MARANG: With their lively execution of technical movements, great drum beats and almost perfect acrobatic feats, spectators should be forgiven for thinking that the Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Jerong lion dance troupe is made up of Chinese students.
Often the spectators are pleasantly surprised upon learning that all seven members of the group are Malay students from the school which is located in a village about 25 kilometres from Kuala Terengganu city.
School headmistress Salmah Abd Rahman said the group was formed in July last year after being invited by the Terengganu Cultural and Arts Association as part of its cross-cultural programmes.
“The existence of this lion dance group has made history, not only for the school itself, but also at the state level as it is first national school to have its own lion dance troupe in Terengganu.
“To make it even more special the SK Jerong doesn’t even have any Chinese students, and yet we are able to highlight this culture that fosters a sense of unity from very young age,” she said when met by reporters at the training session held the school here today.
Despite its young age, the troupe often receives invitations to perform across the state such as for the opening of sports day, appreciation day and from private companies at leading hotels and will be busy as bee now that the Chinese New Year celebration is just around the corner.
The seven members of the lion dance group are Muhammad Syafiq Aiman Surin, 12; Muhamad Faiz Mamat, 11, and his twin brother Muhamad Fahmi, 11; Tun Ahmad Ashraf Dzulkarnain Tun Asnan, 10; Nur Aleesya Balqis Musa, 11; Nur Faqihah Nuriesya Mohd Fairul Nizam, 10, and Siti Syaza Liyana Osman, 11.
Meanwhile, Terengganu Culture and Arts Association coach Chai Teck Tee said this is his first experience to train all Malay students in a lion dance troupe compared to the usual members of the such group that would comprise Chinese students.
“At first it was quite difficult because the lion dance is not a part of the Malay culture so they were quite clumsy initially to learn various dance techniques, but after practising for only three months, they have managed to master the skills.
“This is all due to their great passion, interest and discipline while undergoing training, coupled with their talent, now they are such great students and can perform amazing lion dances,” he said.
Currently, only two schools have a lion dance group in Terengganu, namely, SK Jerong and national-type Chinese school (SJKC) Sin Chone in Dungun.
For young members of the lion dance group, they are understandably very proud and excited to learn another culture from the multicultural community in the country.
One of the students, Siti Syaza Liyana said the satisfaction after performing in front of the crowd was just indescribable especially when the audience was surprised to learn that the lion dance they have just witnessed was performed by a group of Malay students.
“We train once a week and always work together in a group. For example, when one is unable to attend the training, the other team members will learn new techniques until they are good,” she said.
For twins Muhamad Faiz and Muhamad Fahmi, they often practiced at home especially the acrobatic movements such as hoisting one person onto one’s shoulder to wield the lion head to make the lion to appear ‘standing’ and ensuring that their dance movements were perfect as the drummer’s beats dictate the lion’s pace.
“Whenever we have free time, we also often talk to the other members of the group because the coach wants us to gain more skills to compete at the national level soon,” the boys said. – Bernama