Prosperous Mountain Lion Dance
If you get hit with the lettuce leaf, it’s good luck for the rest of the year. Prosperous Mountain Lion Dance Leader David Wong explains how veggie spit out from the mouth of a lion can swing the year in your favour. He also hints at doing Canberra’s first ever Chinese unicorn dance ahead of this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations.
How did you decide to form Prosperous Mountain Lion Dance?
I was born in Malaysia, and I grew up in Perth. From six years onwards I did all my education in Perth but all through my life I was heavily passionate about lion dancing for as early as I can remember.
Why was that?
Because Malaysia is one of the more popular areas where lion dancing is practiced. Southeast Asia is very big on it especially Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China. Southeast Asia has been a big practitioner and leader of lion dancing in the recent decades. Being surrounded by it throughout the year, and especially during Chinese New Year, it’s been my passion. It’s in my blood.
Is it lion dance or dragon dance?
In Western societies, Australia included, the Westerners think the lions are dragons partly because of the western kind of storytelling – the dragons have four legs and a long body and then all the features of a dragon and so they associate our lion with a dragon.
So the terms lion dance and dragon dance can be used interchangeably?
In Australia, we try to educate but we don’t get angry when people say dragon dance when you mean lion dance. So long as they refer to the same thing. We certainly take every opportunity to kindly inform them of the differences. Most of the time they are talking about lion dancing and that’s part of the cultural challenges that I had when I started this team in Canberra.
Given that your performance is tied to a specific culture and a specific look, does that affect how often you perform and at what locations?
Not particularly. We’ve done lots of really interesting performances in different settings.
We do your standard public performances on multicultural festivals. We do shop blessings for New Years’ to go shop to shop and bring good luck to the shops. That’s a free thing we offer. We also do private birthday parties – we did an eightieth birthday party a couple of years ago. In December, we did a first-month birthday party for a baby in the backyard. We’ve performed at the Parliament House as well. So when the president came to visit Canberra we were one of them welcoming party when the president and Tony Abbott came in.
That certainly sounds quite impressive given the high profile of the event.
We love it. We don’t think a performance with the prime minister is more important than a first birthday. So we treat all this all the same.
I had a look on your Facebook and saw several photos of your group at the airport.
That was for the Canberra Airport’s first anniversary of the Singapore to Canberra direct flight. Singapore Airlines engaged us in conjunction with the Canberra Airport to celebrate their first year of flying directly internationally to Singapore.
We did a performance to bless the Singapore Airlines terminals and did a public display at the main foyer and present some blessings and gifts to the Canberra Airport owner, Stephen Byron, with some of the key managers in Singapore Airlines. We’ll be there again on the 23rd because now the Canberra Airports are very keen to have us.
I understand you’re performing the Lettuce Red Packet for us at the Old Bus Depot on International Day. Could you tell us more about that?
The routine is called the Lucky Veggie routine which consists of the veggie and bringing good luck. I think it comes from a Buddhist-type origin. The lion is a vegetarian. The lion eats the veggie during the performance and the lion spits out the veggie after it’s been hand-shredded and it’s good luck. So it’s a bit of a ritual where you’re spreading good luck to everywhere and if you get hit with the lettuce leaf, it’s good luck for the rest of the year.
The Red Packet is customary for Chinese New Year where people give money in the red packets to give to others family or friends. People who give their red packet to the lion is actually receiving good luck and the lion blesses them because they’re giving the red packet to the lion.
The Lucky Veggie certainly sounds exciting. Was there anything else we can expect this coming International Day?
We’d love to do the dragon dance as well depending on the time allotted to us. We might be doing something like a dragon dance and maybe a unicorn dance too, which is a new deity. Just like a lion and a dragon, it’s a mythical good-luck beast. It will be the first time for Canberra.
For the full list of performances at the Old Bus Depot this International Day, see our Market Entertainment: February 2018.
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