Lion dance teaches more than traditional dance - it also teaches confidence, leadership skills, and the importance of fun!

Lion dance teaches more than traditional dance - it also teaches confidence, leadership skills, and the importance of fun!

Everyone watches the head during a lion dance, but as student drummer Lam Chi-fung knows, his job is just as important

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Drumming is fun, says Lam Chi-fung, but it also takes brains.
Drumming is fun, says Lam Chi-fung, but it also takes brains.
Photo: Edmond So/SCMP

Lion dancing is a big part of local culture nowadays, but it wasn't always like that.

Ha King-man remembers his father struggled to get students to sign up for his classes back in the 1980s because lion-dancing students were labelled as troublesome.

Lion dancing has become more popular in schools today. Like hip hop and other artists, lion-dancing teams now have more opportunities to perform.

To provide a platform for more students to showcase their lion-dancing skills, Ha Kwok Cheung Dragon & Lion Dance is organising the Hong Kong Inter-School Dragon & Lion Dance Competition for the fifth year. And this time, there will be a new category for the best drummer.

Ha King-man is the grandson of Ha Kwok-chueng, the well-known lion-dancing grandmaster and founder of Ha Kwok Cheung Dragon & Lion Dance, and has been lion dancing since he was four.


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Ha King-man will be a judge for the upcoming competition. "You'd think the head and tail of the lion is the most important in lion dancing. This is true, but drum music is [like a finishing touch]," says Ha. "The music helps bring the lion to life."

A Form Four student at Workers' Children Secondary School, Lam Chi-fung started lion dancing in Form One.

"I used to be a 'loser'," says Chi-fung. He wasn't interested in any extra-curricular activities in primary school, nor was he good at any of them.

When lion dancing was introduced to his secondary school, he decided to give it a try.

As it turns out, Chi-fung not only got a confidence boost and learned some leadership skills, he also had a lot of fun.

He'll be the drummer for his school's lion-dancing team in next month's competition, but he also takes turns as the lion head during training.

"Look how pretty they are," he said, pointing to an array of colourful lion heads on display at Ha Kwok Cheung Dragon & Lion Dance.

Getting into lion dancing drummed up Lam Chi-fung's confidence. Photo: Edmond So/SCMP

"As a lion head, you need to be able to handle little movements, like presenting the lion's different emotions. Big movements like climbing up and jumping down are also vital," says Chi-fung.

Being a drummer is different though. It's more about the thinking, and Chi-fung has put in a lot of thought into his drumming. Whenever he sees other teams performing during competitions, he films their music and studies it until he comes up with something better for his team.

"You also need to keep a close eye on the lion, and help with the momentum of the whole performance," says Chi-fung.

"The drummer's role is similar to a composer's," adds Ha.

The award for best drummer is more about recognising the efforts of the whole music section, he says. "Some schools might not have the best lion, so they might not stand a chance of winning the competition, but we'd like to encourage the exceptional drummers [and the music section]."

Lion-dancing classes for schools are mostly express courses, says Ha, who has been teaching since he was 19. "My expectations for [student] drummers are never high [at the beginning]. Don't make mistakes, don't let your drumstick slip away, that's enough."

But during the inter-school competitions in recent years, Ha, as a judge, has noticed an impressive improvement. "Their drum beats are getting stronger and more intensive. I didn't expect students to be that good," Ha says, adding that the best drummer award will be one of the most fiercely contested.

Hong Kong Inter-School Dragon & Lion Dance Competition 2015 will be at Sai Kung Town Hall on July 11, 10am-6pm.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Taming fearsome skills

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