Long before stories were written in the Western hemisphere about knights in armour valiantly battling dragons that breathed fire, the Chinese dragon had become a prominent and well-loved icon in Chinese culture. It is fascinating to think that the same animal may represent admirable attributes in one culture, while in another it might be a very vile beast. The Dragon Dance has come to be regarded as the most important part of the Chinese New Year celebration in recent times. Chinese communities devote a significant amount of time and energy over the course of many months to the training of their dancers and the preparation of their dragon costumes for the New Year.
In Chinese mythology, the dragon was originally a spirit associated with a river. Actually, people used to believe that dragons lived in all types of water, even rain. In addition, dragons were connected in ancient Chinese culture to the concept of the pearl of knowledge. As you are about to learn, this legacy plays a vital role in the Dragon Dance. In contrast to their counterparts in Europe, dragons in Chinese culture are often depicted as benign, kind, and helpful spirits who possess nothing but positive attributes. Dragons were renowned for their brilliance, tenacity, and wisdom, in addition to their lengthy life spans, which contributed to their legendary status.
According to traditional Chinese astrology, being born in the year of the dragon was considered to be a very fortunate event. Those who had the good fortune to be born during this era were said to have inherited the virtues of the dragon spirit due to their association with the era. Because the year of the dragon only occurs once every twelve years, it is to our great fortune that the Chinese astrology chart has a large number of other wonderful animal representations that possess attributes that are positive and desired. 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, and 1988 are among examples of dragon years that occurred more recently.
The Dragon Dance was once performed as a method to halt the spread of infectious diseases. It is unknown to historians exactly when the Dragon Dance was originally performed; all we know is that it has its roots in the ancient culture of China. By the time of the Sung Dynasty, which lasted from 960 to 1279 AD, we do know that the Dragon Dance had already progressed beyond its roots as a technique of healing and had become a popular folk practise. This is something that we are aware of.
To successfully execute the Dragon Dance, a group of dancers is required. The “dragon” consists of a mask that serves as its head and a lengthy body that is carried by dancers while being supported by poles. The dance is performed in a serpentine manner, twisting like a snake; this is done to pay homage to the fact that the Dragon was once a river spirit! As they lead the procession, the dancer who is holding the dragon mask head will dip, jump, and twist as they perform their routine.
The heads of the dragon masks are often coloured red, green, or gold and have a stunning and ornate design. The number of body portions might vary, but these dragons tend to be on the larger side in keeping with their species. Each of the parts has a length of around 5 to 6 feet! There might be as many as 25 different components that make up the overall dragon costume that is worn throughout the dance. According to one version of the dragon story, the longer the monster lived, the more good fortune it brought with it. Because of this, communities put forth extra effort to ensure that their New Year’s celebrations have the largest dance teams and the longest dragons conceivable. The Dragon Dance is an age-old technique that demands the dancers to be in excellent physical condition, properly trained, and put in a significant amount of practise. It is not possible for everyone to put themselves in the shoes of these amazing animals.
The head of the dragon mask in some Dragon Dances may be animated, and there are even firework effects in certain of the dances. Twin dragons, consisting of two teams of dancers dressed in different costumes and performing in sync, are often used at special festivities. Since there is no set custom about when the Dragon Dance should be performed, it may be done either during the day or at night. On the other hand, most people would agree that the greatest and most beautiful demonstrations of this mythological monster and traditional dance are to be seen at night. This is because nightfall brings with it the chance for unique means of lighting the outfit.
One of the most vibrant and eye-catching activities connected with the Chinese New Year is the Dragon Dance. Participants dance while holding up the dragon “costume” on poles and performing elaborate moves to the accompaniment of flashing lights and pyrotechnic devices going off. The audience is treated to a mesmerising performance as the dragon, in the form of a snake, spins and twists its way through the audience. The Dragon Dance is an ancient custom that has deep roots in both the culture and mythology of China. It has been practised for many centuries.
The Dragon Dance may be traced all the way back to the time when peasants in rural China would do it in order to make an offering to the dragon spirit. It was thought that by performing the dance, one might prevent the spread of illnesses, as the dragon spirit would aid to purify the environment, including the air and the water. In China, the spirit of the dragon is held in very high esteem for their sagacity, cleverness, and bravery. In point of fact, people believe that children who were born in the Year of the Dragon—which occurs once every 12 years and most recently occurred in 2000—are very fortunate. The Dragon Dance was first performed as a kind of therapeutic dance, but it has now evolved into a well-known and widely practised folk pastime. Around the year 1000 A.D., when westerners first saw the Dragon Dance, it was already an established feature of several festivals and festivities.
The ability of the performers and the resources available to them both play a significant role in determining the size of the dragon that is employed in the Dragon Dance. The majority of dragons have anything from nine to twenty-five pieces, and each one is around five or six feet in length. Dragons that are more than 200 feet long have been created by some very skilled dragon dance teams. These dragons consist of more than 40 individual pieces, creating a breathtaking spectacle for onlookers. Because it is believed that the length of the dragon would determine how much luck one receives, communities put a lot of effort into creating the longest dragons possible. Some dragons are created by having dancers wave long pieces of colourful fabric on poles in undulating patterns. The majority of dragons’ robes are made of sequined, highly coloured cloth that cover the dancers’ bodies from the waist up.
A gaping mouth, which may or may not have the ability to open and shut, is often seen on the head of a dragon. The mouth of the dragon will typically be the source of flames, pyrotechnics, or brilliant lights due to the fact that the Dragon Dance is almost always done at night. Additionally, the body of the dragon will either be lit up or will contain sequins that reflect light in the surrounding area. The act of snatching money from the hands of onlookers is a long-standing custom associated with the Dragon Dance. As it makes its way through the throng, the dragon will make many attempts to stuff money into its mouth. When a spectator wishes to give the dancers a bill with a high amount, they have to hold it high such that it presents a challenge to their dexterity and quickness. There have been instances in which money has been suspended from the windows of the first level, and the dragon dancers have climbed the wall by standing on each other’s shoulders. The Dragon Dance is a stunning performance that is a must-see for everybody who is going to a celebration of Chinese culture, regardless of whether or not money is being provided.