Lion dance is popular in the East as well as in the West. Gee Yung International Martial Arts Dragon and Lion Dance Association display great example of spreading the art of lion dancing. Sifu Harlan Lee currently helms the association and has successfully spread the art to various parts of the USA, and Asia. Sifu Harlan share with us his experience and teaching.
1. When did you started lion dancing? How did it started?
Sifu Harlan: Back in the early days our Association did not purchase Lion Heads for my size. I was age 5yrs and was always fascinated with the Lion Dance. So I would mimic the lion playing with our laundry basket and tied on a blanket to be the tail. I would always look forward to CNY’s as this is when I would be able to view the Lion Dancing. I pushed myself to play with the size 2 Lions at age 12yrs. It looked funny at first as the head was bigger then my legs. But I wanted to perform and was determined to accomplish my dream of being a lion dancer.
My father was my Sifu who inherited the school we have now. Gee Yung Chinese Physical Culture Association from his Sifu “Lum Dai Yung” back in his passing on 1956. We are the 2nd oldest Martial Arts Association in Hawaii established in 1941. We first practiced the Fut San style of Lion Dancing until 1998 when I was introduced to Master Siow. Then with his teaching we converted to Hok San style. Since then we have been visiting Master Siow every year to enhance our style along with our brother School Khuan Loke. In 2003 I did the Bai Si ceremony in Singapore in front of my Sar Ping Sigung Chan Siew Kee to become Master Siow disciple.
In 2001 Gee Yung Chinese Physical Culture Association had been renamed to Gee Yung Chinese Martial Arts, International Sar Ping Dragon & Lion Dance Sports Association
2. There are many people relating lion dance to other unwelcoming activities. What is your opinion about lion dance?
Sifu Harlan: Lion Dance itself is a good cardiovascular workout for the youth as well as adults to better their health and well being. It is safe, fun and has shown to bring everyone together in camaraderie. We also bring happiness to the elderly when we perform for the Senior homes since they are unable to come out to celebrate CNY’s. Lion Dance as a whole brings excitement, fascination, laughter, focus and fun to both old and young.
3. How is the lion dance scene in the USA? What is the most common event your team gets to perform?
Sifu Harlan: Lion Dancing in the USA was always popular with the Chinese youth during CNY’s. But the with the influence of overseas Lion Dance Championships and YouTube. It has been overwhelmingly popular with other cultures. The only problem I have seen is that overnight Lion schools have been coming up. They don’t have the proper training and try to learn everything from watching YouTube performances. They also don’t know the culture & religious aspects of the lion dancing. With no proper training they downgrade the art of Lion Dancing.
We perform on a weekly basis for Weddings, 1st Birthdays and Grand Openings. But everyone looks forward to CNY’s as this is when we can come out and show our Culture to the whole population.
4. What would you like to do more to help promote this cultural art?
Sifu Harlan: Teach it to whomever is open to learn this ancient art. We do not discriminate race or culture.
We also do a lot of Community Service performances so that the public can witness the art of Lion Dancing.
5. What will you say to a parent whom discourage his/her child from learning lion dance?
Sifu Harlan: The art of Lion Dancing would not be where it is today without teachers that past the art to our youth. It is a fun experience as well as a learning one of History, Customs and Culture. It is safe to learn while at the same time keeps them in shape. It teaches them discipline, Integrity, Loyalty, Honor and Self Development.
6. Can you share how do you motivate yourself and your team?
Sifu Harlan: We always strive to be the best that we possibly can be. Self improvement is a everyday learning process. To challenge yourself to improve everyday and not sit on your laurels that you are good already. The Chinese have a saying that if you think you have seen a big mountain there is always a bigger one. This keeps us humble but yet helps us to always strive to be the best we are capable of.
7. Any advise that you would like to give to the next generation?
Sifu Harlan: I tell all of our students that this is an ancient art that not many people are able to learn without resource and knowledge given to them. We are very fortunate to be under and taught by a Master that is World re-known. Who has given his time to spread the art of Lion Dancing to the next generation. It is our duty to not let this past away and to continue the heritage and culture so that Lion Dancing will continue to flourish world wide.