Generally, companies would arrange for Lion Dance performance for opening ceremonies, milestone events, cultural performance and Chinese New Year. During CNY, the Lion Dance troup would get very busy.
There was few years where I helped to organize the Lion Dance performance for my department. I would share my experience and at provide the Lion Dance company that our company have engaged for a number of years.
Here are some of the experience that I have gone though when organizing for my office. Hope this may help you if you find yourself thrown into a situation like me.
Source of photo above: shengwai.com
1. Pick a good date for Lion Dance
Lion Dance is not done just for the sake of cultural performance. It is important to pick a good date for Lion Dance. In the Chinese cosmology, there are some dates that are considered inauspicious and some are auspicious.
If the Lion Dance is performed on an inauspicious date, the drums and loud noise may awaken bad energy or chi which may cause more bad than good. I have known of a department that picked the wrong date for Lion dance …. and that year, the department encountered a lot of obstacles and sales went down.
Don’t just simply (cincai) choose a date to please everyone. If it is for opening ceremony or groundbreaking event, it is better to consult a proper feng shui master to get the best date.
For our office, we don’t have the budget to engage a feng shui master. I usually referred to Joey Yap’s feng shui calendar which carries listing of good and bad dates. I have the calendar because I buy it for one of my former bosses and I would borrow the calendar to refer for the Lion Dance date. I avoid the inauspicious dates as stated in the calendar. For those who do not have the calendar, I guess the daily old fashioned calendar like below can help as well (you may ask around some Chinese colleagues whose homes may have this type of calendar):
Note: I bought the calendar above for RM13.80 from Popular bookstore because I could not get a free one this year.
Don’t expect the Lion Dance company to advise you on the date – the date and time is something that you need to provide to them.
Usually auspicious dates would be quickly snatched up so this leaves to point # 2 below:
2. Source for the Lion Dance early- if possible at least 2 to 3 months before CNY
I apologise that this article was written a little too close for CNY. From experience, I know it is hard to source for a good Lion Dance company by now as it less than 3 weeks from CNY. Hopefully it would help for future preparation.
If you have engaged the lion dance troop before, they may send you email again to remind sometime in December for the following year’s performance.
The closer you are to the date of performance, the less options that you have. Hence it is better to have a few time and dates ready so that you have more available options when setting the date with the company.
I am not sure if your company requires you to submit for prior approval or to have at least a few quotations. If it is required, then the earlier it is done, the more peace of mind you would have.
3. Requirements for Lion Dance
When you contact the troop, aside from the date and time, they would check on the complexity of the performance. How many lions? Any specific colours for the lions? Do you need the God of Prosperity or Big Buddha Head? Do you require acrobat performance (ie jumping on poles)?
Is it a large area that the troop need to cover?
The prices varies depending on your requirement. You would need to discuss with bosses and colleagues to check on their requirements and budget.
Once you confirm on the performance, some companies may require a deposit. They would also inform you on what to prepare on the day and time of performance ie how many pamelos, pineapple, salad, Mandarin oranges, etc.
Preparing for the Lion Dance:
1. The Lion Dance that we do usually required the offering items to be in a tray (dulang). During previous years, we would check around our colleagues on who have a round tray large enough to fit the offering items. However, two years ago, I bought a round tray like below:
The above I saw in AEON this year but previously I bought from Tesco for RM9.90 (same price). The tray is used to lay out the offering items as the Lion would turned the items into good and auspicious shapes.
2. Buying offering items- Pamelo, pineapple, Mandarin oranges and Chinese salad.
Only those who organize a Lion Dance performance before would understand that sometimes it can be a little chaotic (‘kelam kabut’) not only on the day of the performance but sourcing for offering items. During CNY, it can be hard to get fresh and big pamelos and pineapples and Chinese salad as these items are often snapped up. And the Chinese salad- if you buy too early, the salad would wilt and when you hang up the ceiling, it started falling down.
It can be quite stressful when the performance is the next day and everywhere ran out of stock. We usually try to get these items from AEON and Tesco. It even happen that I was going to look for Chinese salad from the market on the day of the performance (the performance was in noon and I was running around to wet markets in the morning).
So it helps to look around to see which store carries these items and then get help to buy different items (as sometimes different hypermarkets or markets have one item but not the others).
Please prepare other items before hand like ang pau packets and red strings/ribbons for your staff. The salad is usually tied up at the ceiling so you need the red ribbons/strings and the Lion is supposed to jump to get the salad. Ang pau packets is for your staff to use to put in money if they suddenly want to have the Lion sniff sniff at their place for luck.
3. Drinks and refreshment for the Lion Dance troop
Ok it’s just me- I just love to give food if I can, which explained why I did not mind organizing the catering for my department.
Many of the troupe members that are doing the performance for Lion Dance consists of school going teenagers. These teenagers actually trained very hard the rest of the year to prepare themselves for the performance- they would train after school and on weekends.
As most of the performances happened around Chinese New Year, the bookings are often very full. They are rushing from one place to another and may be tired, thirsty and hungry.
I would usually check with the person in charge how many people would be coming and I would prepare some packet drinks (I refrigerate them so that they are cold) and biscuits for troop. It is not a requirement- no troop would ask for it but it is nice to offer at least some drinks, in case they are thirsty from other earlier performances.
4. Communication to your department and staff on the performance.
You may notify your team and staff on the date of performance …if you have time via teaser emails and then the actual email before the performance date. A theme can be set for staff engagement- ie dressing in auspicious colors like red, pink, orange and yellow or traditional costume. You can also use the same day to distribute mandarin oranges to your staff, or coincide your CNY lunch or dinner on the day.
One department I know would have their staff come in traditional costume and that day would be the CNY dinner (10 course type) for staff. The department head actually paid the bill from his own pocket without claiming back from the company.
5. Double confirm with the Lion Dance company
Always confirm with the Lion dance company again when it is closer to the performance date. This is especially if you have booked much earlier. I have heard cases that there is a miscommunication on wrong date and the booking got ‘overlooked’. So double confirm on the date and time to ensure both sides are aligned.
Note: If you are paying first, make sure to remind them to bring the receipt so that they can pass to you after the performance for you to claim back from the company later.
Do inform your security counter early for them to expect the troupe (if your building ruling requires outsiders to register with security before performance). In some offices, the entrance door may be sliding (which requires an access card tap to open it) or with a main door that cannot be left opened too long. If that is the case you need to talk to your building maintenance to have the doors opened.
If you want the Lion to move around your department, you need to clear walking paths of obstacles such as boxes or files- this can be done earlier. This enables the Lion(s) and the entourage with the huge drums to move around the department with ease. Tuck in the chairs neatly so that the path is not blocked.
Also brief your staff before hand- ie what time they need to gather at the entrance or performance area.
On the date of performance, you would need to come in early to prepare and/or coordinate. Chinese salad would need to be tied up at designated places at the ceiling including key areas and the department head’s room. Prepare the tray and lay out nicely.
Do check if your office is the first venue that they are performing. If the troupe is performing at another venue before your place, don’t discount the possibility that they may be late. A friend of mine who is planning the Lion Dance performance for her department often need to source for new troupe almost each year because her boss gets upset when the troupe is late- and somehow, they seemed to be late if it is not the first venue.
Sometimes it is due to scheduling issue (example if they have 2 performances and the first one start late because some VIP has not yet arrived, then chances are yours would be late as well) or unexpected traffic jams (one year the troupe had factored in 1 hour travel time but was stuck in a massive jam). Factor in the allowance and don’t get too panicky if they are a running a little late- usually the person in charge would update you.
When the troop arrive, you would need to brief the coordinator about how to make payment and the path to go. I would bring the coordinator in and brief him accordingly- ie move to my department’s head room, then followed by certain areas, etc. During the performance, the coordinator would guide the Lions accordingly.
If the mode of payment to the troop is cash (it usually is), you can arrange for the cash to be placed inside the ang pau packet and have your bosses hand over to them. Sometimes I have 2 bosses so the fee is divided equally in 2 packets.
Once the Lion dance starts (with drums), the Lions would dance and then use their skills to cut open the pamelo and mandarin oranges into auspicious shapes. They would then hand the try which can be received by the bosses who would then pass them the ang pows (with money inside). Of course, you need to inform the coordinator how you are paying them- by having your bosses pass the ang paus when they pass the tray of shaped offerings.
I do not advise to tie the ang pow (the fees that you are paying the troop) together with the Chinese salad up and require the Lion to jump to get it. I was advised if you let the Lion jump to get the fee, symbolically your department may ended up being controlled by something fierce (like the Lion). Instead, isn’t it better to have the Lion bow bow first at the bosses and amicably hand them the tray, then only the bosses hand them the ang pau?
Some staff can prepare money in an ang pau packet with a few mandarin oranges for the Lion to sniff and shape for good luck. That is why you need to prepare extra ang pau packs because they would likely be running to you.
The Lion Dance troop that I recommend:
There were three different lion dance troops that my department had engaged in when I was with my previous company. However the troop that we used for the most years are Sheng Wai Lion Dance troop (website: https://sheng-wai.com/).
They charge reasonable fees and their group are humble and down to earth. They also accommodated a number of our requests. They knew when they perform for us that we are not able to offer generous tips (as we are not sales based department and not many of my staff put ang pau on their desks) and they need to lower the volume of their drums when they enter our department (because most of our staff is on the phone with customers).
I have a soft spot for the company I am recommending below because in the span of a few years, I watched some of them (in the video below) grow up (seeing them once a year, you can really see a difference). And as I was helping out, they could recognize me and still can remember the requirements of our department even though they have performed for so many other companies.
Contact Person : Eugene Ng
H/P No. : 010-6616888 (leave a Whatapps message if he did not manage to come to the call immediately).
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Website : www.sheng-wai.com
Hope this helps 🙂