Monday, January 25, 2010

The Tiger Dance Leapes In

The Year of the Tiger brings with it an exciting tiger dance.

Just as Tiger Beer has always been associated with winning, the Year of the Tiger is a year that is geared towards renewed prosperity, accomplishment and all-around success.

With the new lunar year just around the corner, one can expect the celebrations to soon intensify. One celebration that is bound to catch the eye is the tiger dance, which is making its début in the country this year.

Introduced by Master Siow Ho Phiew, the tiger dance will complement the other long-established dances of Chinese New Year, the lion and dragon dances.

So what is the story behind this new dance?

Well, it’s actually not such a new dance. The tiger dance originated centuries ago in China. It has a style and choreography that is similar to the lion dance. Tigers have long been regarded as a majestic symbol of authority and is sometimes even revered as a deity, being dubbed the “God of Wealth”.

Tigers are believed to bring financial luck, so it’s no surprise that the tiger dance is much sought after during the start of the lunar new year as a symbolic way to ward off bad luck and spirits, and to usher in safety, prosperity and a successful year.

According to one source, the tiger dance originated about 300 years ago in the village of Lo Wu in Hainan. The village was at the time ruled by a celebrated female leader, Madam Xi. One of the ceremonies conducted whenever the local militia was about to leave the village for an expedition was the tiger dance.

Madam Xi and her troops were widely praised for restoring peace to Hainan, petitioning for governance in the town of Ya Zhou, and bringing new agricultural technology to the village.

To commemorate Madam Xi’s achievements, the villagers later made a habit of re-enacting the tiger dances performed during the launching of her military expeditions.

As with the lion dance, most tiger dance performances feature a pair of tigers, usually with two skilled martial arts exponents operating each tiger. The tiger dance starts off with the symbolic dotting of the eyes to “bring it (the tiger) to life”.

During the dance, the two tigers face off in a mock display of aggression with acrobatic movements that mimic those of actual tigers. The dancers’ athletic prowess, martial art skill and coordination are what count.

Not surprisingly, the tiger dance is visually striking.

Just as in the lion dance, the tiger dance usually makes use of props such as pillars and platforms on which the tigers negotiate and leap as they spar. This year, for the first time ever, the tiger dance is making its début in Malaysia to commemorate the Year of the Tiger, courtesy of Tiger Beer.

Be sure to look out for it.

Tiger début

The tiger dance was brought to Malaysia by Master Siow Ho Phiew who trained the first troupe here three months ago.

According to him, “Before this, the tiger dance was not known at all in Malaysia, as we already have the lion and dragon dances. However, with the Year of the Tiger around the corner, it’s a great time for the tiger dance to make its début.”

Where will the tiger dance be performed?

The tiger dance is featured in a local Chinese movie sponsored by Tiger Beer called Woohoo! which is about a group of young men who train in the art in order to perform at a special ceremony held once every 60 years.

The dance has featured in a number of Tiger Beer’s Year of the Tiger launches. There will be more such performances in numerous locations across the country including Penang, the Klang Valley, Ipoh, Ma lacca and Johor Baru.

Is the dance being adapted to Malaysia?

“A majority of the moves from the tiger dance have been improvised. It makes sense for us to try new styles and techniques in the creation of Malaysia’s first tiger dance. If I only followed what has already been done, there would be no creativity or innovation,” says Master Siow.

o Tiger now sports a new vibrant look that reflects its acclaimed status. Tiger has won admirers from around the world since 1932 with its distinctive clean and crisp taste.

It has won more than 40 international medals, including the prestigious Brewing Industry International Award.

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