In the depths of winter, most New Englanders tend to slip into a modern hibernation, which includes quality time with the couch, a warm blanket and an old movie. The opposite was true on Saturday, however, when the Rhode Island Kung Fu Club (RIKFC) awoke the sleepy spirits at Han Palace on West Shore Road with the Lion Dance, ushering in the Chinese New Year.
Several patrons got a pleasant surprise when colorful lions danced through the restaurant during lunch to the beat of a large drum. Others had shown up from around the neighborhood to catch a closer look at the festivities. Even waves and beeping horns came from passing cars.
Performing the Lion Dance is no easy task and members of the RIKFC, led by Luyi Shao, rely on their intense Kung Fu training. According to the RIKFC, performers use their acquired skills in conjunction with the driving force of the drum, cymbals and gongs to carry out this traditional dance.
Han Palace manager Keith Lau said that the Lion Dance is a traditional Chinese dance done for special occasions. This particular one was held to celebrate Chinese New Year, the Year of the Horse. Other Zodiac animals include the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.
Jamie Lau, Keith’s daughter, said the animals were chosen according to an ancient tradition. “The story is that the gods held a feast for the animals, whichever animal arrived at the feast first, ended up being part of the Zodiac.”
According to Lau, Chinese New Year follows a lunar calendar, rather than the standard calendar used in the United States. This New Year celebration started on January 31 and will end on February 15, which is a full moon. The celebration dates vary annually.
The Lion Dance, according to RIKFC, is performed to ward off negativity and bring about positive energy and good luck. The RIKFC has performed at WaterFire and the Pawtucket Arts Festival, along with several other art installations. RIKFC also performs at business grand openings to bring good luck to the new business.
Lau said that this is the second year RIKFC has performed at Han Palace, which will be celebrating its 25th anniversary this August.