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Lion Dance at The Loft, Waterfront, KK

The Chinese New Year celebrations in Kota Kinabalu (KK) continue with firework and Lion Dances in seemingly random locations. I had the good fortune of knowing the time and date of Lion Dance at the The Loft, in Kota Kinabalu’s Waterfront.

The Loft is an English themed pub located in KK’s Waterfront, a strip of bars and restaurants facing the sea, immediately in front of Warisan Square. The location is ideal for sunset cocktails, birthday parties, watching sports on the big screen, or just for a quiet drink. The Loft is one of Kota Kinabalu’s (KK) better known pubs and makes for a great night out.

Julia, Louren, Phyllis - Smiling nicely while we wait for the lionsJaco, Erika, Ollie - Blue Steele Pouting Competition (Winner: Ollie)Ollie falling for the oldest trick in the book…

Anyway, the Lion Dance Troupe arrived a little later than what we had expected, but sitting at one table, myself, Julia, Phyllis, Louren, Ollie and Erika found ways to amuse ourselves (refer to the pics for silly faced detail).

Eventually, and quite unexpectedly, the dancing started with a dragon that whirred through The Loft. By this time, packed with expectant onlookers, The Loft was quite busy and the screams and cheers attracted more passers-by.

Lions invading The Loft to mingle and danceFollowing the dragon and it’s accompanying dance, a few lions appeared and mulled through the crowd in flashes from cameras that lit up the dark outside of The Loft. I’m not sure if they all arrived at once an was just not visible through the crowd, or whether more and more lions joined perhaps one at a time, but eventually The Loft was overrun by at least 8 lions.

One of the lions tending bar…Lions, in Chinese Tradition, brings good luck to an establishment. The idea of fireworks during Chinese New Year is to chase away bad luck and ward off evil spirits, and having lions dance in your premises bring good luck and prosperity to your business, the premises and, by extension, your patrons. Loads of lions therefore offers loads of luck.

The myth debunked: Inside a Chinese LionAfter the lions went upstairs, down stairs, behind the bar, in between patrons, outside, and everywhere, a structure appeared. A series of metal beams welded about 1m apart in varying height, could only mean one thing: a daring, breathtaking Lion Dance display. The excitement was palpable.

The drums started beating and on of the lions hopped onto the lowest beams and started to dance around effortlessly, light footed from beam to beam as if it was dancing on the floor.

The lions used in these dances consists of two people. The guy in the front holds the detailed and beautiful head, of which the eyes, ears and mouth can move, and the guy in the back, which is the hind-legs of the animal. The tail can also move, but in this display dance on the beams, it’s mostly not important. Both wear leggings decorated the same as the lion’s body and the best (and most expensive lions), also have specially made feet.

Up on the beam and looking mean.The lion towering high in front of The Loft’s crowdDaring manoeuvres as the two parts of the lion jumps high in the air from beam to beam

The lion we were witnessing was a top-class lion and was meticulously decorate from head to toe. Several times their daring manoeuvres had us think they were going to fall over, or off, or snap their legs, but every time it was exactly as planned. The crowd were on their feet and gasping with each dramatic over balance when they show to be still in control when we all thought they lost it.

After a daring display and jumping from one end of the beam-structure to the other, the lion was done, and the public had an opportunity to don the costumes and dance around to the kuching-tak-kuching rhythm of the drummers. I jumped at the opportunity and offered to be Erika’s behind – and so we danced (short video attached).

The after a few minutes both Erika and myself were already tired, testimony to the skill and effort of the lion who moments ago did daring tricks on the beam.

The Chinese New Year celebrations continue for 15 days after the day of Chinese New Year and culminates in Chap Goh Mei, which in South-East Asia is also known as Chinese Valentine’s day. In China, this festival is called Yuan Xiao Jie or Lantern Festival, but is also considered Chinese Valentine’s Day. Chap Goh Mei is a Hokkien term and literally translates to 15th Day of the Year. Chap Goh Mei also sees the first full moon of the Chinese New Year.

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