CHINESE NEW YEAR
Cooler than cool
The symbolic lion dance takes center stage at Lunar New Year
LION DANCES create a splashy spectacle with their combination of noisy drumming, colorful costuming, and bold, rigorous moves. These are what captured Del Wong's imagination as a child.
"Every young Chinese boy finds the lion dance and martial arts all that is cool about Chinese culture," he said.
As an adult, he sees much more than "cool." Wong has been involved in the lion dance for about 17 years and has researched its roots. "The more you learn and are exposed to the culture, you realize that there is so much more you don't know. One of the simpler concepts -- the lion is a symbol of strength and good luck. It is symbolic of life itself."
Wong, a member of the Hawaii Lion Dance Association, said: "Friendship is the core of our organization. We keep focused on the people of the group. This is a rigorous activity and you need to be able to trust the guy who is backing you up."
The group will perform the lion dance throughout Chinatown this weekend, using five lion heads from Malaysia, following the Lunar New Year tradition of chasing the evil spirits of the past year so that the good may enter.
"Green vegetables or leaves are left at the top of the doorways to stores," he said. Sometimes obstacles are presented to the lion in order to achieve the goal of obtaining the green, he explained. "In return, we are blessing the store owners with good luck."
THE KUO MIN Tang Physical Culture Association has been performing the lion dance for several decades, according to chief instructor the Rev. Duane Pang. The group will parade its 150-foot dragon at Saturday's Honolulu Centennial Night in Chinatown, with the parade starting at 4 p.m. on Maunakea Street. A team of 22 people are needed to control the dragon and play the instruments.
"Tying the lion together takes a couple of hours. We start with a skeleton of bamboo rings and tie the body together," he said. "We need a lot of room to move this big animal."
It takes about three to four years to master the skills associated with this ancient art form. Students are taught the lion dance in hopes that they will pass their knowledge on to future generations, a subject of concern to Pang.
"Many young kids don't want to learn this," he said. "They would rather stay home and play video games.
"We have to conform to the upbringing of American children. They are not conditioned for the traditional training. It's hard for them to put up with the strictness of the teacher."
Much like the kumu hulas, adjustments have been made to suit contemporary needs.
Wong believes that culture evolves from one generation to the next.
"Change is a natural process," he said. "We keep what is good and add to it, so it stays relevant to the time. We need to adapt the culture to the changing world."
CHINESE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The 57th Narcissus Queen and her court are, from left: Third Princess Lu Lu, First Princess Lindsey Mau, Queen Kristi Sue-Ako, Second Princess Shayla Chun and Fourth Princess Amber Won.
Year of the Dog celebrations
» 57th Narcissus Coronation Ball:
5 to 11 p.m. Saturday at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa. Admission.
» Honolulu Centennial Night in Chinatown: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday on Maunakea Street. Parade begins at 4 p.m. and includes a 150-foot dragon from the Kuo Min Tang Physical Culture Association Lion dances (see story on this page), martial arts demonstrations, fire dancing and more, on two stages. Admission is free. For more details, call Paul Chun at 233-8833.
» Vietnamese American New Year Festival: Ancestral ceremonies, dragon dances, music and stage performances, food, arts and crafts, and more, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Kapiolani Park. The event's theme is "Around the World in Performing Arts" and performances by 10 ethnic groups will be featured. Call Hua Chuong at 754-4664 or Ma Tong at 389-4126. Admission is free.
» Chinese Lion Dance: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Hawaii Kai Towne Center. Firecrackers and lion dance by Wah Ngai Lion Dance Association, visiting the merchants and restaurants in the shopping center.
» Wahiawa Celebration: Feed the lion, get free fortune readings, view martial arts demonstrations and more, 4 to 6 p.m. on Sunday at Wahiawa Town Center. Registration for the free mah jongg readings opens at 4 p.m. Call 262-0687.
» Chinatown Open House:
Fireworks and lion dances, 5 to 10 p.m., Jan. 27 and 28 at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza, on the corner of Maunakea and Beretania streets. Booths will feature food, art and crafts. Stage performances will include folk dances and songs, kung fu demonstrations and various Chinese cultural acts.
» Lion dances: 6 to 9 p.m., Jan. 27 on Maunakea and King streets.
» Chinese New Year Celebration: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Jan. 28 at the Chinese Cultural Plaza. A continuation of the open house, with stage performances, food and craft booths.
» New Year festival: 10 a.m. Jan. 28, Market City Shopping Center. Firecrackers, lion dance, free fortune cookies. Call 734-0282.
» Lion dance: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 4, Aloha Tower Marketplace. Wah Ngai Lion Dance Association performs lion dance and kung fu.
» Narcissus Festival Fashion Show: 11 a.m. March 5 at Hilton Hawaiian Village, Coral Ballroom. Opens with boutique sales. Call 533-3181 for reservations.
» The Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa Celebrations: Traditional lion dance throughout the hotel, an appearance by 2006 Narcissus Queen Kristi Sue Ako and her court, and a special menu at the Golden Dragon Restaurant. Festivities begin at 5 p.m. Call (808) 949-4321 for more information.
» Maui Chinese New Year Festival:
9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Maui Mall in Kahului. Call Cathy Tam, 276-3707.
» Japanese Cultural Society of Maui's annual Shinnen Enkai: Dinner, Jan. 28 at the Elleair Rainbow Room at the Maui Beach Hotel. Traditional otoso (sake welcome) with no-host cocktail hour to follow at 5:30 p.m. Dinner at 6 p.m. Cost for the buffet dinner is $32 for JCS Maui members, $40 for non- members, $17 for children ages 5 to 10 years, and free for children ages 4 and under. Tickets are available through the Maui Box Shop and Credit Associates in Wailuku and Party Paradise at the Maui Mall in Kahului. Call Yuki Lei Sugimura at 870-8047 for more information.