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Another post about dancing

September 14, 2009

Zoe McLaughlin ’11

CSA hit the ground running this year, for no apparent reason other than--I guess--we could. At the first meeting, we started planning for the Asian/Pacific American dinner. The dinner is held near the beginning of the year, and it's a good way for first year students to learn about organizations like AAA (Asian American Alliance) or CSA (Chinese Students Association). There's always really tasty food, each organization says a lot about themselves, and usually there's a Taiko performance.

It was the Taiko performance that got us thinking. Why not do a lion dance? One of the two people who did the lion dance last year has since graduated, which meant there was an opening for someone to learn. I immediately volunteered, which led to a few other people volunteering as well, and then a debate over who should be the head and who should be the tail. I said I should be the head, since I have no problem with people lifting me, thanks to ballet.

By the conclusion of the meeting, we'd decided that the guy who did the lion dance last year would pass on his knowledge to those who were interested. We arranged a time by e-mail, and that time turned out to be the day before the dinner. CSA is pretty much fearless in our planning strategies.

The first thing we had to do on Saturday was get the lion costume and drum out of storage. We went to the student union where we have an office, because we assumed we'd put it in there for the summer. We quickly met our first obstacle: we hadn't signed the lease for the room this year (though we had, at the end of last year). We shouldn't worry, the people at the desk said, we could sign it any time during business hours, and then we'd get our key back.

Except that it was Saturday, and we needed to get in there before the weekend was over. We managed to at least look in the room, and as it turned out, there was neither lion nor drum in there. We stood around in shock for a bit, until I finally said, "I think we stored it in Shansi House."

I had already gone home by the time we stored the lion at the end of last year, as had almost everyone else in CSA, so no one was quite sure what had happened. We figured Shansi House wasn't a bad idea, though, so we started trying to find the phone number. This took a lot longer than it should have, but we eventually did obtain a couple of numbers, neither of which anyone answered.

Eventually, we realized that the best thing to do would be to just walk to Shansi House. We figured someone would be there, since the new Chinese teacher had just arrived and was going to be living there.

Once we got to Shansi House, we were confronted with the rather daunting task of which doorbell to ring. There were four of them, all with cryptic labels such as "second floor, rear." I made the executive decision to ring them all, which worked.

A Chinese woman came to the door, and we immediately began inquiring about our lion head. Then she said something in Chinese, at which point everyone switched over to Mandarin, leaving me in the dark. I put on my usual listening-to-Chinese-and-pretending-to-understand face, and entered the house along with everyone else when she invited us in.

Around then, a definitely not Chinese man walked down the stairs and greeted us. We skillfully turned the conversation back to English. As it turned out, he was the returned Shansi Fellow, and had just moved in. He had no idea about a lion head. The new Chinese teacher didn't either, having only arrived the day before.

We were shown the basement, though, and lo and behold, there was the lion costume. It was tricky getting it back out of the basement, but we managed it. We had no idea where the drum was. One girl (one of our co-chairs) went outside to call people who had been there when the drum was stored, while the rest of us spread out through the house. I was taken up to the attic, but it was smaller than the basement, and there was definitely no drum.

We re-grouped and received news from our co-chair: we had to ask someone in charge of Shansi and they would tell us where they'd stored it. Suddenly, she remembered being there when they'd stored the drum last year. They'd left the drum in a side room and the guy who'd been there had said that we couldn't keep it there permanently, that Shansi would store it somewhere. As it turned out, that guy was the previous returned Shansi Fellow, and he was long gone.

It appeared that we were doomed to search for our drum for forever.

Except that the current returned Shansi Fellow is brilliant. He looked in the very room that we'd visited last year, and there was the drum!

Happily, we made our way out of Shansi House and over to Tappan Square to rehearse. I got to be the head, not because we were going to do lifts in the dance for the Asian/Pacific American dinner, but because we'll do lifts some day. Another girl was the tail, and she did a very good job, especially since I kept stepping on her feet.

I won't dwell on learning to lion dance right now, since what we did was mostly cram for the lion dance. (Performance the next day.) I'll just say quickly that it's really hot in the costume, it's really hard to maneuver the head and make it look good, and you're in a crouched position all the time, which hurts. A lot.

The performance wasn't too bad, though, mostly due to our excellent drummer. Afterward, multiple people told me that it was--putting it nicely--"dainty" or--putting it not so nicely--"girly." But you know what? For right now, I'll take a girly lion.

(Also, current students--it's not too late to join CSA if you're interested. I'm co-secretary, so leave a comment here or shoot me an e-mail if you want.)

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