Barongsai, the Lion Dance


Barongsai may be commonplace on New Year's Day in other Asian counties, but they are normally called to private homes or private parties for viewing in Indonesia. Barongsai is a large dragon-like puppet measuring between four to six meters that is manned by three or four dancers. The dancer that controls the head of the Barongsai must be well versed in Kung Fu as many of the steps in the dance resemble Kung Fu movements. Performers must have great strength and endurance when using the larger dragons as they can weigh up to several hundred kilograms.

A Barongsai troop, consisting of at least 10 people, will arrive in a truck and the accompanying orchestra can be heard long before the arrival. Drums, bells and symbols provide music for the dance. Families are happy to be visited by Barongsai because they feel it will bring them good luck. At the completion of the dance the spectators place ang pau in the mouth of the Barongsai in appreciation for the performance. Depending on the organization backing the troop, most of the money collected is used for social work. With increasing freedom to celebrate their traditional customs, Indonesian Chinese can now even find special promotions in some Jakarta shopping malls during the Chinese New Year season which may include a barongsai performance.

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