Free Dancing With Lions Literature Review Example

Type of paper: Literature Review

Topic: Lion, Dance, Tradition, China, Culture, Internet, Dragon, Literature

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/11/21

The Lion’s Dance is a tradition that portrays Chinese beliefs. It is performed in order to chase away ghosts and evil spirits. According to Chinese folk stories, ghosts and monsters are often scared by loud noises. The lion is an animal that represents courage, stability and superiority in the Chinese tradition, and so it is only logical that the lion is used in order to scare the evil spirits, his strength as his powerful roar are supposed to fulfill this duty along with the fire crackers. The two dancers are dressed in a huge lion costume that has a giant lion head made of papier mâché. It allows them to imitate the movements of the lion figure to the fullest, and also confers them the ability to portray different moods of this lion through movement, rhythm and expression. Given its nature as an art that combines a physical performance based on Chinese folk stories, history, and moves taken from kung fu. It usually starts by awakening the Lion on the temples and then it moves on to travelling around as if in a parade. This dance has become so popular all over the world due to its cultural relevance and impacting beauty, which many other Asian countries have tried to adopt it as a tradition.
There are many stories that refer to the history behind this tradition, most of them are a mix between reality and legends. Although there are many tales of the lion and how he came to be a force of good, most of them agree on the mystical nature of the lion and how at some point in every story the lion is used to chase away evil forces, be it the “Nian”, the lion’s own chaotic and wild nature or the misfortune of the emperor as seen in The Story of the Nian, Kuan Yin’s Compassion and, The Emperor’s Dream respectively. Anyhow, to this day the lion is believed to be a hero and in order to celebrate this, the people still uses the Lion Dance to honor said tradition.
There are also two very important kinds of Lion Dance: the mild Lion Dance and the kung fu Lion Dance. The Mild Lion Dance combines a series of rhythmic movements, a little bit like those used by cheering teams in Japan. As shown by the use of adding the element of flags and the Dragon Dance, this sort of display focuses more on the colors and quality of the costumes. The Dragon Costume is without a doubt astonishing, the details on the head are remarkable as it is very well sculpted and very rich in color. From what I was able to observe on the performance, I must say that it appears that the Lions are rendering a homage to the Dragon, as if recognizing its superiority. Given that the Dragon is very important in the Chinese folklore it is not so far-fetched to think about it that way. The Kung Fu Lion Dance instead, focuses on displaying the performers’ ability at acrobatic maneuvers. It is a show that does not attempt to make a full display of the craftsmanship of the costumes, they are merely a secondary element to the performance being watched.
Given the popularity of this tradition, it has been exported to many places, like Japan and Korea. However, the original Lion Dance is divided in two styles: the Northern and the Southern. The only common fact between these two styles is the fact that the Lion is played by two performers. In the case of the Southern Lion, the custom appears to have a much more religious inclination than the Northern Lion Dance. It is much more formal and the only modification that it has experimented has had to do with making the movements more realistic on the side of attempting to imitate the movements of the Lion more accurately. On the other hand, The Northern Lion focuses its realism in the design of the Lion’s costume. Unlike its counterpart, where the Lion looks more like a dragon and its body is created by a drape. From what was seen in the different videos we can tell that the Northern Dragon seems to want to be a more artistic and cultural experience for the audience.
One of the most interesting features of the Lion Dance version portrayed in San Francisco, is the fact that they decided to add the extra of the Dragon Dance. Which makes the spectacle seem more vivacious and luscious to some degree. It takes advantage of the many exotic elements there seem to surround the Chinese traditions. In this case, the dance does not focus around the usual of features of the show. In this case it all comes down to being able to exhibit the greatness and the power of the Lion. It includes acrobatic tricks and the use of stunts. It is a complete show that allows the audience to engage in a way that is entertaining and not frivolous. It is a display of colors, and movement that spins around the theme of the lion. However, when talking about the sound, it leaves out a very important part of the tradition: the fire crackers and the cymbals, it also does not count with the appearance of “the uncle” or the funny guy. It is obvious that the San Francisco performance was adapted for an audience in order to provide a show, not to celebrate any kind of ritual. We could also say that, given the fact that not everyone in the audience could have had the cultural background necessary for the correct interpretation of this dance, it was not really that important to include it. They focused more on the aesthetically pleasing part than the part that referred to the tradition or culture, not to say that the dance or the colors are not a part of the culture, but it is probably not as deep as the significance or symbolic importance of the fire-crackers that related this tradition to folk stories.
Although it might seem that the San Francisco performance may pale in comparison to that seen in China, we can say that it does have an interesting cultural impact on the American people who are watching this for the first time. It is a very attractive tradition and the way it was adapted for the audience, managed to make it that much more impressive. No doubt, this may influence on the way China is being perceived by foreigners. This is the kind of tradition that allows others to reach out in order to know more about a certain culture. It catches the eye of those who are able to experience it first-hand.
Besides it being a beautiful and colorful tradition, the Lion Dance is also quite a sight for the eyes. It is a very entertaining and culturally rich experience. Even without having the cultural background of what the whole tradition means or stands for, it is the kind of spectacle that one should witness at least once in a lifetime. What better way to sum up a culture as vast and impressive as that of China than by sharing one of its most complete and eye-pleasing traditions? If one is looking to have a proper understanding of the Chinese culture then, watching a traditional Lion Dance is of the utmost importance, since it manages to have a mixture of almost every important cultural aspect that conforms China. It is an unforgettable experience. It is pretty much like being able to watch the way a Chinese painting comes to life in this very particular and amazing dance.


Party of the Third Part. “Stunt Lion Dancing, Chinese New Year Flower Fair San Francisco 2014”. Online video clip. Youtube 7 Feb., 2014.Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
Long, Jason. “乌冷福建公会龙狮团 舞獅玩鞭炮跳高樁 2013 lion dance with firecrackers & high poles”. Online video clip. Youtube 3 Mar., 2013.Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
Nations Online: Countries of the World. 10 Feb. 2013. Lion Dance. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
Jing Wo: Martiacl Arts & Athletic Association of Canada. 2008. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.

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