The sounds of drums pounding and cymbals crashing reverberated through Bartlett as two dancers from the Wah Lum Kung Fu of Knoxville marched through Isaac’s Cafe under a traditional Chinese lion costume on Jan. 16.
The traditional American New Year is Jan. 1, and the Chinese Lunar New Year is on Jan. 25 this year, so Jan. 16 was the perfect date to celebrate because it is right in the middle of the two. Legend has it that the lion will bring luck wherever it dances; Study Abroad Ambassadors (SAA) coordinated this event to spread this luck on campus and get the semester off to a good start.
As students were filing into Isaac’s Cafe, a member of the Wah Lum Kung Fu hung a clump of lettuce in the doorway, which elicited many confused looks. The same man took his place behind a huge barrel drum and posed with drumsticks crossed; another Kung Fu artist held cymbals in front of her, and two dancers in black and red frilled pants climbed beneath a long lion costume with a theatrical mask.
Chinese Lion Dancer- Wah Lum Kung Fu of Knoxville dancer helps MC student don the lion mask.
Photo taken by Brandi Coley
The dancers slinked around the room following the ebbing rhythm created by the drums, and the cymbals set the speed. The lion’s immense head got close to audience members, making them laugh. The wagging tail of the lion made the audience laugh even harder. The peak of the dance was when the lion gobbled up the lettuce from the doorway and spit it out around the room.
“It was one of the most unique things I’ve seen at MC,” said Bailey Ensley, a freshman child development major. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Kamea Nash, freshman American Sign Language and deaf studies major, came to the event with her Honors Tutorial Training class.
“Watching that dance was an interesting experience,” she said. “It was different than going to class!”
After the dance was over, the dancers let MC students and other audience members try on the lion mask or get under the draping fabric of the lion’s back. The dancers showed people how to blink the massive eyes and open and close the mouth. Everybody was delighted.
The lion dancing was one of the first events of the series hosted by SAA and Global Citizens Organization for the International Education Month. These groups have put on a movie night, game night, study abroad application workshops, multiple panels for the World Coffee Cup Tuesdays and are even hosting an international dance party on Jan. 31.
Another event to look forward to is an interactive performance of traditional African drumming hosted by SAA and the Black Student Alliance on Feb. 5. Be sure to come out and show your support!