IT’S that time of the year again where some of us would look forward to eating mindless amount of cookies, collect red packets and avoid that nosy relative who wants to know why you’re still single.

For Tess Yap, he doesn’t have time for all that during Chinese New Year, and no, he’s not doing it to avoid relatives. Instead, he’ll be performing lion dance routines from door-to-door all over Klang Valley.

“Chinese New Year is one of the busiest periods for us in lion dance troupes. We visit about eight to ten places a day. We perform an eight-minute routine for each location and move on to the next one. On the day of the performances, we have to be up and ready by 6:30am,” said Yap.

Back when he was a little kid, Yap said he imagined himself being part of a lion dance troupe. His parents worked in Central Market, Kuala Lumpur and he never missed out on the chance to catch lion dance performances in the city.

“I remember always sneaking out on my own to catch performances in Petaling Street. I was about nine years old and I was just in awe. From then onwards, I told myself I’d grow up to be just like them.”

Now at 19, Yap is a member of the prestigious Khuan Loke Dragon & Lion Dance Association.

To prepare for Chinese New Year performances, Yap said they have to train for at least two hours a night.

“We attend training from 8.30pm to 10.30pm, about three times a week. We work on strength, stamina and our routines.”

Yap is also a college student and he said time management is crucial in the life of a lion dance troupe member.

While Chinese New Year may be peak season for them, it doesn’t mean they can take a break for the rest of the year. Yap said there are also competitions and other events to practice all year long.

Since 2011, Yap has taken part in over 20 lion dance competitions. His biggest achievement to date was coming in second at the World Lion Dance Championship in Guangxi, China.

Yap is part of the acrobatics team where the stakes are much higher. His role in the team is the lion’s back and his partner would be the head. Together, both of them perform high-flying stunts which typically involve them jumping and dancing on poles that can go up to eight feet tall and only about 0.30 meters wide.

“My partner during the acrobatics performance is Yap Yan Qing, and he is 16. No, we’re not related (laughs). My role is to support him and make sure that he lands on his feet properly.”

Injury is not uncommon during performances and in practice. Yap said his mother often worries for him.

“We learn the right way to fall during practice and try our best to minimize risk of injuries. I’d have to say this sport is not for everyone as it takes a lot of guts, determination and discipline.”


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