|The lion dancing team perform in a kindergarten in Quới Hiệp Hamlet of Trung Thành Tây Commune in Vũng Liêm District, Vĩnh Long Province. — VNA/VNS Photo|
VĨNH LONG — For over a dozen years, a troupe of female lion dancers has dazzled audiences in the southern Vietnamese province of Vĩnh Long.
Composed of 20 women ranging in age from 50 to 70 years old, these performers from Quới Hiệp Hamlet in Trung Thành Tây Commune have delivered countless displays of their mesmerising craft to the local community.
Yet, their mission goes beyond mere entertainment.
The income generated from their lively performances is generously donated to support those in need, particularly those struggling with illnesses. Their dedication to serving the greater good has earned them much admiration and respect from those who have witnessed their inspiring efforts.
Traditionally, lion dancing troupes are men. But with a passion and wholehearted spirit for the community, the women, who are attached to the rice fields all year round, are not afraid of difficulties, self-study, learn dancing, and improve their performance skills to serve the people on occasions such as holidays, parties or weddings.
The troupe leader is Lê Thị Hằng, 60, the head of the women’s union of Quới Hiệp Hamlet. She is the mastermind behind the troupe’s activities.
Born into a lion-dancing family, Hằng was passionate and gifted in performance.
When participating in the hamlet women's union activities and realising that local women rarely had after-work activities, she came up with the idea of establishing a lion dance team.
From the first few members, the lion dancing team quickly attracted more and more women to join.
Although all members are female and do not have professional or dancing skills, with enthusiasm and social responsibility, the team members have supported each other to progress together.
With the female lion dance team model, the members agreed that the goal is to work voluntarily and use incomes earned from performances to contribute to caring for the poor in the area.
Most team members are grandmothers, of whom the oldest is over 70.
“Although many members are old, some have health problems or are busy with family chores, we try to arrange personal work to ensure performance schedules,” Hằng said.
“Each member is assigned a specific task depending on their skill, age and health condition,” Hằng said.
“Those who are still in good health perform dances or beat the drums, and others who are older are in charge of preparing costumes and props or acting as "advisors" and fundraisers”, she said.
Each person has a job, and together they have maintained and spread the team's activities for more than 12 years.
The means of transport for the old ladies are tricycles and motorbikes. They travel to every corner of the commune and are not afraid of difficulties when going into remote villages with difficult roads to give people the best performances.
Hằng always takes the leading role, wearing a heavy lion head, but she performs the movements easily and skillfully.
Transforming into the character of the Monkey King, Nguyễn Thị Kim Anh, 62, becomes the "comedian" of the team when she makes many unique jokes, exciting the children and gaining admiration from the adults.
Đỗ Hồng Ca, 64, gives the audience warm and close feelings when playing the role of Ông Địa (God of Wealth).
Ca said that in the first days of joining the team, she and other members faced difficulties because all members were "hands-on" people who did not know anything about lion dancing.
“However, with passion, we supported each other in practice and gradually mastered it from time to time,” Ca said.
“Now, whenever hearing the lion dance drum, no one can sit still at home,” she said, laughing.
According to Hằng, it is difficult for women to come to the lion dance, and even more difficult for ageing women.
Health and family circumstances sometimes affect the members, but they always try to arrange their personal lives for the troupe, and members help each other.
Võ Thanh Phong, a Trung Thành Tây Commune resident and the team’s loyal audience, said that the people here are very proud of this lion-dancing team.
“The old ladies make an amazing thing. They dance very well despite being self-taught. Every holiday, Tết or parties, we order them to perform,” Phong said.
“They not only have bravery, but the dancing team also has a passionate heart for community, especially for the poor,” he said.
Sharing with the poor
|Members of the lion dancing team with a poor woman in Quới Hiệp Hamlet of Trung Thành Tây Commune in huyện Vũng Liêm, Vĩnh Long Province. — VNA/VNS Photo|
Despite their passion for lion dancing, the all-lady dancing team's main purpose is to serve the people’s spiritual and cultural life and earn an additional income source to donate to the poor and the sick.
As the head of the women’s union, Hằng often looks for people in difficult circumstances to visit and give gifts.
“Meeting many disadvantaged people motivates us to continue our volunteer journey, both enrich people’s spiritual lives and support financially for the needy in times,” Hằng said.
Hằng said that the team operates voluntarily, so all travel expenses, props, costumes and other expenses are all self-contributions by the members.
When performing at schools or the community during the holidays, the team perform free of charge.
If performing at private parties, the team donate the fee they charge to needy people in the commune.
Along with performing the lion dance, the team also set up a zero-price clothing shop and a plastic waste house to raise more funds for poor people in the area.
The activities attract more people to participate.
Although the deeds are small, they show the precious hearts of the women in this countryside. — VNS