The lion-cat dance of the Tay, Nung people

13:00 | 05/02/2021 Culture & Tourism

(VEN) - The lion-cat dance, performed by dancers wearing cat masks is a unique, long-standing tradition of the Tay and Nung ethnic minority groups living in the northeastern province of Lang Son’s Cao Loc, Loc Binh, Van Lang, Van Quan, Binh Gia and Trang Dinh districts. 

the lion cat dance of the tay nung people

The dance, which involves high jumps and handstands, is usually performed on the first and second days of Tet (the Lunar New Year Holiday) and on major occasions, including the Mid-Autumn Festival celebration.

Because the dance is believed to dispel bad luck and bring good luck and peace, families in Lang Son Province often invite a lion-cat dance troupe to perform in front of their house. On those occasions, the dancers are given lucky money, wine, and a red “ka hong” cloth. When performing a martial dance, the performers advance toward the head dancer and connect the red “ka hong” cloth from their mouth to the lion’s mouth.

The dance performances during festivals often include martial arts performances with knives, swords, tridents, or dual sticks. Each dance form is accompanied by a specific melody that guides the performance.

the lion cat dance of the tay nung people
the lion cat dance of the tay nung people

To begin a performance, the team greets the audience by bowing three times, then taking a step backwards. The simplest form of the lion-cat dance is the “passage” dance, which re-enacts the origin of the dance. Dancers move forwards and backwards in time with the rhythm of the drum, gong, and cymbals.

How did this dance come by its name? Lions were said to be both gentle and good with friends, but very fierce when disturbed or attacked. They were eventually tamed by humans and became a domestic cat and thus the lion-cat dance symbolizes the conquering of natural challenges.

the lion cat dance of the tay nung people
the lion cat dance of the tay nung people

The lion-cat dance of the Tay and Nung ethnic people in Lang Son Province has been recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage, according to Decision 1852 dated May 8, 2017 of the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, eligible for conservation by authorities at all levels.

Pham Tiep