Rhythmic drumming fills the air, fireworks crackle and bang, a gong sounds, the scent of incense and smoke wafts through the Gates of Harmonious Interest. When the mythical lion leaps and dances through Chinatown as part of the Chinese New Year Celebration on Feb. 2, it will be the Wong Sheung Hung Fut Kung Fu Club members bringing it to life.
“Traditionally all lion dancers are kung fu practitioners as the basis of the lion dance is a series of stances derived from kung fu,” says Terrence Lim.
The senior student and instructor has been with the Wong Sheung club for nine years.
Upwards of a dozen students take part in the club’s lion dance workshops while at other times of the year it can be as few as two people.
“Not all students are interested in the lion dance at first but we heavily insist on participation. Usually every student comes around to it.”
Others show interest in the lion dance, or the drumming that goes with it, but only those with kung fu and martial arts backgrounds need apply.
“We are a diverse group that changes, often with a lot of university students who eventually leave,” Lim says. “We are for hire but we also do charity and non-paid events.”
They’re an annual fixture at the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival and have been asked to perform for an event at the Royal Conservatory of Music this winter.
From Monday to Thursday, students and instructors train in the ways of kung fu. And on Friday nights their Government Street studio is a place where lions prance and drums pound. The club has been the home of the lion dance in Victoria since 1974, the year Sigung Wong Sheung started the club. He died in 2001, but the tradition and his legacy continue.
There is more to the lion’s New Year dance than onlookers might gather. For example, should a shop owner want to feed the lion lettuce, a common occurrence to bring luck, the lion will tip off the drums with a non-verbal cue before proceeding.
They feed off each other, as the drums cue the lion and the lion cues the drums, Lim says.
A lion dance team is comprised of lion dancers and percussionists on the drum, cymbal and gong, and, though optional, a Buddha.
Be there at noon as the procession takes an approximate 1.5 hour journey through Victoria’s Chinatown.
The mythical lion dances through Chinatown as part of Chinese New Year celebrations
Feb. 2 at noon.