I first learned about the LDC when I saw them tabling in the quad in Fall 2011, my sophomore year.
My freshmen year was mostly unmemorable, filled with lots of studying in solitude and ennui. My closest friends from high school went to other colleges, separating me from the people with whom I had amazing synergy with. Being a person with little social skill, having a personality that takes time to open up to others, and living in a single (aka the “forever alone” pad), I started college with a near blank social slate, a personal challenge I had mostly failed to overcome that year. I told myself, during the start of sophomore year, that I would find myself a club to join in order to help fix that. Saw their table, asked if any previous lion dancing experience is needed (none needed), and got their informational flier. I was interested in lion dance since I was younger, so I was curious about the club and decided to go to the first meeting.
Now, I was extremely nervous when first practice came around. I knew nothing about lion dancing or the members themselves. Adding the fact that I’m without social grace or a wing-man to facilitate adapting to a foreign environment, it’s perfectly understandable why I was nervous. But, when I walked into the room, everybody in the room turned towards me and greeted me with sincerity; smiles all around as they asked me for my name. Various people individually introduced themselves to me and took some time talking to me personally. “Very welcoming,” I thought to myself. During the practice itself, I never felt unwanted or like a burden. The members were all very understanding and helpful, taking time to help me learn the basic movements and stunts.
Even better, that amount of welcome and warmth I’ve felt on that first day hasn’t dwindled. I feel the biggest strength of this club is just how welcomed and loved the members here make you feel. A common problem I’ve seen with various other small clubs is that the core members aren’t welcoming enough to make new people feel as if they can fit in. LDC doesn’t have that pitfall. From the very first day I’ve been in this club, I can honestly say I’ve never felt like I was unwanted. Of course, bonding goes two-ways; you’ll have to put in a little effort yourself. But, for every ounce of effort I’ve put into bonding with the people here, I’ve received multiple times in return. It’s like the friendship equivalent of a value pack, and we all love value packs, don’t we?
As I’ve only been here for a quarter and so, I can’t say that I know anybody in this club like the back of my own hand. Some members I honestly know little more than their name and a few general facts. But even then, everybody, including those I haven’t interacted with as much, has continued to be very friendly to me. For example, when I said that I had to bike home after a recent event (a 30 minute bike ride for me), multiple people jumped to offer me a car ride. Now, I don’t want to write up an entire list of everything they have done/offer to do for me. I assure you, however, that it’s quite the list. To be honest, I feel a little bad as I’ve been incapable of repaying their kindness so far. As a person who simply doesn’t take kindness and ignores it, I’ll find a way to get them back… I mean, repay them someday.
Now, as the lion dancing itself, it is just as fun as I thought it would be when I saw it as a child. It’s pretty cool to see what the movements translate into for the lion itself. The lions themselves are quite adorable, I dare say. The stunts feel amazing to pull off, and there is a real sense of accomplishment when you and your partner succeed together. The board members have been great teachers. I definitely feel I’ve learned a lot, and it’s thanks to the patient guidance they have given me regardless of my herp derp status to anything involving trace amounts of coordination… I still have a lot to learn, and I need a lot of refinement on the things I already know. But I’m enjoying every step I take.
There’s also the performances themselves, something I have next to no experience at the current moment. However, at a recent event, I noticed something very enriching, and that is the sheer joy and wonder lion dancing brings to spectators, particularly kids. There was something very rewarding to seeing just how people reacted to it. It certainly hit me strongly seeing the smiles, the laughter, and the amazement people displayed towards the lions. After all, lion dance is an art, an exotic one with much culture and beauty behind it.
To finally stop this wall of text, lion dancing itself is a very fun and culturally enriching experience, not to mention the workout it gives. There’s a lot of pride and joy to take out of landing a stunt or refining your technique in a particular movement. The people here have awesomeness cranked up to eleven. They are very welcoming and are always here to support you, both in learning how to lion dance and matters outside the club. But at the end of day, the most important thing is that people grow closer and develop stronger bonds with one another. The LDC is not just a club, but a team…a family, that works together under a common interest in the art of lion dancing, both in performing it and spreading the joy of it to others. The sighs of relief after landing a difficult stunt safely, the feeling of success after refining each movement, the smiles and curiosity of spectators looking upon the exotic art, and the laughter and love that reverberates every time we are gathered, these are the reasons why I’m here to stay.
Either that or the great president is simply a very talented manipulator, currently thinking to himself “just as planned” as he reads this. Whatever the reason may be, the LDC certainly has my respect, loyalty, and love.
TL;DR: The LDC is awesome. If you aren’t a member, you should join. Really, I’ll even say “please?” complete with a question mark.