It’s for the culture

New format, same Folklorama experience

The Flying Lions Dance Troupe is one of many local cultural arts organizations bringing their work online for this year’s Folklorama.

Although Folklorama may look a bit different this year, it will still highlight the creativity, originality and cultural authenticity of different communities in Winnipeg. 

Folklorama At Home: The Virtual Experience runs from Jan. 15 to March 26 and involves various free interactive cultural workshops, all held online. 

Director of communications and virtual host Tanya Williams says although the organization secured the Safe At Home Manitoba grant, there were still some kinks to work out in the program.

“We knew that we could do this, but the challenge was bringing it online,” she says.

“We established Folklorama At Home last year to essentially bring elements of the festival – the arts, culture and entertainment – to your house and senior homes. However, as things needed to change because of the pandemic,” Williams says, “We hired a fantastic production company, made sure we are following all of the health and safety protocols, and we put together a program plan that started on Jan. 15.”

Williams says the event not only provides work for artists and performers, but it also helps educate people and help to protect ethnic traditions in Winnipeg.

“The importance of an event like this is to preserve culture, and if you do not preserve it, culture dies,” she says.

“So it is really important to have every vehicle possible to have culture exposed to as many audience groups as we can. This also gives the performers the opportunity to carry on the traditions of their culture.”

Bernard Phanthavong, president of the Flying Lions Dance Troupe, echoes this and says 2021 has opened up a lot of different opportunities for cultural preservation and reaching a wider audience.

“This virtual experience is a way to support the community and preserve our culture in a different way,” he says.

“We can reach more people, not just across Canada, but all around the world this way.”

Panthavong started the troupe in 2006 with family and friends. He wanted to preserve a piece of Chinese culture in a fun and interactive way. Over time, the group continued to develop and be recognized.

“We continued to add goals and bucket-list ideas for us to do,” he says. “We continued to grow from there to do bigger shows, growing partnerships and had the opportunity to travel internationally in 2018.”

The troupe will host a workshop on  Feb. 12  (the same day as the Chinese New Year) that not only showcases the team’s performances but also involves interactive pieces. Audiences at home can become honorary flying lions for the night.

“The Chinese lion symbol chases away evil spirits and brings good luck and prosperity, which is why it is normally seen in the new year, because it is meant to scare away anything evil,” he says. “You can also see the lion dance in grand openings, birthdays, new celebrations and even weddings, as well.”

Experiencing cultures at Folklorama can help Winnipeggers become active world citizens and, after a year like 2020, the lion dance seems appropriate to welcome a fresh start. 

The list for upcoming workshops is available at folklorama.ca/events.

Published in Volume 75, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 27, 2021)

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