Monday, 8 February 2016

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Chinese New Year in Mâcon

I can't say "Pardon my French", because the title of this blog is not in French at all. It is in Chinese, or more accurately Mandarin and stands for "Happy New Year". France does not host huge groups of Chinese, most likely because the French never had a big influx of cheap Asian labour like the USA during the laying of the railroads, nor did many Chinese sailors get stuck in the thirties in France during the big recession because their shipping company went bankrupt (like in the Netherlands in Rotterdam).

Chinese buffet - Palais d'Asie Mâcon
Only in some big cities like Paris, Lyon and Marseille one can find decent Chinese restaurants, something that is difficult to find in Burgundy. Most restaurant owners (but not all) here are of Vietnamese extraction (Vietnam being a former French colony).
Hence it was quite a surprise when our taichi group was invited to give a demo during the Chines New Year's Celebration in Mâcon.

The Group Hong Teck sets off
That resulted in a couple of weeks frantic training and a day out in Mâcon, a town we normally only visit to visit the prefecture or the tax office. The festivities were planned in the middle of town, with as a highlight a Chinese lion dance performance. Lion dances are not excactly a novelty for me. Whilst I was working and living in Singapore I did experience three Chinese New Years, and often when a new shopping centre was opened the festivities included lion or dragon dances.

The woman on the left can't stand the noise
The organisers had engaged the Hong Teck lion dance group from Lyon, and that turned out to be a great success. The group consisted of three (Southern) lions, a laughing Buddha and five percussionists, who made noise for at least ten. Most spectators had never seen anything like this, and quite a few of them covered their ears to block the noise at least a bit, and one little girl started to cry uncontrollably when a lion came too close to her for comfort. Fortunately the group distributed a leaflet called "Lion dance for Dummies" among the crowd!

Lion Dance for Dummies
The group set off from a square in the centre of town, "danced" its way through a busy shopping street and gave their proper show on the Place Saint-Pierre, not far from the place of departure. There they performed their show culminating in "cai qing = plucking the green", where a lion has to find and "eat" a lettuce hanging from a stick. All in all it was an excellent show, in my case bringing back sweet memories; it was certainly worth the trip. After the lion dance hundreds of red and gold coloured balloons were released, and the inevitable "vin d'honneur" was served. And then it was time for the lunch break.

The lion plucks the green
After which our group had to do our demonstration. That was (fortunately) a success; public as well as the performers of "La Spirale d'Or" were very content with the way we did the Yang and Chen 24-forms and the fan- and stick forms. This was the very first time we performed in public using music, which simplified the synchronisation of the movements considerably. The taichi pictures in this blog however were taken during other occasions, for the simple reason that my camera was used to make videos of our show.

La Spirale d'Or (fan form) in Cluny
And what about a Chinese meal? Well, that will have to wait a couple of weeks, when we visit Paris. We know near Place d'Italie there an excellent Chinese restaurant!

Click here for the link to one of the videos of our performance in Mâcon (Yang 24-form).

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