Oberlin Blogs

Festival of Culture (so as not to reproduce a similar title exactly)

September 26, 2010

Zoe McLaughlin ’11

Yesterday was the Culture Festival, which I've danced in for the past two years. The nice thing about participating in it all these years in a row is that I've gotten to see its growth. It started out as a fairly small affair, and it's steadily gotten larger, with more people from the community participating. This year, there were lots and lots of kids, which was very exciting to see. As I think I've mentioned before on this blog, one thing that I miss when I'm at college is seeing people who are older and younger than me.

As the festival was nearing its conclusion, another girl and I put the lion dance costume on and walked around, in an effort to interact with the children. This was harder than it sounds, for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's very hard to see out of the lion. You have to look through the mouth, and when you look through the mouth, generally all you can see is the ground, unless you really crane your neck. Because of this, you can only respond to the things you hear people saying around you, which is difficult when said people decide not to say anything. Secondly, the lion tends to scare kids. I guess in the heat of the moment it can be a little scary, but not when we're dancing to "I Will Survive" in Spanish. (Which we were. And then someone told us to dance on the beat. Which we were also doing, I'd just like to tell you, anonymous person who I couldn't see.)

A person in a lion costume that looks kind of like a dragon costume
The heat of the moment.
(photos by Amy Huang)

When we ambled around Tappan Square, I was the head of the lion, hearkening back to the first time I did the lion dance. My lovely friend who was the tail was also the person who danced with me that first time. For the actual dance, though, I was the tail of the lion, something I've never done before. The nice thing is that in the tail you don't have to worry about controlling the head, a task that requires upper body strength and general coordination. The not-so-nice thing is that in the tail you really have to think, because it's your job to make the head look good by following it, no matter what happens. Luckily, the guy who was in the head was very good, and we practiced enough that I could tell what was going on up there.

I had a great time with the lion dance. For the past few ones, I've been Buddha, and it was nice to do something different for a change. The only role I haven't had yet is that of the drummer, but I think at this point I'm still more interested in dancing. (As long as my knees hold out. You hear that, knees? No funny business.)

A drummer holds sticks ready above a Taiko drum.
Here's our awesome drummer, who also happens to play oboe in the Con.

It was also great to have some fresh blood in the lion dance crew. For this performance, we had two first-years dancing (one in the head, one as Buddha), and that was awesome. They bring a kind of enthusiasm that jaded upperclassmen like me have lost.

Four people with the lion costume. One wears a shirt that reads 'No casino in Chinatown.'
All of the lion dance group!

In the last picture, you may notice that I'm (somewhat) heavily made up. That's because right before the lion dance, I also performed a Bharatanatyam dance. My teacher is back from her year abroad! This is very exciting! On a less exciting note, I am very, very out of shape. The rehearsals leading up to the performance were very pathetic, but the performance itself wasn't that bad, considering I hadn't seriously practiced Bharatanatyam in at least six months, if not more.

Two dancers in costume at the Clark Bandstand
My teacher is on the right. She's the one who actually knows what she's doing.

All in all, it was an awesome way to spend an afternoon, even if it meant that I got absolutely no work done. (Incidentally, I should be doing said work right now.)

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