Houston, Texas (KTRK) – For nearly 15 years, it has been Soaring Phoenix Dragon The Lion Dance Society Provide a place for at-risk Asian American youth in the Greater Houston area to call home and find community. This weekend, the group will celebrate its historic anniversary.
The team can often be seen performing throughout the year at weddings, grand openings, and community events throughout the Asiatown area of Houston and beyond. None of the dancers get paid for what they do, but they told ABC13 the reason it’s all worth it is because it gives them a sense of purpose.
In Vietnamese culture, loud drums and cymbals usually set the stage for a lively and energetic lion dance. Performed mainly during the Lunar New Year, this dance symbolizes the act of driving away evil spirits and bringing good luck.
Watch: Asian Dance Team Episodes in Lunar New Year with ABC13
“The most exciting thing when we come to perform, whether it’s for an Asian audience or not, is that everyone is always so happy. They gasp when we do tricks at high poles. It’s amazing how everyone appreciates our culture,” said Alex Tran, founder and principal of the team, regardless. No matter where they come from.
But for Co Huynh, the lion dance has a deeper meaning. It represents hope, friendship, and a place to belong. He moved to the United States three years ago and struggled to adjust to a new environment until he found the Soaring Phoenix.
“Participating in Soaring Phoenix Dragon, for me, I am able to learn more English, understand more English. Everyone teaches me more about the United States,” Huynh told ABC13 in Vietnamese.
This is one of the reasons why Tran created the band in 2008, when he was 13 years old. Growing up in Houston as the child of immigrant parents, he knows how hard it can be to prepare young Asian Americans for success and keep them connected to their parents’ culture.
Tran said, “(It’s about) keeping them out of poverty, keeping them out of trouble by giving them a place to practice every weekend, to hang out. Their parents know they’re safe.” “I want everyone who comes to the team to experience what I experienced by having good friends, a good family, and a good support system.”
Soaring Phoenix is now known as one of the best lion dance troupes in the greater Houston area. Its members traveled as far as Malaysia to receive training.
Their routines include 8-foot-high poles, dragon dances, and auspicious amulets. They currently have about 40 members ranging in age from 7 to 32, who come from as far north as Spring and as south as Pearland.
Member Nathan Tran commutes from Katy to rehearsals and shows at least once a week. He said it was worth it because it gave him a sense of purpose.
“My family worked hard to provide for us, but we didn’t have a lot of growing up. There were times when I didn’t know what I was doing. My parents wanted us to be in safer circumstances, so that’s why we moved to Katie’s.” “SP is literally one of the (most) amazing things that happened to me and[helped me]find a passion and something to do, because I’ve never been so passionate about anything.”
Aside from the physical training, Tran says the group also spends time raising money for charity. As a non-profit organization not affiliated with a religious organization, it uses a portion of its proceeds to support charitable projects in Vietnam.
Some of their efforts included providing supplies to poor communities and sponsoring surgeries for children with congenital heart defects.
The team has no plans to stop anytime soon, and the team’s founder hopes Soaring Phoenix will continue for several more decades. They will celebrate their fifteenth birthday with a banquet on Saturday.
For more information or to reserve the team for your event, visit Soaring Phoenix Dragon The Lion Dance Societywebsite of.
Watch a related story: Houston’s Asiatown: One of the largest cities in the country
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