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Dancing Lions To Perform At Lantern Festival

7 February 2002

Aucklanders visiting the Asia 2000 Lantern Festival (1 –3 March) will have a rare opportunity to see a spectacular traditional Chinese puppet performance, the Nine-Lion Dance, being performed in New Zealand for the first time.

The visiting 23-member puppet troupe is from Zhejiang Province, China, where the Nine-Lion Dance is traditionally performed at the Lantern Festival at the end of Chinese New Year celebrations. Nine puppet lions, skillfully manipulated by the puppeteers using 38 long ropes, dance on a special stage (known as the “lion cage”) 6.5 metres wide and four metres high. The puppeteers and the accompanying musicians are mostly farmers from Yongkang County in Western Zhejiang.

“This unique performance will be a major highlight of the Festival,” said Asia 2000 cultural programme manager, Jennifer King. “The Nine-Lion Dance is a real hit wherever it is performed, and this is the first time it has been performed here. The puppets (including a lion king and baby lions) all dance, accompanied by enthusiastic drumming and folk music. The puppets’ heads, mouths, ears and eyes all move to the music – it’s dramatic, exciting and appeals to all ages.”

The Nine-Lion Dance (also known as the Puppet Lion Dance) is a folk art with a history of over 300 years and is traditionally performed at winter festivals in China. During these festivals farmers would pray for good weather and a bumper harvest in the coming year. They also used the opportunity to take time off from their hard work and enjoy themselves. In Chinese cultural tradition, the lion is a symbol of strength and determination and nine is considered a lucky number.

The troupe has performed the Nine-Lion Dance at a number of international events, including the Beijing International Tourism Culture Festival (1999), the New Century Art Festival (2000) in France, the 13th China Dalian International Garment Festival (2001), and the fifth Hangzhou International Folk Art Festival (2001).


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