University of Pittsburgh
October 19, 2005

The Lion May Be King of the Jungle, but It Also Is Lord of the Dance

Pitt's Asian Studies Center to present Japanese lion dance performance Oct. 28
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-Lion dances have been a part of folk entertainment in Handa City, Japan, for nearly 400 years. Pittsburghers will have an opportunity to see traditional lion dance performances at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 in Pitt's Bellefield Hall Auditorium, 315 S. Bellefield Ave., Oakland. The free public performance, presented by Pitt's Asian Studies Center within the University Center for International Studies, will feature a troupe of 25 musicians and dancers, registered by the Japanese government as an Intangible Folklore Cultural Asset.

Lion dances originated in China, but the dances were adapted and performed throughout Japan. A traditional form of storytelling, the dances were once performed to repel demons and evil spirits and affect rainfall and a bountiful harvest. Today, lion dances are an important part of Japan's folk performance arts and are performed annually at Handa City's spring festival. Each "lion" is animated by two dancers: The larger lion performs dances associated with the four seasons; the smaller one performs dances associated with the months of the year.

Designation as an Intangible Folklore Cultural Asset in Japan is reserved for people whose skills are considered particularly rare and valuable from the standpoint of traditional Japanese culture. The designation is important in preserving ancient Japanese traditions and art forms. Individuals and groups with this designation receive government stipends to perform and teach their art.

Having performed at cultural festivals across the world, including the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi Prefecture, Japan, the troupe will perform at Pitt as Japanese cultural ambassadors with funding provided by the Japanese government. The Pitt performance is cosponsored by the University of Pittsburgh and Bethany College, W.Va. For more information, call 412-648-7370.