Lion dancers bring festive cheer for the Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

A giant drum, hand-hammered gong and cymbals sounded at the main entrance of Rear-Admiral (RAdm) Christopher Robinson’s official residence as two brightly coloured red and yellow lions warmed up the mood on Feb. 14.

The lion dancers from Victoria’s Wong Sheung Kung Fu Club have cleansed CFB Esquimalt of ‘bad mojo’ while wishing Defence Team members a Happy Lunar New Year. Communities worldwide celebrated the Lunar New Year between Feb. 9-24, welcoming the Year of the Dragon in Chinese astrology.

“The symbolism of the lion dance is to ward off evil spirits and bad energy and welcome in the New Year with lots of noise and bright colours.” the Club’s Daniel Low said as he wished ‘Gong Hei Fat Choi’ (‘prosperity and good fortune’) in Cantonese to more than 200 visitors at the Admiral’s Residence.

As part of a symbolic payment for the lion dancer’s efforts, RAdm Robinson fed the lions a head of lettuce on a stick.

“They viciously ripped it apart,” declared RAdm Robinson in jest after the dancers, operating the beasts’ mouths with hand-controlled levers, gobbled up the veggies and spat them onto the pavement. “It was an amazing performance, which built some excitement and awareness around our Defence Advisory Groups.”

Low said performing at CFB Esquimalt for the Rear-Admiral, senior leadership, and service people was an honour. The lion dancers also performed at Nelles Block and HMCS Venture, attracting big crowds.

During their visit, lion dancers stopped by the CANSUBFOR Headquarters in Dockyard and performed outside the building. It was intended as a gesture of friendship and goodwill to Lieutenant-Commander Harrison Nguyen, one of the Kung Fu Club’s former members and lion dancers, who has since moved on to Halifax to become Commanding Officer of HMCS Windsor

Manipulating the 10kg costume is no easy task. Lion dancer Jack Detlor described it as a combination of a ‘full-body workout and being in a sauna’, which he says often pushes the dancers to the brink of physical exhaustion.
Low says he and other Kung Fu Club members were kept busy throughout the holiday, performing lion dances at 18 other engagements. 

Excitement for the performances was further driven by MARPAC’s Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group (DVMAG) who promoted the Lunar New Year and its celebrations by handing out brightly coloured invitations to the events at multiple locations across the Base on Feb. 8. 

Andrew Au, DVMAG Civilian Co-Chair, said he was impressed with the performances.

“I am pleasantly surprised with the excellent turnout and the way this event came together despite the cold weather, which exceeded my expectations,” Au said.
Members of Victoria's Wong Sheung Kung Fu Club provide musical accompaniment during a Lion Dance. Photo: Peter Mallett / Lookout

Members of Victoria’s Wong Sheung Kung Fu Club provide musical accompaniment during a Lion Dance. Photos: Peter Mallett / Lookout

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