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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, September 9, 2002

Olympics next step for lion dance?

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

Those entertaining lion dances you see at Chinese New Year and other celebrations may become the next Olympic sport, boosters said yesterday.

An Tuan La, 17, lifted 14-year-old Kevin Ching off his feet during a lion dance demonstration at Kahala Mall yesterday. Both are Chinese Physical Culture Association members.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

And next month Hawai'i will get an exclusive look at the top teams in the world, at the First Hawai'i Invitational Lion Kings Competition, according to Jeffrey Lam of Hawai'i Kai, president of the Hawai'i Lion Dragon Dance and Martial Arts Association.

Lam said the Hawai'i association has invited world champion teams from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, China and Singapore to compete here with three Hawai'i teams Oct. 13 at Blaisdell Arena.

"Host countries for the Olympics get to choose a new sport for competition," said Lam, a Verizon fiber-optics technician when he isn't coaching a bunch of young men in silky costumes how to leap from one elevated platform to another.

"And with China hosting the Summer Games in 2008, we're hoping they will name the lion dragon dance an Olympic event," Lam said.

There is already an elaborate scoring system, as with ice skating or gymnastics or other Olympic performance competitions.

The lion, which consists of two men wearing sequined leggings and furry feet under a flowing costume topped by an oversized head, sets out in the dances to climb a mountain to get food in the form of a bouquet of flowers.

The mountain is represented by a series of platforms about the size of a dinner plate atop posts beginning at least 40 inches off the floor and rising to at least six feet off the floor.

Like any lion, the dance lion looks around, hesitates, backs away, and then leaps forward when the time is right, Lam said.

Ian Cablay, a muscular 200-pound 19-year-old student at Leeward Community College, was the back end of the lion for The Chinese Physical Culture Association, one of two Hawai'i teams putting on exhibitions yesterday at Kahala Mall.

He draped the lion cloth over his back, bent at the waist, and got a solid hold at arm's length of the waist of Derek Miw, a 125-pound 15-year-old Maryknoll High School sophomore who gripped the head of the lion.

Gingerly, to the sound of a pounding drum and crashing cymbals, the four-legged beast began to ascend the series of platforms. At one point, high above a "river," the lion leaned far over a cliff as Cablay held Miw's legs so the lighter boy could bend forward.

After it seized the flowers and was making its way down the mountain, the Cablay-Miw lion suddenly missed a step and lost its head as Miw tumbled about four feet down to the floor.

He got up quickly, and later said he wasn't hurt.

"Oh, yes, you fall sometimes, although you try not to," said Cablay, who has been dancing for seven years. "In competitions, people sometimes injure their ankles, knees, or heads when they leap and miss and hit the pole or fall to the floor," he said.

He said he hopes to participate one day in an Olympic event, at least as a coach if not a competitor.

Meanwhile, he said, being able to dance with the "lion king" champions from Asia in Hawai'i next month "is really an honor."

Tickets for the afternoon competition Oct. 13 are on sale at the Blaisdell box office or Ticket Plus outlets, at prices ranging from $25 to $65, Lam said. No other community has ever hosted so many international championship teams, he said.

Reach Walter Wright at wwright@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8054.