They leapt. They slipped. They tumbled. But still the atmosphere crackled with thunderous applause and shouts of approval. The annual Sixth International Lion Dance Competition 2013 saw eleven teams battle it out for the grand prize of $5,000.
The competition was held at Banda Street in Chinatown on Saturday evening as part of the Chinese New Year activities organised by the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens’ Consultative Committee.
With a clash of the gong, the teams from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and new entrant Vietnam took to the stage, with the Singapore teams receiving rousing applause from the audience. The troupes impressed with their skills and showmanship, displaying their technical prowess with fluidity and grace, as well as teasing the audience.
Sure-footed on the stilts they may have been, but mistakes were unavoidable. Lee Kai Ming, 17, from Singapore’s Yiwei Association troupe, induced a collective gasp from the audience when he fell from a 2.3m-high stilt, but boldly mounted the stage again. He explained that the fall was due to “unstable” stilts and a leg injury he was still nursing. “It was a fall, but you just have to climb back up. It’s all about sportsmanship.”
After a gruelling six hours of competition, Taiwanese troupe Xin Zhuang Guyi clinched the top prize, with teams from Hong Kong and China coming in second and third respectively. The rest of the teams were unranked. Amid the sea of muscular males, Xin Zhuang Guyi featured a female drummer. Ms Lin Yu Qing, 21, who is also the team’s assistant coach, said that she has been honing her craft since she was six as part of a “tradition, a family business”.
Mr Lu Mei Ji, coach of Xin Zhuang Guyi, remarked that he wasn’t satisfied with the team’s performance despite winning the top prize. But as this was its first time in Singapore, he was “happy that they’ve given their best”.
Enjoying in the festive cheer were plenty of non-local faces. French expatriate Maxime Blein, 29, specially made his way down to Chinatown to catch the action. He said: “This is really something you have to come here to see and enjoy. We love it.”
This article was first published in The New Paper on January 28, 2013.