Dancing and drumming in the Lunar New Year!

The Lunar New Year is a time for festivity and celebration around the world. Celebrations start at the beginning of the lunar month (which changes on the Gregorian calendar). This year, the first day of the Lunar New Year fell on Saturday, 28 January. Each year, the Chinese culture celebrates a different zodiac animal. The year 2017 is the year of the Rooster.

The festival is heavy with performing arts, full of symbolism and representative of the Chinese culture.

The Dragon Dance is performed by a team of dancers who manipulate a long flexible figure of a dragon using poles positioned at regular intervals along the length of the dragon. The dance team simulates the imagined movements of this river spirit that brings good fortune.

Performing in a dragon dance team incorporates multiple skill sets; like all performing arts, it requires training as a team, acrobatics, and dance. As a performing arts medicine specialist, I also examine the physical risks. These dancers are at high risk for injury. The performers are out in the sun or rain, in outdoor arenas full of concrete and uneven surfaces, often interacting with the crowd in an improvisational manner.

The festival is also full of music. The drum is heavily featured and the dancing is set to the beats of a percussion ensemble. In ancient China, drums were seen as all-powerful magic weapons, and were first used in battle. They are now used in folk art and festivals to express the spirit of the Chinese people.

The festivals also include other types of traditional Chinese instruments like this bamboo percussion instrument. These instruments are played by horizontally shaking the unit and thereby producing a multi tonal sound. When played as a unit with singing, the music produced is complex and beautiful.