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The town that makes the lion dance its own

AFTER winning seven gold medals in the National Lion Dance Competitions, the Sanlin lion dance has been a drawcard for the town.

Many wonder how this town in Shanghai's Pudong New Area leads China in this ancient folk dance which is still popular in many parts of the country.

Lu Dajie, the coach and director of the Sanlin Lion Dance Center, gives his answer. "You perform it with your heart," he says.

The lion dance, usually performed as a ceremony to exorcise evil spirits and to summon luck and fortune, comes in a wide variety of colors and has a distinctive head with large eyes, a mirror on the forehead and a single horn at center of the head.

The dance is closely related to Chinese kung fu and is combined with acrobatic movements and difficult stunts, requiring strict training.

After being a Chinese folk dance teacher for decades, Lu mixed elements from dance into this old art form. "Innovation is only way out," he says.

The Sanlin dances feature multi-colored dragons with fire and fluorescence and new approach to costuming.

Since 1994, its lion dance has won many prizes and awards in national contests. In 2004, Sanlin was officially named the "Town of the Lion Dance" by China's State General Administration of Sport.

The dance team was invited to perform for the political leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in 2001; it has also stepped onto stages in Germany and France.

Currently the town has more than 20 dance teams for official performances. Last year, the lion dance center taught more than 3,000 people to take part in this ancient art form.


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