A recent behind-the-scenes video showing a group of tap dancers wearing tutus preparing for the Lion Dance segment for a Chingay 2021 performance has garnered public backlash on social media, with some of the traditional lion dance troupes voicing their strong objection against this performance.
The approximately three-minute-long video, uploaded by Lianhe Zaobao last Friday (11 December), featured five dancers wearing colourful tutus blending tap dance with the lion dance in front of a green screen for the camera.
Soon after the video was published, members of the public criticised it for being “nonsense” and “disrespecting the tradition”.
In the petition, it said that lion dance performers are proud of their costumes, and thus it is “not appropriate to have another costume from a vastly unrelated and unequal realm worn under the lion dance costume”.
“There is a fine line between pushing the boundaries of the art form, and preserving its artistic integrity and traditions,” the petition statement read.
The Lion Dance Singapore also clarified that while they do not think an all-girls or all-women troupe is an insult, what they witnessed “was an act that would sabotage the lion dance in Singapore”.
A signatory of the petition felt that although innovation and new ideas will be needed in certain cases, “there are things we need to respect of its origin, culture and practice”.
Another signatory commented that tweaking the lion dance in such a way is “too overboard”, as there are many symbolic meanings and purposes in the lion dance culture beyond its aesthetics.
At the time of writing, the petition has garnered more than 780 signatures.
Following this, the Singapore Wushu Dragon & Lion Dance Federation also took to its Facebook page on Sunday (13 December) to comment about this issue, noting that it has received some feedback about the video.
The Federation mentioned that they are now in contact with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and PA to understand the matter, adding that an update will be given after further discussion with MCCY and PA.
In response to this, Lianhe Zaobao reported a PA spokesperson as saying that the segment of five lions dance with tap dance is one of the segments for 100 traditional lions dance performance to attract the young generations.
It pointed out that the performance of 100 traditional lions dance takes four-minute, of which the five lions dance with tap dance only takes 15 to 20 seconds.
“In order to attract younger audiences, we continue to find ways to merge the new elements into a traditional art form, so that it can reach the younger generations and keep them interested in culture and tradition,” the PA said.
According to The Straits Times, the Lion Dance performance blended with tap dance is set to be performed by the dancers aged between 14 and 30 from the local dance troupe Dance Spectrum International (DSI).
The choreographer, Sharon Liew, who is also the founder and director of DSI, spent two weeks researching lion dance traditions and elements and even invited a lion dance teacher to train her troupe.