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Lion Dance Roaring Back To Life In Malaysia After A Bad Year, But It’s More Expensive Now

Lion Dance Roaring Back To Life In Malaysia After A Bad Year, But It’s More Expensive Now

The main income for a lion dance troupe comes from Chinese New Year and the revenue generated can cover the expenses for the year.

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Come every Chinese New Year, lion dance troupes will be visiting homes and commercial buildings.

Last year, they didn’t get to perform their dazzling routines as usual due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

But as the situation improves this time around, the lion dancers are roaring back to life.

However, challenges and hurdles remain for the lion dance troupes as the operating costs has increased.

Lion dance troupes from the Ipoh Chinese Chin Woo Athletic Association. (Credit: Ipoh Chin Woo)

Ipoh Chinese Chin Woo Athletic Association president Datuk Ooi Foh Sing said troupes are struggling to cover their cost.

He lamented that the operating costs had increased by around 20 to 30 percent compared to pre pandemic period.

The reasons are due in part to Covid-19 restrictions such as the number of people that can be transported on a lorry, which means they need to spend more on transportation.

Ooi, who had been working on lion dances for decades, said they also had to spend money on Covid-19 testings.

It is also worrying to see how people around the country had been affected economically by the pandemic. Less people are spending on the traditional dance as they were in the past. Lion dance troupes try to make do with what the people can afford to pay as much as possible.

Datuk Ooi Foh Sing to TRP on the challenge in promoting the lion dance post Covid-19

Covid-19 Fear Lingers

Ooi added that some of their regular customers are still cautious of Covid-19, and is not yet ready to welcome the lion dance into their homes.

Customers are also worried of being fined should physical distancing at the location was not adhered to.

Thankfully, there are customers who are more than glad to have the lion dance to usher in good fortune and wealth.

Beside regular customers who ask them to perform at residences, lion dance troupes are also getting requests at commercial areas such as banks and malls.

Accordingly, the cost of a lion dance performance during starts from RM800 upwards.

The prices vary according to factors such as time of the year, location, duration, number of lions and the stunts required.

Good Wishes All Year Round

The spectacular show of colour, sound and movement of a lion dance is not only during the Chinese New Year.

The Chinese celebrate every festival with a lion dance, because a lion dance can scare away evil spirits and bring you luck and fortune.

They are also performed at the launch of new businesses or at housewarming events.

Sometimes, the lion dancers are accompanied by the golden dragon dance team.

The lion dance is a tradition that dates back more than 1,000 years to the imperial court of China’s Tang Dynasty.

READ MORE: World’s Best Lion Dance, Made In Malaysia

The lion dance became popular in the 1970s in Malaysia, with master teachers from China coming over to train young enthusiasts. 

The version performed today in Malaysia is the Southern Lion Dance, which originated in China’s Guangdong province.

Waning Interest From Youngsters

Ooi hopes that the lion dance can be enjoyed by all Malaysians especially the next generation.

He admitted that it’s a challenge to recruit youth especially Malaysians from other races.

Not a lot of young people like traditional things such as lion dance. We have had non-Chinese apprentices, but they could not sustain the interest. A consistent income, commitment to regular training and the difficulty of the stunts involved are among the challenges.

Datuk Ooi Foh Sing to TRP on the challenge in promoting the lion dance post Covid-19
Chin Woo’s golden dragon dance team. (Credit: Emily2u)

Ooi added that there is also a lack of venue and spaces for troupes to train at.

He said the problem can only be overcome with a combination of government and community initiatives.

Exposing children to lion dance and cultivating interest from a young age is key to promoting it, said Ooi.

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