Dragon dance performed on ice, underwater and in the air

You can see dragons being manoeuvred on ice, underwater and in the air during Chinese New Year

In mythology, the dragon is known to be a creature who not only can move on land, but can also fly and swim.

And fly and swim are exactly what the dragons in some of this year's dragon dances, performed for the Chinese New Year season, are doing.

Apart from the traditional dance on land, the dragons will be manoeuvred on ice, underwater and in the air.

Next month, for example, nine members from the Stamford Dragon Lion Arts and Cultural Troupe will present a seven-minute performance while ice-skating at the rink in JCube shopping mall. They will carry a 18m-long, 16kg dragon decked out in LED lights.

The troupe first put on the performance last year to add a modern twist to the Chinese New Year tradition. Because of the performance, there was a 10 per cent increase in the number of people who turned up to use the rink, compared to the year before, says JCube's centre manager Maggie Chua. The rink's gallery seats were also filled to capacity, she adds.

Troupe leader Daniel Soong, 54, says he wanted to inject something fresh to the traditional performance to keep it alive.

He says: "Everyone has seen the dragon dance on land. We want to keep things interesting, especially to attract young people. This tie-up also gives our members a chance to learn ice-skating for free."

The troupe members, aged 22 to 42, have been practising for the last three months - they took five 30-minute ice-skating lessons and are allowed to enter the rink for free to practise on their own.

Some troupe members, including civil servant Tan Wang Khoon, are nervous as they have not ice-skated before.

Says the 38-year-old, who was not part of last year's performance: "During rehearsals, the dragon moves so fast that I'm often dragged along with it. During some sessions, I've fallen down 10 times. But I tell myself not to give up and to try my best."

An underwater dragon dance is dazzling visitors at Resorts World Sentosa's S.E.A. Aquarium. Four times a day, a 3m-long dragon, made from a polyester-like waterproof fabric, dances with the fishes.

It is manoeuvred by a diver, with another controlling a dragon's pearl the size of a medicine ball. The pearl and the dragon weigh 5kg altogether.

Says Mr Koh Yong Seng, 45, a lead diver at the aquarium who is also a trained dragon dancer: "We take turns handling the pearl and dragon. It takes a fair bit of chemistry and coordination between the two divers to make the movement seamless.

"I've performed in dragon dances on land in my younger days. But underwater, there are additional considerations including the current and water resistance. Thankfully, our normal working environment is underwater, so we are very familiar with the conditions inside."

Since 2013, the aquarium has been introducing characters such as Santa Claus and Easter Bunny into its underwater habitats as part of its special programming.

Says Ms Michelle Choo, 40, a director at the aquarium: "Guest response for such dive programming has been overwhelming as they make for great photo opportunities for our visitors. The underwater dragon dance signifies a blessing for our visitors for a good year ahead."

The dragon will be soaring this year too. Two flying remote-controlled dragon kites - one red, one green - will take to the skies at the annual Chingay Parade next week.

Each 800g kite is made up of a 1m-long head decked in LED lights, and a 9m-long body consisting of two LED streamers.

Created by Singaporean Michael Lim, 55, the founder and director of remote- controlled kite shop Go Fly Kite, the kites are installed with propellers and powered by batteries. They can fly as fast as 60km an hour, and can perform loops, rolls and dives, as well as fly upside down and shoot lasers from the dragon's eyes.

Mr Lim, who took three years to design and make the kites, says: "Every part is handmade and we also had to follow the laws of aerodynamics to make it fly.

"One prototype looked like a crocodile, another like Mickey Mouse. It took a long time to get both the science and the design right."

Does his new version go against the tradition of dragon dance?

Says Mr Lim: "I respect traditions, but I also want to innovate. I hope others will come to embrace this new type of dragon dance - one that's performed in the sky."

bang@sph.com.sg

Dragon Dance on Ice is on at the skating rink at JCube in 2 Jurong East Central 1 on March 1 at 7pm. It costs $3.50 to watch from within the rink and is free for spectators on Level 4.

Underwater Dragon Dance is on at S.E.A. Aquarium, Resorts World Sentosa till March 1. Showtimes are 11am and 4pm (at shipwreck habitat), and 2 and 3pm (at open ocean habitat). Tickets cost $28 to $38 for entry into the aquarium.

Chingay Parade Singapore 2015 will be held at the F1 Pit Building on Friday and Saturday at 8pm. Tickets priced from $28.50 to $60 are available from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555).