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Lion dancer makes impact on Chinese Lunar New Year tradition

People around the world on Saturday celebrated the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year, marking the first day of the Year of the Rat, with many celebrations including the traditional "lion dance" to usher in good luck and fortune. In New York City, one young dancer shows how that age-old tradition is being reinvented.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Today marks the Chinese Lunar New Year and the beginning of the year of the Rat. Celebrations will feature the traditional lion dance, ushering in good luck and fortune. In New York, one young dancer is showing how the tradition is being reinvented.

  • Sara Lai:

    Lion Dance started around the Tang Dynasty, most people would point it, which is many, like several hundred years ago. And for the most part, lion dancing is an art that's reserved for martial artists.

    And more often than not, only the best students in a martial arts school could perform under the head. Of course now it's more of a cultural and performance art that's more focused on blessings, going to big events. And most famously, we're there for parades. We're there for Chinese New Year.

    I started at twelve years old. And at twelve years old, it was a very tough uphill battle for me. First of all, I was very introverted. The person that I was at twelve years old would have been a very different person if I'd never picked up lion dance at all.

    Even now, there's not that many women that are visible that play in the head, in the tail. However, in the Freemasons, we do try to change that. We do try to recruit women. I had all of these thoughts. I had all these doubts lingering on me and I had to face them head on. Like, any girl can do this. Like, if a 15 year old boy can do this, a girl should be able to do this. I shouldn't be a spectacular case. I shouldn't be the exception. There's segments in society where there's not a lot of girl presence. But I'd like to change that.

    There is some sense of power when I get on the head because I get to express myself. Nobody can see me so I can act how I want, I can play how I want. If I want to do kicks, I'll do that. And if I want to mess around with other people, I'll do that. There's a there's a sort of freedom.

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