by Khin Zar Thwe
YANGON, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- The booming, rhythmic beating of drums captured the attention of scores of people in a popular shopping district just north of downtown Yangon, with the percussive euphony whipping up a festive atmosphere ahead of the traditional Chinese Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year.
Excited lion and dragon dancers waited eagerly to perform their breathtaking routines for the audience at a dragon dance competition at the "Junction Square" Shopping Center on Wednesday.
The performers, decked out in eye-catching, colorful costumes, were greeted by rapturous applause and cheers from the audience, with passersby quickly joining the crowd to watch an impressive showcase of dancing and acrobatic skills at the contest.
"I don't know how to express my excitement at taking part in this contest. Our purpose for joining this contest is to perform and enjoy the dances we have prepared," a dragon dance group leader told Xinhua, while waiting for the group's turn to join the performances.
Colorful dancing dragons coated with luminous paint that glows under ultraviolet light and entrancing drum beats left the audience in awe and impressed the judges.
"The scoring criteria is based on the lion and dragons' dance costumes, their movement, head design, the beating drums and dancing styles within the time limit," a judge announced before the contest.
"The dance moves and the competitive spirit of the groups really entertained me and I will come here with my family again. I am sure my children will like them too," one of the audience U Thein Oo said gleefully.
A total of 17 lion dance groups and 12 dragon dance groups participated in the competition.
Jointly organized by the Myanmar Lion and Dragon Dance Federation and Junction Center Group, the lion and dance contest started on Wednesday, a week ahead of the Chinese New Year, and will continue for eight consecutive nights until Feb. 14.
The lion and dragon dances symbolize bringing good luck to people.
The dragons are believed to possess qualities that include great power, dignity, fertility, wisdom and auspiciousness. The dragon's appearance is both fearsome and bold but it has a benevolent disposition and it was an emblem to represent imperial authority.
The movements in a performance traditionally symbolize the historical roles of dragons as demonstrating power and dignity.
Both lion and dragon dances are accompanied by the rhythm of drums, cymbals and gongs and the instruments synchronize to the lion and dragon's dance movements and actions.
The lion dance is a skill derived from Chinese martial arts and it has grown into a more artistic form that encompasses the lion's expression, natural movements and acrobatic styles and dexterity during the performances.
In the competition, the lions perform on a series of small circular platforms raised on poles and are judged based on the skill and liveliness of the lions, together with the creativity of the stunts and choreographed moves.
Points are also awarded for the difficulty of the acrobatics and the rhythmic and pulsating live instrumentation that can captivate both audience and judges.