Vietnam shares some of the unique Asian cultures that originated from China, and the Lion and Dragon Dance is one of the most interesting ones. Though similar in the concept aspect, the Vietnamese version still has some of its features. Join us as we explore the ins and outs of the Vietnamese Lion and Dragon Dance.
The Lion and Dragon Dance is popular to Vietnamese children
The Lion and Dragon Dance is a form of traditional performance, popular in China and other Asian countries like Vietnam. The dance mimics a lion’s or a dragon’s movement with a hope to bring good luck and fortune. Both the lion and the dragon in Asian culture are sacred animals, representing the national power, as well as the legend of some countries’ origin (for example, the legend of Vietnamese being descendants of dragons and fairies).
The dance was adopted from China
The original lion dance originated in China about 2,500 years ago. Performers wore masks and imitated the movement of animals and mythical beasts, such as the unicorn and phoenix. However, many argue that the dance must have been adopted to Central Asia from other countries since lions have long been extinct in China. The Chinese quickly mastered the art and developed it by adding their cultural features (the four sacred animals dance). Then, this folk art was introduced to Vietnam during the China colonial period, along with calligraphy and joss paper burning.
The costume needs to be fearsome-looking
The costumes used in the Vietnamese Lion and Dragon Dance come in various colors and shapes, but all must have a roaring and powerful look to chase away the monsters and evils. The most common color variations are red, yellow, green, or a combination of the three. The heads of the lion and the dragon are made of paper and cardboard, built around a bamboo frame. Meanwhile, the body and the performers’ costumes are fabric sewn together.
It takes a lot of practice to coordinate and maneuver the Lion and Dragon costume
The Vietnamese Lion and Dragon Dance are nationally considered as not just a folk dance, but also a martial art since the performers must be masters of kungfu to effectively and beautifully conduct the difficult movements. They say that without kungfu, the dance would just be no more than a mere soul-less puppet dance. Hence, the aspiring performers are required to practice heavily and frequently, even when they’re promoted to handle the beast masks.
Typical moves of Vietnamese Lion and Dragon Dance includes leaping
A full performance of the Vietnamese Lion and Dragon Dance must be a marriage of gracefulness, steadiness, and an array of complex moves. The two signatures are the “7-sequence”: 7 consecutive dance moves, and the “three flowers”: symbolizing three flowers to express joy.
The drum is the heart and soul of the dance
Believe it or not, the drum is the soul of the Vietnamese Lion and Dragon Dance. The drum used for the dance is called “the Seven-Star Drum”, and can only be played by the master or the second master of the dojo. Each movement of the lion and the dragon must strictly follow the beats of the drum to fully express the powerfulness and energy of such majestic animals.
The spirit of the Earth is a unique feature of the Vietnamese Lion and Dragon Dance
The Vietnamese Lion and Dragon Dance wouldn’t be complete without “Ong Dia”, or the Spirit of the Earth, who is depicted as a jolly man with a palm-leaf fan. He is believed to have the power to summon the mythical animals, and thus, takes the lead role and clears the path for the performers.
The Vietnamese Lion and Dragon Dance are performed during the Lunar New Year, the Mid-Autumn Festival, and other Lunar holidays in Vietnam. Some big businesses’ grand openings, weddings, and special celebrations can also include the appearance of this performance.
There’s also an annual International Lion and Dragon Dance Festival in Da Nang held to celebrate Vietnam’s Independent Day on the ground of Sun World Amusement Park.
Time: the end of August-early September
Ticket: around VND 200,000 - VND 300,000 (including buffet)
Do you love to learn about cultures? If yes, then the Vietnamese Lion and Dragon Dance is sure to amaze you. Its combination of Asian features and a unique Vietnamese twist separates it from other versions that you've seen before.
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© Written by Dung Tran for itourvn.com
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