Nanshan Lion Dance

The history of one of the modifications of the original Chinese lion dance

The Nanshan Lion Dance, reminiscent of the Guangdong Lion Dance, is a folk- performance with roots in Shenzhen. At the end of the Qing dynasty, XiangNan Village had a Kylin — a type of Chinese Dragon — dance team, adept at performing traditional Kylin dances. In the 1930s, this team was transformed into a Lion Dance team and began performing Lion Dances instead. In the year 1937, another Lion Dance team was created in NanTou Village, and they frequently performed in neighboring villages and their own.

After the Second Sino- Japanese War, another such team was formed in NanYuan Village, consisting of over one hundred dancers. This team later became one of the most prominent, renowned for its skill and grandeur. As the Lion Dance grew in popularity, more and more dance teams were created, including that of Daxin Village, in 1963. Like the others, the DaXin Lion Dance team performed actively on Chinese holidays. However, many of these dance troupes were short-lived, and by the start of the21st century, the only ones remaining were those of the DaXin, XiangNan and NanYuan Villages.

Traditionally, new Lion Dance groups must partake in a ‘Consecration Ceremony’ operated by the village elder before their first performance. Afterwards, a simple opening ceremony precedes each act, used to give the lion its ‘spirit’.

The Nanshan Lion dance is highly dynamic, consisting of many complex moves. Its most basic step is the ‘wall-stance’. In all, the dance consists mainly of theSi-Ping wall- stance, and is supplemented by additional skip-steps, Kylin-steps, cross-steps, empty- steps, lean-steps, back-steps, mixed-steps, lunges, T-stances among others.

During the dance, the head of the lion and the tail move in synch to the beat of drums and other instruments, forming a delightful performance during which the lion uses eye and mouth movements to reflect its emotions. The dance is made up of 5 sections, which are: the ‘cave-departure’, ‘mountain-climbing’, ‘mountain-patrolling’, and the richest and most interesting of all:’green-picking’ and ‘pole-walking’ and ‘returning’. Yet beyond the traditions passed down through the years, the dance teams have each developed their own specialties, such as XiangNan Village with their ‘Plum Blossom Pole Walking’ and ‘Tall Pole Walking’, NanYuan Village, known for their ‘High Stage Dancing’, and DaXin Village’s lively interpretation of traditional dances.

This piece is a translated work, translated from Chinese to English as part of the Shenzhen Nonmaterial Heritage Project of Shenzhen Polytechnic University and Shenzhen Museum.

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