Dragon Dance 101: Chinese university tries to keep fiery tradition alive

A university in eastern China is taking a step back in time to become the latest college offering classes in traditional dragon and lion dances.

Zhejiang University in Hangzhou is one of more than 200 tertiary campuses around the country offering the classes in a national push to keep the tradition alive, news portal Thepaper.cn reported on Sunday.

In all, 170 Zhejiang University students signed up for the classes, 20 more than organisers had hoped for, the report said.

Course coordinator Jiang Kai said each student would have to learn to play his or her part in the complex dances, with at least 15 people needed to move a dragon’s tail that can be up to 18 metres long.

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Jiang, who studied martial arts and dragon dance at Beijing Sport University, said the performances were difficult to learn and many had abandoned the tradition.

“I had 30 classmates learning the dragon dance at university, but only eight of us kept on going,” he said. “The dragon dance is not easy, and many people give up.”

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Jiang said he worried about the future of the tradition as fewer people were interested in the performances.

“It is a traditional sport and not as trendy as tennis or golf,” he said.