Lion, dragon dance troupes need more support

Chee (left) with Master Ek when the latter was in Miri to conduct a Dragon Art Camp recently.

MIRI: Chinese associations as well as the state government should give more moral and monetary support to local lion and dragon dance troupes to enable them to nurture youngsters and preserve the traditional art.

Founder and chairman of Wai Sheng Lion and Dragon Dance Troupe Vincent Chee told The Borneo Post that there has been a steady decline in the number of youths participating in lion and dragon dance.

“I have been working with a lot with Chinese independent schools and other Chinese associations here in the hope of getting youths interested in lion and dragon dance.

“However, due to reasons like academic pressure, parents’ concern, lack of funding and avenue, it is sad to see the number of youths taking part declining,” he said yesterday.

As one of the most active associations that focus on nurturing new talents in the art, Chee said Wai Sheng Lion and Dragon Dance Troupe trains new students to hone their skills and build stamina, something which takes between six months and two years to achieve, depending on individual talent and determination.

“However, building a trusty team involving lions, drummer and cymbal player requires more than constant training. The teamwork is even more challenging and takes longer time to perfect.

“Youngsters today spend more times on their gadgets rather than on outdoor activities. This is another issue that every parent must not overlook,” he lamented.

According to Chee, there is a marked difference between lion and dragon dance activities in Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia.

“I could safely say that a lot of lion and dragon troupes in the peninsula are very active. The players/performers have a strong foundation, which I suppose is due to the support from the associations. It gives good opportunity and provides the necessary platform for the players to practice and put their talent on show.

“Sadly, I notice there is no such bond between associations and local troupes here. We (Wai Sheng) alone cannot do it because we are desperately short of resources,” he said, adding that he hopes other associations could give similar support and to work on a plan to promote the art.

Chee also hopes that the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports could either provide funding or organise competitions for local troupes.

“Competition plays an important part in attracting interested players. Not only could they win prizes, the amount of training and dedication put in will indirectly help to raise the popularity.”

Recently, Wai Sheng Lion and Dragon Dance Troupe organised a Dragon Art Camp which saw participation from Limbang and Miri. The camp was coached by Master Ek Eng Guan, a founder of Dragon Art International in Singapore.

Ek is also the founder of Federation of Dragon Art Malaysia, who went on to establish branches in nine states in Malaysia including Ipoh, Penang, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Johor Bahru, Kuala Lumpur, Sabah, Sarawak and Selangor.

He also founded dragon art troupes in countries such as China, Macau, Germany, USA, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

Dragon art is one of the most challenging acrobatic arts – even more difficult than lion dance.