SLIDESHOW: Luck and the art of lion, dragon dancing

Text and photos by Gigie Cruz for

Posted at Jan 30 2014 11:43 PM | Updated as of Mar 20 2014 12:19 AM

Chinese New Year celebrations are never complete without lions and dragons dancing along the streets of Binondo, Manila.

Lion and dragon dances are ancient rituals often seen during Chinese festivities. They are a favorite attraction for locals and tourists alike.

Performed especially during Chinese New Year, the dances are believed to ward off evil spirits and negative energy, bringing good luck and abundance to people.

A revered creature in Chinese history, the dragon symbolizes power, wealth, and wisdom. During the performance, the dragon is held up on poles by at least 8 agile dancers doing swift movements while running after a white and red ball that symbolizes the "Pearl of Wisdom.

The color of the dragons have specific meanings, too. Green dragons, for example, are believed to bring great harvest while red ones represent prosperity and happiness.

The lion dance, on the other hand, is done with synchronized acrobatic stunts wherein two performers assigned in each lion move to the rhythmic beat of the drums, gongs, and cymbals. The colors of the lion represent each natural element, Fire (red), Wood (green), Water (black), Earth (yellow), and Metal (white).

Fascinated by the colorful costumes, choreography and music, some Filipinos living in Chinatown have shown a growing interest in the art of lion and dragon dancing.

Some of them, like the Sicat siblings, joined various Filipino-Chinese dragon and lion dance groups while growing up in their Binondo neighborhood.

They eventually formed their own groups, the Fil-Chinese Soler Pink Panther Dragon and Lion Dance Group in 2004 and the Philippine Rui Lion Dance Group.

Their groups are often invited to perform in different Chinese gatherings in big hotels, malls, and even home blessings. Starting with just 2 lions, the group now has 30 sets of lions and dragons.

The Sicat family attributes the growth of their business to the luck brought about by their commitment to the art of lion and dragon dancing.