Fancy lion footwork

Fancy lion footwork

Lion dancer from a Yuen Long village proudly carries on a family tradition


Calvin Tsang's father and grandfather were lion dancers, too.
Calvin Tsang's father and grandfather were lion dancers, too.
Photo: David Wong/SCMP
Calvin Tsang Chi-pan doesn't play sports for the medals. The Form Five student from Wang Chau Tung Tau Wai village in Yuen Long does it to keep traditions alive.

Calvin is a lion dancer.

He has lived in the village since he was born. Its traditions and culture are strongly instilled in him, thanks to his father and grandfather, a former village chief who worked hard to keep the village's traditions alive

As teenagers, Calvin's father and his friends decided to restart the lion dance club which had withered years earlier without a leader.

Calvin, a student at Pok Oi Hospital Tang Pui King Memorial College, remembers watching his father perform.

"I felt very proud when I saw the team visit other villages. It made our village special, and gave me a sense of belonging," he says.

When Calvin was in primary school, his father ordered a batch of costumes for the team from Foshan in Guangdong, and also bought a mini set - for Calvin.

"These were my treasures," he says. "I put them on and danced at the playground near my house. I never got bored when I spent time in these costumes."

But one day, his mother threw the costumes away during a big clean-up. The young boy got angry, and he stopped practising for a few years. During that time, Calvin only watched lion dances, never taking part.

When he was in Form One, Calvin went with his friends to watch a world lion dance competition at the Hong Kong Coliseum. "After watching the top teams' performances, I started to search for lion dance videos on YouTube," he says. "I kept watching them and learning from them."

Soon after, Calvin joined the lion dance team in his village.

"In the first two years after taking up the sport again, I woke up early to practise by myself before school. On weekends, I would sometimes practise for the whole morning. I wanted to improve quickly," he says.

Calvin, now 17, controls the lion's head for the team. The costume weighs more than 10 catties, or 6kg. The head is heavier than the ones we usually see on television because of all the decorations.

His team's dance routine originates from the New Territories, he says. It involves jumping on a long, narrow wooden bench before attempting the cai ching - in which the lion jumps to grab a hanging green object (usually lettuce) to bring good luck.

"The basic idea of lion dancing is to have steady feet and be lively to represent the movements of a lion," he says.

Calvin even took kung fu lessons from a shaolin master in the village.

"Practising kung fu gave me a good foundation for lion dancing. It helps strengthen my foot work."

Last year Calvin wanted to start a team at his school, but it didn't work out. The school said it didn't have the money for the sport. Still, that didn't stop him from getting his schoolmates involved.

He invited his friends to his village to join the lion dance during the Tin Hau festival last year.

"Many of my friends live in high rises in urban areas. They're not as lucky as I am, and they have not had a chance to experience local culture in Yuen Long," Calvin says.

His friends will join him again this year.

Calvin now practises six days a week for upcoming performances. He says lion dancing connects him with his grandfather - it's his ancestor's devotion to his people that makes Calvin so eager to take part in lion dances.

"My grandfather passed away before I was born, but it is amazing I inherited his skills and continue to help uphold the traditions of the village."

The Tin Hau celebration takes place in Yuen Long on April 13. It includes a big parade with lion dance teams from Calvin's village and others in Yuen Long



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