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FOR THE KIDS : Year of Pig to Come in Like Lion : Chinese-American Club will perform traditional dance at Oxnard’s Carnegie Museum.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Ventura County Life contributor Jane Hulse is a parent and knee-deep in kids activities

Welcome to the Year of the Pig--4693, to be exact. For a glimpse of how the Chinese ring in their New Year, come see the Ventura County Chinese-American Club perform the traditional lion dance Saturday at Oxnard’s Carnegie Museum.

If you are envisioning some delicate dance to soft music, you couldn’t be more wrong. This is a banging, stomping, romping event that kids especially will like.

Club members will perform outside to kick off a reception from noon to 4 p.m. for the museum’s latest exhibit, “Masters in Our Midst: Oriental Art Exhibit.” The event also includes some classical Chinese dancing as well.

The lion dance has its roots in a 2,000-year-old Chinese legend about a village harassed by a beast. The villagers banded together, creating their own scary-looking beast, which resembled a lion. Two people inside the make-believe creature made a racket to scare away the beast forever.

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The lion dance has evolved, becoming a New Year’s tradition symbolizing good luck for the coming year, according to club president Hillary Ling.

About 20 club members will dance at the museum, one of several spots in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties where the club will be performing the dance during the next few weeks. The first day of the Chinese New Year is Jan. 31.

The performance includes two lions with enormous, colorfully ornate and meticulously crafted heads and long, shimmering trains. One person wears the head and another forms the tail. While drums, cymbals and a gong bang and clang, the lions rear up, lunge, shake and generally act feisty.

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Actually, it’s much more technical than that. Dancers and musicians, who switch off, have kung fu training--the different lion stances come from martial arts.

“You need good training and you have to be fit,” said Kee Ling of Camarillo, who leads the dance. Since kung fu has become part of the traditional dance, there are lion-dance competitions, including one every two years in San Francisco.

Local club members have been performing the lion dance for different events and organizations since 1982. The club, established in 1970, has 600 members, many of them non-Chinese.

The dance is free. But those who want to attend the reception inside the museum and view the new exhibit will have to pay the usual $2 admission; museum members are admitted free.

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The exhibit, which runs through Feb. 26, includes the ink, brush-paint and watercolor works of seven local artists who teach Oriental art. During the exhibit, the museum will have two free family Sundays--Jan. 29 and Feb. 5.

* WHAT: Lion Dance and reception for a new art exhibit.

* WHO: Ventura County Chinese-American Club.

* WHEN: Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.

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* WHERE: Carnegie Art Museum, 424 S. C. St., Oxnard.

* HOW MUCH: Dancing, performed outside the museum (weather permitting), is free. Admission to the reception inside the museum is $2; free for museum members.

* CALL: 385-8157.


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