Gund Kwok women’s lion dance troupe welcomes physical and mental challenges

Gund Kwok Asian Women's Lion and Dragon Dance Troupe
Sampan Newspaper feature printed on June 7, 2013

We were recently interviewed by Sampan Newspaper, New England’s Only Chinese-English Newspaper, for an article.

Gund Kwok women’s lion dance troupe welcomes physical and mental challenges
by Ling-Mei Wong

Lion dancing is one heck of a workout, as the members of Gund Kwok can attest. Meaning “heroine” in Chinese, the Asian women’s lion dance and dragon dance group is only one of its kind in the United States.

“Our mission is about Asian women’s empowerment,” said founder Cheng Imm Tan. “We’re giving and providing a space for women to push themselves physically, mentally and emotionally.”

Founded in 1998, the group started with lion dancing and added dragon dancing. A total of 24 women are in the troupe, with a team for lion dance and another for dragon dance. Some women do both teams, Tan said.

“You don’t think you can do 20 pushups, but with the encouragement of other women, you can do it,” Tan said. “We show the rest of the world that Asian women are strong. Traditionally lion dance was forbidden to women as a sport, because people thought women were weak and did not have discipline.”

Lion dance involves two dancers, with one as the head and the other as the body, led by a happy “Buddha” representing a monk who tames the lion. Dragon dance has more dancers perform as the body, by carrying it on poles. Dances are accompanied by gongs, drums and cymbals to represent the lion’s fierce roar and frighten away evil spirits.

“It is all about teamwork,” Tan said “You can’t really do it alone. We do it with support of other women to give them inspiration.”

The troupe practices weekly at the China Trade Building, 2 Boylston Street, to practice kicks, build strength and boost camaraderie.

“My quads are still sore from last night’s warm-up and face-off drills,” wrote Gund Kwok member Lillian Chan in the group’s blog on May 3. (She also draws the “Empty Bamboo Girl” comic strip for Sampan.) “After a pretty intense warm-up of cardio, sprints and a whole lot of abs, we started moving all the stuff from the music room out.”
To sign up, women must enroll in a 10-week trial class. After learning the basics of lion and dragon dance, they perform a routine during their graduation and then decide whether to be a member. Members must attend 75 percent of practices and commit to a number of performances.

Gund Kwok usually is invited to 18 to 24 performances a year, which depend on demand. Women volunteer; performance fees go toward equipment and charities that empower women and girls.

“We want women to reclaim their strength and all of their abilities,” Tan said.

Original article can be found on the Sampan website.

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