Belmore Boys lion dancer to roar in Hong Kong

Belmore Boys High student Tyson Fan is off to Hong Kong to represent Australia in lion dancing. Pascal Adolphe reports.

Two people in costume in front of a Chinese lion. Two people in costume in front of a Chinese lion.
Image: Belmore Boys High student Tyson Fan with coach Johnny Leung.

Tyson Fan was a self-confessed quiet kid who felt he “didn’t have a place” until he discovered lion dancing.

Some seven years later, the 16-year-old Belmore Boys High School student is bound for the land of his cultural heritage to represent Australia at the Hong Kong Public Schools Lion Dance competition at the end of June.

“When I was younger, I was at Campsie RSL and a bunch of lion dancers came in and I said to my grandma, that looks so cool. I want to learn how to do that,” Tyson said.

The coach of that lion dancing troupe was Johnny Leung, whose father was a friend of Tyson’s grandma.

Meeting Tyson inspired Mr Leung to create Lion Dance Kids and Tyson quickly became one of its star performers.

Lion dancing has helped Tyson to come out of his shell and connect with his Chinese cultural heritage.

“My grandma put me in (the troupe) and I just fell in love with it,” Tyson said.

“After I found lion dancing, I could bond with my own people. I found a group that enjoys being with me.

“I had intense training. I had to train every day for six hours. Me and my sister we were the only kids there at that time.”

Tyson describes lion dancing as “exotic”. He loves the movements and “how they make the lion become real and alive”. The drumming and athleticism also have great appeal but, best of all, he gets to fly.

“When the back of the tail lifts you and throws you across the room and the back follows you; you come up in the air and you just feel the breeze,” he said.

“It’s a really different sport. It’s hard to learn but also interesting.”

Belmore High School Principal, Hala Ramadan, said she was “thrilled” for Tyson and public education that he was able to represent, not just his cultural background, but his school and his country in Hong Kong.

“We’re a school of about 35 language backgrounds. It’s important for me that every student in this school has the opportunity to show off their cultural pride,” she said.

Mr Leung said Tyson had demonstrated exceptional skill and dedication.

“(This will) provide Tyson with a unique opportunity to showcase his talents on an international scale”, he said.

“The lion dance tells the mythical story of a village overcoming a beast terrorising it every year.

“The villagers learn to scare it away using an assortment of things, including the colour red, loud noises, light and fire.

“But there was something missing because it would keep coming back. They then learned it was afraid of itself, so by creating a costume, dancing and doing the drums and everything that imitated a lion, the beast would run away and never come back.

Mr Leung said it was a story of courage and bravery that appealed to young people.

“Through the myth, it’s become Chinese New Year. It’s become lion dancing, and we celebrate it all over the world,” he said.

“There’s a lot of educational value in that and that’s why I’m so passionate about it and I continue to build the programs around it. The music, the physical education, all of that is incorporated into my programs.”

Mr Leung said lion dancing was growing in popularity year on year.

“I go to about 100 public schools a year teaching culture and doing shows, especially around the Lunar New Year period,” he said.

A Chinese lion. A Chinese lion.
Image: Tyson will head to Hong Kong at the end of June to represent Australia in lion dancing.
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