There’s nothing quite like being the legs of a lion, said Dan Tran.
Two dancers don the traditional Lunar New Year costume together, ducking and weaving in time to a drumbeat. The 18-year-old Olympia resident said the partners have to dance as one, with one person operating the lion’s head and the other acting as the hindquarters.
“It’s surreal; there’s nothing like it,” Tran said. “I can’t explain it, but you almost feel like you’re part of a lion.”
He explained that the purpose of the Lion Dance is to scare away bad luck and welcome good luck for the next year.
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Tran and about 20 other male dancers experienced this sensation several times Saturday, dancing at several Thurston County businesses. This year, Lunar New Year began Thursday, but the group continued the celebration into the weekend.
One of their afternoon performances took place at Emperor’s Palace restaurant on Martin Way. Restaurant co-owner John Nhan said that he and his customers love having the dancers perform.
“It’s a part of our tradition, and it makes us feel so lucky,” Nhan said.
Son Tran said dancers from Chua Lien Hoa, a Vietnamese Buddhist temple in Olympia, have celebrated the Lunar New Year with the Lion Dance for the past 25 years. He said many dancers start in a younger group when they’re about 6 years old. Once they’re too old to dance with both groups, some help coordinate the dances, he said.
Hien Duong, who grew up in Olympia but now lives in Seattle, said he’s been involved with the program for about 20 years. He started off as a dancer, but now he’s a coordinator.
“It’s a great part of our culture, and it’s what we grew up with,” Duong said. “It’s a great community, and all of these boys are like my brothers.”