(Video) A look into the lion: The next generation carrying the torch in New Orleans
What it Means to be a Female Lion Dancer Today
Haley is 13-year old member of the Rising Dragon Lion Dance Team in Marrero, Louisiana. The Lion Dance is a Vietnamese tradition performed during the Vietnamese New Year (Tet Festival) and special events. It is a historically male-dominated tradition in the Vietnamese community, commonly because it requires intense physical movements, lifts, and stamina, and women weren't seen as strong or fit enough. However, young girls like Haley are breaking through those barriers and paving the way for more women to take part in the age-old tradition of the Lion Dance.
Though the Rising Dragon Lion Dance Team has predominantly male members, girls on the team feel respected and strong, impressing their families by participating in the physical demands of being a Lion Dancer. "In the national competition world, you don't see a lot of women doing the actual performance," says team captain, Mark.
Haley's legs peak out of her costume during practice. "Being a girl is different because it's usually boys doing it and you don't really see a lot of girls, but this century more girls have been going on to the Lion Dance Team," she says.
Behind the mask, Haley playfully embodies the Tet lion. She controls the ears and eyelids to provide an interactive experience for the audience. Her favorite thing about being on the team is seeing kids in the audience smile back at her in amazement.
"It shows that girls can actually be part of boy's sports and what boys are doing. The boys [on the team] treat us like we are all equal and nothing is really different. I joined because it makes me stand out. Not as many girls are on the team and maybe I could inspire other people," Haley says.
Kelley Crawford is a professor, writer, mentor, dancer, and constant questioner. If you would like to contact Kelley Crawford, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.