(From left) Selangor and Federal Territory Dragon and Lion Dance Association deputy chairman Lim Ah Chye, Tann and Leong drawing lots for the competition.

THOUGH the art of lion dances began as a cultural tradition, it has since developed into a highly anticipated sporting event.

Teams throughout the country train daily in the months leading up to the 18th Malaysia National Lion Dance Championship, mastering perfectly timed flips and acrobatic stunts to astound judges and viewers alike.

Participants were separated into four regions — north, south, central and East Malaysia, which includes contestants from Sabah and Sarawak.

One of the 61 troupes from the central region competing in the biennial tournament is eight-time world champion Khuan Loke Dragon and Lion Dance Association Sungai Way.

“Our group started taking part in 1986 and we are the third generation of performers,” said team leader Eric Fong.

“We usually train three times a week but with the competition as our target, we started training every night since Chinese New Year to see how we can give life to our performances as the instruments and the ‘lion’ both need to coordinate well.

“We do so, not only with our stunts but also by showing emotions through the dance with the spirit of never giving up, learning from our mistakes,” he said.

The top three champions will then represent the country at the Genting World Lion Dance Championship next year to compete against lion dance troupes from around the world.

Drawing lots at Shaw Parade, Kuala Lumpur to decide which team will compete with each other, Resort World Genting promotions and entertainment vice-president Kevin Tann made comparisons on the international competition’s standards with that of the Olympics.

“We are good at a few things in Malaysia — farming durian, badminton, squash and lion dance.

“Our theme this year is ‘Where World Champions are Born’ because year after year, the Malaysian teams always win, even on the world circuit.

“People may say it is because it is organised by Malaysians, but that is not the case as our judging criteria are very transparent and fair as we have auditors,” he said, giving the example of only non-Malaysians are allowed to judge the Malaysian team.

Over the years, Federation of Selangor and Federal Territory Dragon and Lion Dance Association chairman Leong Lik Thong said the physical and mental strengths needed for each performance brought the traditional dance into the spotlight.

“It is no longer just a cultural tradition but has become a cultural sport recognised by countries all over the world and they use the Genting World Lion Dance Championship as a benchmark for the sport.

“Although the performances are part of the Chinese culture, it is more than that as it trains youths to have discipline, courage and teamwork,” said Leong.

Qualifying rounds for the semi-finals will be held at Viva Home, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur for the northern, southern and central regions on May 19 and 20 and in the Tawau Sports Complex on June 10 for the East Malaysia category.

The participants will then battle it out at the semi-finals and finals at the Arena of Stars, Genting Highlands on Dec 2 at 10am and Dec 3 at 2pm, respectively.

Tickets for the championship semi-finals are priced at RM20 for free seating, while tickets for the finals are priced at RM100 for numbered seats and RM60 for free seating.

Children must be shorter than 95cm to be eligible for the RM10 ticket without seats and children taller than 95cm must purchase tickets according to price scale.

For details, call 03-2718 1118 or visit

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