GK Featured in the Sampan Newspaper

Image courtesy of Mary “Molly” Finn
Image courtesy of Mary “Molly” Finn

In last week’s issue of the Sampan Newspaper, the GK Dragonettes were featured in an article re-capping the Boston Chinatown Lunar New Year Festival. Beautiful photo!

Chinatown rings in Lunar New Year
By Mary “Molly” Finn

On a bright and crisp morning, the greater Chinatown community gathered in Philips Square to begin the Year of the Horse with good fortune and luck on Feb. 9. Several local leaders and community sponsors greeted the crowd in Chinese and English for a productive new year and appreciation for the traditional performances.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh pledged to work with his council to make sure long-term residents can stay in Chinatown.

Boston District 2 city councilor Bill Linehan thanked Chinatown families, residents of District 2, for their support. Linehan said the Year of the Horse is symbolic for him because he has been called a “cowboy.” Linehan hoped the next year embodied the strong and energetic qualities of a horse, full of prosperity.

Michelle Wu, the first Asian female Boston city councilor-at-large wished the crowd a happy new year. Malden Mayor Gary Christenson, captured the crowd’s attention as he read his speech, composed entirely in Mandarin. And Lisa Wong, mayor of Fitchburg, reminded people that the most important thing is family. She asked for help wishing her grandmother, a late Chinatown resident, “Gong hei fat choi!” or good luck and prosperity.

The dances were full of color and energy as the lions jumped around the stage. Ultimately a lion tossed an orange, a symbol of prosperity, to a lucky young member in the crowd. Of the six acts, one featured Gund Kwok, the first all-women’s lion dance club, taking the stage with two bright yellow lions and their tamer. Recently recognized on NPR, Gund Kwok has expanded the Chinese tradition of martial arts here in Boston from a historically male-dominated sport.

Phuni Meston held her younger daughter and swayed to the beat of the drum to keep warm as the lion dancers performed. This is her younger daughter’s second Chinese New Year celebration. Her husband, Eddy, studied kung fu for more than two decades at the White Crane School, formally known as Woo Ching’s Bak Hok Pai, which performed at the event.

Meston said it was “so important to expose my daughters to kung fu to find balance in life and maintain a cultural connection” to their heritage. Having grown up in Taiwan, she saw much political strife; meanwhile, cultural traditions, dance and celebrations sustained the people throughout the years.

The cultural performances celebrated Chinese New Year, which officially began Jan. 31.

Visit Sampan.org for the original article.

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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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