Thursday, December 17, 2009

This ain't for the faint-hearted

[Written by Grace K from Entertainment]

Once every so often, I make a trip up through the misty clouds into the mountains of Genting Highlands to visit Resorts World Sentosa’s sister company, Resorts World Genting, so that I can observe and understand how they organize their events.

Now that Resorts World group has three resorts : Sentosa, Genting and Manila, we try to collaborate on a few big events across the three venues, which makes sense from an economical standpoint, as well as in branding and marketing.

End of November, I was up again to check out their National Lion Dance Championships as RWS is interested in alternating this event with Genting. A bit of history – every odd year (eg.2009), Genting organizes a National Lion Dance competition where the various states in Malaysia compete to be the National Champion. The champion then goes on to participate the following year in the World Lion Dance Championships (every even year). This event is recognized internationally as one of the top lion dance competitions worldwide, attracting teams all the way from UK, Australia, Mauritius and USA. The grand prize for the top team is USD30,000.

I’ve always liked lion dance during Chinese New Year. It’s noisy and fun and it’s something I never get sick of, like fireworks. However, I ain’t never seen anything like this before. A special X structure with poles of different lengths and distance is designed and the specifications are given to the troupes a year in advance. Each team builds its own structure accordingly and practices for a year to perfect its ‘dance’. This is serious stuff. The judging is based on a few criteria – footwork, the coordination between the head and tail, harmony between the lion and the music, the expression of the lion and the degree of difficulty.

In fact, when you look at a really good performance, you can almost ignore the fact that there are 2 persons under the costume. It looks like a real lion from the way it cocks its head, winks, scratches its ear, prances around.

The stunts performed by the teams can rival Jet Li as Wong Fei Hong in Once Upon A Time In China. The lions leaped from pole to pole on hind legs, flipped their front legs halfway down the pole to pluck the cai qing attached at an angle and sprung off the end pole into an immediate roll on the ground. It was a stunning display of martial arts and discipline. Winning team from Muar even had the lion coming out of a box that opened up with colourful flashing lights and pyros . Damn drama.

It was not easy though. Some of the stunts performed were quite difficult and many of the “lions” fell from the poles. But bravely, all got up & went straight back up to complete their performance. There was only one performer that did not. He simply walked off the performance zone in a daze. The judges considered disqualifying him but decided to give him a chance after he explained that he was in such pain that he only thought of looking for help. He also lifted his shirt to show his chest area which had turned a deep black-blue from the bruising.

Here are some of my pictures and a video at the event, but for higher quality photos of the competition, check out this blog on lion dance:

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