Within the first few days of 2016 I received a good news from my friend Robert about the Chinese community in Kolkata celebrating the Chinese New Year 2016 with a Lion Dance Festival. Previously I had seen lion dance at the Elder’s Day celebration but to see it in an open platform would be something really different. This would also mean that for the first time I would be attending this Lion Dance festival in the first place.
The event was slated for 31st of January 2016 and exactly two days before the event I get a confirmation message from Indian Chinese Association (ICA) that I have been selected as one of their official photographer and blogger. This privilege entitles me to access the main stage at a closer range thus ensuring the best possible angles for photographing the acts.
A day before that is on Saturday I had to attend two photo walks back to back. One for IIM Calcutta for their annual Carpe Diem fest and the other a Ghost Walk. The Ghost Walk obviously started at night and ended at around 2.30 AM. By now I had walked almost twenty kilometres and was completely dead tiered. I was worried that all these would definitely have some repercussion the next day for the Lion Dance Festival. However luckily the next morning I was completely fine and full of energy.
Sunday morning is always hectic with all the preparations for the next week etc. Had a quick lunch and was ready by 3 PM to depart for the venue. In the meantime got a call from Indrajit, a fellow blogger that he was also attending the event. We planned to meet up at Central Metro Station and head to the venue directly.
St Josephs College Kolkata
This year the venue had shifted from Tiretti Bazar to St. Joseph’s College, this new location was unknown to both of us but with the help of GPS on our mobile and some friendly passer-by we managed to locate the college in no time. We had actually reached the venue at around 3.30 PM when it was still being prepared for the final show.
Since I had met Indrajit after a long time so with had a lot to catch up and did not mind the early arrival. In the meantime we saw some of the participants practising, later I came to know that these students were from Taiwan.
Chinese Lion Dance
The show was scheduled to start from 5 PM and it started exactly at this precise hour with the Lion Dance by Fitness Lion Group. The White Lion greeted the guests with its precise moves. People often mistake Lion Dance with Dragon Dance, these are actually two different dance forms. In Lion Dance the two operators are not seen and hidden inside the costume, only at the last the operators show their face when the audience stands up for the applause. While in Dragon Dance all the many operators can be seen as they use a stick or a pole to move the dragon form.
In this particular opening act Lettuce leaves were placed on a table which symbolises the tradition “Cai Qing” which means “Plucking the Greens”. The lion approaches the lettuce suspiciously and the entire act happens in synchronization with the beat of the cymbals. The lion finally eats the lettuce and spits out the shredded lettuce guest which is a symbol of good luck for the New Year to come.
After this Mr Paul Chung, the President of Indian Chinese Association gave his welcome speech. With his wish and blessings the next part of the scheduled program started.
The guest of honour Mr Ma Zhanwu, the Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Kolkata took the stage next to give thanks and wish all a very Happy New Year.
Chinese Fan Dance
Thomas Chen took the stage next with his opening song Méihuā accompanied by Fan Dance Group. This is a very popular song originally sung by Teresa Teng.
This was followed by the Diary Release by Mr Paul Chung, Mr Ma Zhanwu and Professor Maria Fernandes. After the release the diaries were open for sale and surprisingly all the diaries had a numbered boom mark and from time to time a Lucky Dip was being conducted with attractive gifts.
I got myself a copy of the diary and although I did not win in the Lucky Dip but got a bigger reward when I saw a photograph that I had clicked during the Elder’s Day being featured in the diary with my credit. This was a real big honour, something much more than the Lucky Dip.
Next was something really sweet, young children took to the stage and performed New Year song. Thomas Chen was seen directing these children from opposite side of the stage.
A special group of students from Taiwan performed a Chinese song with a group dance. This was something new which I had never seen earlier. This was the same group of students who I had seen earlier in the day practising in the courtyard.
Thomas Chen took to the stage with the famous Chinese song “Wen Bie”. Originally this song was sung by Zhang Xue You (Jacky Cheung). The same song was also sung by MLTR (Michael Learns to Rock) in their English rendition “Take me to your heart“.
Mikhaila Gomes & Leona Lazarus took to the stage next with the English song “Photograph”.
It was now turn for Thomas Chen along with Irene Meghani and small children to turn up the beat with some sizzling Bolywood numbers.
Dorris, Dennis & Vanessa put up a Bollywood dance mix “Sun Saathiya” from movie ABCD 2. The crowds by now was full and enjoying every moment of it.
Another famous singer Evan Wu lighted up the stage with his rendition of “Jeena Jeena”.
Lion group – Fitness Club put up a beautifully choreographed drum sequence. The talented James Liao with other youngsters put up a sensational performance much to the cheer of the crowd.
Shane and his dance troupe put up some wonderful and innovative choreography. It looked as if members from ABCD movie team had come down to perform the wonderful stunts.
Drunken Lion Dance
Then there was the famous Drunken Lion Dance, I had seen the same performance earlier and each time it gets better and better. The Lion dancers then got off the stage to perform right in front of the audience. Some even passed on Oranges to the guests which is considered auspicious gift. This was followed by a group lion dance which spread the word “All wishes come true”.
All this made me real hungry and I headed straight to the food court for some lip smacking Chinese food.
In the meantime Shane and his troupe kept the audience enthralled with some careful martial arts move.
Next Chinese Lanterns were lit and let off to the open sky.
The evening ended with the last act for the day, children performed beautifully with drum beats.