Kylin Dance

A good performance of the kylin-lion-dragon dance is believed to bring luck and happiness. In the old days, the kylin dance was an entertainment reserved for children. As an art, kylin dance has its principles and rules.

A team of dragon dancers consists of thirty persons, as they have to take turns to play the main part. They have different occupations to earn living, but when need arises,  they gather at once at the rally point. This was an occasion for amusement, not for money.

A part of much importance is that of the Monkey (one of the main characters of the famous Chinese novel “ Journey to the West”). The Monkey also leads the dragon to enter a house, and leave it. And, more importantly, he manages to stop the dragon when the latter is too excited and out of control in its "pursuit of prey".

A kylin dance show     (photo: T.K)

However, to most accounts, the most important role is that of Ông Địa (the genie of the earth or called Qing) who entices the lion, and usually holds a fan or a giant ball. He is like a clown in the Western theatre or  in  Vietnam's classical opera, but unlike the clown,  he does not utter any words. He makes people laugh with his gestures. Therefore, Ông Địa will be immediately replaced if he fails to play his role.

A dragon dance usually lasts from 20 to 25 minutes. It consists of five episodes. In a dragon dance, drums and cymbals and gongs can’t be absent.  For each episode, there is a different rhythm of the drum. The drummer acts as conductor and sets the rhythm for other instrument players to follow. 

A dragon dance show.   (Photo: H.Y)

As the drummer beats faster, the ensemble also beat faster and louder. He knows how to assess the situation as well. For example, when he sees that the owner of the house hangs the prize on the balcony of the house, he must use the one-three rhythm. As the dragon hears the drum change its rhythm, it grows more excited and when the drum beating is slow, it knows that it is time to wait and relax.
A cultural show then follows, starting with displays of Chinese martial art forms such as kung fu and tai chi.

Dragon dance services are no longer available for free. Those who are interested should order in advance. There are many teams of dragon dancers in Ho Chi Minh City such as Hang Anh Duong, Lien Huu, Tuy Nghia Duong, Tinh Anh Duong, Nhon Nghia Duong, Thang Nghia Duong, and Tam Hoa Duong.

At the festival of dragon dance competition held on April, 2005 in Ho Chi Minh, Hang Anh Duong team won four prizes. On the first day of the lunar new year 2006 ( 29 January,2006), at Equatorial in Tran Binh Trong Street, Hang Anh Duong team performed  “ Two  lions playing balls”.

Kylin-lion-dragon dance is performed on special occasions such as Tet, the Mid-Autumn Festival, ground-breaking or inauguration ceremonies. Originating from China, it has become part of Vietnamese culture .

Source: Lac Viet - Compiled by Uyen Phuong

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