Kids at PS 130 in Chinatown prepare for Lunar New Year lion dance

CHINATOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- The Lunar New Year celebrations wrap up this weekend, and in New York City, the biggest party will be the annual parade in Chinatown.

Lion dancers and other performers will fill the streets on Sunday, and 10-year-old Ivan Zhou is being put through his paces as he practices for his first performance.

He is one of dozens of fifth grade students from PS 130 in Chinatown set to perform the time-honored dance.

"The lion head is heavy, but if you can lift it and get through all the sets then yeah, it's pretty easy," he said.

The lion symbolizes power, superiority and wisdom in Chinese culture, and the lion dance has been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years.

Adrian Wai first performed the lion dance when he was a fifth grader at PS 130, and he's now one of the teachers.

"I think it's very important to keep the tradition going," he said. "These kids always give me 100% effort...Each lion is two people. The head is usually a lighter person, because they have to be lifting and move more, and the base is usually very strong."

The lion dance's fundamental movements can be found in Chinese martial arts, but the music is just as important as the moves.

"The music is supposed to be like the heartbeat of the lion, and that's why when you hear the music going faster, you see the lion going up and shaking more," Wai said. "And when it's slower, it's more relaxed."

Felicia Boria plays the symbols.

"We're still learning a lot of new stuff, but we're also having a great time also," she said.

Damian Riley plays the drums.

"In the beginning, you have to just roll to the beat," he said. "It really tires out the arms."

The lion dance is performed at special events as a way of bringing happiness, good luck and prosperity. It's also meant to chase away evil spirits.

But for these kids, the chance to perform in the Chinese New Year Parade is just great fun.

"I'm excited and nervous because there's going to be a lot of people on the streets," Zhou said. "To see me perform and making a mistake could actually be pretty embarrassing."

The lion dance is sometimes confused with the dragon dance, but an easy way to tell the difference is that the lion dance is operated by just two dancers and has a tail. The dragon is longer and propped up on poles by a group of people.

The parade gets underway on Sunday, February 9, at 1 p.m., and abc7NY will provide live streaming coverage of the parade, which features amazing visuals, delicious treats and mesmerizing cultural performances.

Parade route: Mott & Canal to Chatham Square to East Broadway towards the Manhattan Bridge, completing on Eldridge and Forsyth Streets towards Grand Street next to Sara D. Roosevelt Park.

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