imaginations.
Some of the patters of the dragon dance are “Cloud Cave”, “Whirlpool”, “Dragon Searches for the Pearl”, “Encircling the Pillar”. There is always a performer who holds a ball-like staff, symbolising the “Pearl of Knowledge”. He/she leads the dragon in its dance-like gyrations, controlling the dance and the performance. This symbolises the “Dragon Searching for the Pearl”, which shows the dragon, constantly in pursuit of wisdom.
Several skills and elements are required for good dragon dancing; it combines the training and mentality of sporting activities with the flair and stagecraft of the performing arts. It is a FUN, exciting and culturally stimulating way for anyone to get involved in. Dragon dancing provides a great workout, in a fun and happy environment, and provides cultural enrichment as well to any participant. And you also get the satisfaction of bringing good luck, prosperity and good “Fung Shui” to those who enjoy your performance!
For those of you who want to take it more seriously, or find that you enjoy the training and overall experience, you can also be considered for a spot on our Academy Dragon Dancing Troupe. We have performed the Dragon Dance for many popular events such as: Melbourne Chinatown’s Chinese New Year Festival, the Australia Day People’s March, various Chinese New Year celebrations throughout metro Melbourne – St Albans, Springvale, Glen Waverley, the Pako Festa in Geelong, Wyndham’s Weerama Festival, Casey Council’s Bushfire Heroes Concert and others. We have also performed and taught the Dragon Dance at such schools as Brentwood Primary in Berwick, Lumen Christi Primary in Pt Cook and at Collingwood College. Please see Sifu’s Blog page on this site for clips of some of our recent performances.
Develop your overall confidence, improve your health and fitness with a fun and exciting routine, belong to a group of like-minded enthusiastic individuals, and get a cultural education in a novel, unique package – DRAGON DANCING!
Join us for a session – NO prior experience necessary, from teens on up, we will teach you how the Dragon Dance can rejuvenate you and expose you to a side of yourself you never knew existed!!! Fun & Fitness—Guaranteed!!! Find us on Facebook at the East Meets West Dragons page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1479267695700554/members/ and get involved!