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Chau Luen’s Dragon Dance at the 2024 Chinatown Spring Festival Parade

Updated: Mar 31

For the second consecutive year since the parade’s return post-pandemic, Chau Luen Athletics made another exciting appearance at Vancouver’s Chinatown Spring Festival Parade.

Featuring both our elite dragon dance team and lion dancers to really get up close and personal with the crowd, we had yet another memorable performance, despite the pouring rain.

Preparing for the 2024 Lunar New Year parade

Even though our senior leadership and club members have been participating in this parade since its inception, we still held a few practices to make sure we were giving the community the best performance possible.

For weeks leading up to the parade, our lion dance team has been ironing out all the moves and training more percussionists and lion dancers. As we always do, we recruited some of our experienced friends at Hung Sing Choy Lee Fut and UBC Kung Fu to join in on the fun.

Chau Luen Athletics performing an indoor dragon dance

Recap of our dragon dance and lion dance performance, street by street

By the time 11 o’clock hit, we were already warmed up and took our position just past the Chinatown Millennium Gate. As we were waiting for our turn to start, we interacted with passersby and took some photos. It was a nice relaxed atmosphere (compared to the controlled chaos of the parade itself), and it was pleasant being able to chat with attendees and answer some questions.

But once we got the signal, everything changed. We were switched on and ready to go.

The atmosphere was absolutely electric. Thousands of guests poured into the streets of Chinatown to watch, even with the rain coming down.

Seniors watch lion dance performance

For some of our team, it was the first time performing in front of such a huge crowd. Others had marched in this parade since they were kids.

We snaked our way through the streets, starting at the Millennium Gate and heading east along Pender, snaking side to side and getting close to the cheering spectators. The lions themselves had an even more intimate interaction with the crowd – the young and young at heart loved the fluttering eyes and wagging tails and were delighted at the bright and friendly lions dancing before them.

Dr. Waymen Wong with Chau Luen Athletics performing a dragon dance

One of the best experiences was from our all-female lion dance team. Leanne, one of our members, had this to share:

These little girls were walking alongside us waving, so we kept winking and bowing to them. When we swapped out our pairs, they were jumping up and down screaming, “They’re all girls! The lions are all girls!”

Young girl pets lion dancer in Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade

As we had said in our interview with CBC, having representation for women in lion dance is crucial to pass on our traditions and make them more accessible and welcoming to all.

Rounding Gore Street, we stopped briefly to allow our dragon to bow to our home training facility at the Chau Luen Tower. Seniors watching from behind the gates or even catching glimpses from their windows told us that they were overjoyed seeing us “young folks” preserving our cultural heritage so well.

Heading back down Keefer, we were inspired by the crowd to keep going, even if our arms were starting to struggle with the extra water weight that the dragon had put on.

Performances like these usually last around 2 hours, and even with us changing dragon dancers on the fly, it gets pretty tiring waving a giant dragon puppet back and forth while running non-stop.

But soon, we had reached the end and gave one final hurrah for the VIPs at the end. These included politicians and local celebrities, all of whom were just as excited to see us as the young girls and proud seniors that we met on our journey.

Lion dance in Vancouver's Chinatown for the Spring Festival Parade 2024

At the end of the parade, our aching arm and leg muscles reminded us why we only do this once a year (twice a year if you count the Fire Dragon Festival). One of the nicest feelings was all of the words of encouragement from the attendees as we carried the dragon back to its home at Chau Luen Tower.

Blessing the businesses along Pender Street

The day wasn’t over, however. One other tradition that Chau Luen and all of the other lion dance teams follow is choy cheng (採青). Here, our lion teams went from store to store on Pender Street, performing blessings on all of the businesses who asked for them.

Any business that hung lettuce on our route was blessed with a performance and a shower of bright green lettuce from our lions.

This year, we had 15 businesses on our list, ranging from pizza parlours to jewellery stores. Both the Chau Luen team and the UBC team took turns with their lion and percussion teams, swapping out between performances to ensure we gave the most energetic performances possible.

Why we participate in the Lunar New Year parade every year

It’s always rewarding to see smiles from so many people, especially children and seniors.

For the younger ones, we hope it inspires them to learn more about traditional Chinese culture and maybe one day participate in lion dance, dragon dance, or kung fu. It means a lot that we can make a major impact on their life through our performances.

Lion dancers interact with a crowd in Vancouver's Chinatown

For those with a little bit more life experience, all of the compliments we receive about how it’s unusual for Canadian-born Chinese to be embracing tradition so readily (and so well!) really make our day too.

As much as we enjoy getting paid for corporate bookings, the performances that we do for our Chinatown community and beyond are what really make us love doing this. If at the end of the day, if we’ve made an impact, large or small, it’s a major win for us – even if it’s just one smile at a time.

Child watching lion dance performance in Vancouver's Chinatown

If you’re interested in booking a community lion dance with us, click the button below and ask us about our discounted pricing. We love to showcase traditional Chinese culture in a fun way and will be more than happy to accommodate you and your future event.


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