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Famous dragon dancers pride of Pudong (2)

By Qu Zhi (Shanghai Daily)

09:44, June 04, 2013

Chen Chunhua, 24, joined the dragon dance troupe in 2007. "I wasn't very good at studying and I didn't have much self-respect, but when I carried the dragon and started to dance I have never felt so proud," he says.

After demonstrating his dragon dance skills, Chen was recruited by the Shanghai University of Sport.

Dragon dancing not only takes place in streets, but also in public squares and cultural venues.

Sanlin dragon dance combines dance, athleticism, martial arts, acrobatics and drama.

"Sanlin is one of the founders of modern dragon dance," Lu says.

In some foreign countries dragons represent evil and Lu tries to change that perception. "We have the obligation to inform them that dragon or long is not some cult culture or fierce, horrible monster of the West," he says.

Years ago, Lu and his team performed in France and was surprised that the exotic dragon dance was the most popular show during the event.

"The encores were unprecedented and we came back to perform twice more. Finally, every member was too exhausted to walk," he recalls.

"When we perform outside China, the feeling is very different, maybe because it's all new to the audience. They are so engaged and happy that you want to spread the inspiring quality of the dragon dance," says Wang Lei, a former dancer in the troupe.

The Sanlin team has performed in Europe and Southeast Asia, and at national celebrations such as the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai and at celebrations in 1997 for Hong Kong's return to China.

In Belgium, Lu set up a dragon dance team comprised entirely of Europeans. Dragon dancing has become so popular worldwide that there are regular international competitions and even a rule book.

The Sanlin Dragon and Lion Dance Team is frequently the winner.

"Sanlin people managed to find their own roots by engaging in dragon dancing, expressing strong feelings for their native land as well as a spirit of persistence and struggle," Lu says.

In Sanlin, dragon dance students range in age from four years old to 75 and include women.

"The sense of achievement is beyond words," says Feng Junyan, head of the dragon dance team at Sanlin High School. "I had never before realized the power of all pulling together until I joined the team. And, my family is really proud of me."

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