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Infusing Indonesian culture into lion dance

Lion dance has become more than just a celebration of Chinese culture in Indonesia, as a group of Indonesians are infusing local culture into their performances.

JAKARTA: Around the world, lion dancers take centre stage during Lunar New Year festivities.

But lion dance has become more than just a celebration of Chinese culture in Indonesia, as a group of Indonesians are infusing local culture into their performances.

Samuel Gunawan, a trainer at Indonesian Wing Chun Martial Arts Association, said: "The traditional songs we use, for example, are Jali-Jali, Kicir-Kicir, Bengawan Solo or Balinese traditional music such as the one used for the Kecak dance.

“We combine the music. The lion dancers not only carry out acrobatic stunts but also dance to the music."

The dancers perform to traditional songs from Jakarta for their familiarity, and from Bali as it also has its own traditional lion dance.

Aside from having great stamina, a performer must be as agile and graceful as a dancer.

Lion dancers in Indonesia say they require over a year of training before they can perform in front of the public.

This is because in order to become a good lion dancer, one will need to have good upper body strength, flexibility, endurance and speed.

Johan Trianto, a lion dancer, said: "We learn from observing how lions move and how they jump. We try to imitate a lion's expression."

Although lion dancing has been accepted as a global sport for many years, it is now being proposed for acceptance into the Olympics.

Since last year, it has been considered a sport in Indonesia and groups are now setting their sights on competing with the very best on the world stage, while providing some unique entertainment during the Lunar New Year celebrations. 

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