27th February 2007
When Hua Khoo came to New Zealand in 1976 from Malaysia, he was adamant about not losing sight of his Chinese roots. In keeping with his aim of maintaining tradition in his family, he decided to learn lion dancing. Herne Bay resident Mr Khoo says his Chinese martial arts and tai chi background helped him enormously to master the acrobatic movements involved in the artform. His seven-member lion dancing troupe, Khoo Lion Dance, is feverishly training to perform at the 2007 Auckland Chinese New Year Lantern Festival this weekend. This year's festival, for the eighth consecutive year, will be celebrated on the 15th day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. About 150,000 people attended last year's Lantern Festival at Albert Park. The free event will feature a variety of dance, music and martial arts performances, including the all-girl percussion group Red Poppy, acrobats from Tiajin and Zhou Xiaofang, and demonstrations of the art of gong fu cha, a tea ritual. Avondale School science teacher Mr Khoo has since tried to pass on his knowledge of lion dancing to his students. He says it's been difficult to recruit as ''the kids have found it hard to spare the time after school''. But his mission to impart the craft has not been in vain. His son Nick has taken to the dance like a duck to water.
Nick, 23, the group's official drummer, says he started learning the lion dance when he was 2. ''I enjoy the noise,'' he says. ''It gives me a sense of belonging. Lion dancing is part of what makes me, me.'' Mr Khoo, 53, says he chose the lion dance ? not to be confused with the dragon dance, which features a team of 10 or more dancers ? because of its manageable size. The lion dance mimics a lion's movements in a lion costume which usually involves a pair of dancers. The father-of-two, who usually plays the gong, says he is the ''super-sub'' who fills in where required. He has also managed to rope in his wife Joyce, who's conveniently a skilled seamstress, to help with the costumes. ''It's great the way he gets us involved,'' Mrs Khoo says. ''It adds to the spirit of the festivities.'' Mr Khoo, who's looking forward to helping create atmosphere at the festival, says, ''It's great that we're wandering around the park this year as we'll be able to have more rapport with the crowd while chasing away the evil spirits.''
2007 Auckland Chinese New Year Lantern Festival, Albert Park, March 2-4, 5.30pm-10pm. For more details see www. aucklandcity.govt.nz/whatson/
By Sharu Delilkan