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English>>China Society

Waking the dragon

(Global Times)

08:09, October 24, 2012

The Huanglongxi Fire Dragon Dance Club do what they do best. Photo: IC

The newly risen sun blazing down upon them, a dozen young men begin training in a traditional courtyard on the outskirts of Chengdu, Sichuan Province. They run through sets of sit-ups and push-ups before lifting heavy buckets, to hone their musculature and balance.

They are not martial artists, or athletes, but dragon dancers belonging to the Huanglongxi Fire Dragon Dance Club. When performing, they strip to their waists and wave dragon-shaped props as fireworks go off above their heads.

In 2010, this folk art was listed as a national intangible cultural heritage.

"No matter whether performing in the scorching heat or in heavy snow, the dancers do not wear coats when performing, so as to avoid being set alight by any stray sparks," the club's manager Zhu Yuan told the Global Times on Tuesday. "Their bodies have been trained to resist fire," he further explained about the risk of burns.

Formerly established in 2010, the club currently has about 40 full-time employees between 16 and 40. The club can also call on more than 200 members to join performances when big events require more hands.

In the past, it was rare to find young people dedicating themselves to this craft and it looked like its future might be bleak. However, after a revival marketing campaign, more youngsters began taking notice.

"When the club was founded, over 300 people came to apply but we only chose 26. Most of the applicants were under 20 years old," said Xie Xianjin, deputy director of the club.

Zhu said they recruited candidates based on their physical strength, constitution and interest in the dance. "Our preferred applicants are around 165 centimeters tall with a strong and flexible body and a dedication to the art," he said.

Dragon dances are often performed during the Spring Festival, accompanied by lion dances, but Zhu's team bare their dragon fangs every day.

Settled at the noted scenic spot of Huanglongxi Ancient Town in Shuangliu county, Chengdu, the club performs to tourists every night.

Their reputation has preceded them overseas and they have been invited for performances in Taiwan and Australia.
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