At the end of a red-carpeted staircase at 61 Hindley Street in the city, you’ll find Grandmaster Leong’s Martial Arts Academy – a training space for everything from Wing Chun to Tai Chi and home to a skilled troupe of lion dance performers who bring colour and culture to local Lunar New Year celebrations every year.
A champion marital artist and expert trainer, Academy founder – Grandmaster Felix (Cheok Son) Leong – marks 40 years in Adelaide in 2019. He chose our city as his final stop after leaving China’s Guangdong province as a young boy.
Over the years, Grandmaster Leong has seen local festivities for this important Asian cultural festival slowly build up and attract increasingly larger and more diverse audiences.
“It’s just getting better and better with more people interested in the history and the culture and coming out to experience the performances, the food and all the other activity,” said Grandmaster Leong. “It’s great to see people from all different backgrounds just enjoying each other’s company, food and friendship.”
Grandmaster Leong’s favourite part of Lunar New Year is the firecrackers which locals can enjoy at the annual Chinatown Adelaide Lunar New Year Street Party – happening this year on Saturday 9 February in Gouger and Moonta Streets.
“They’re traditionally red in colour, to scare away spirits, and they make so much noise! Afterwards you can enjoy a bit of Chinese music, some drumming and the lion dancing.”
The performers at the Academy specialise in the symbolic Southern Lion Dance which exorcises bad spirits while summoning good luck and fortune. The costume is very colourful and has a distinctive head with large eyes, a mirror on its forehead and a single central horn.
For Grandmaster Leong, Lunar New Year is busy with lion dance performances, but he still finds time to enjoy a special Reunion Dinner on New Year’s Eve with his wife, daughter and extended Academy family.
“After our performances are done we’ll all have a dinner together to celebrate – usually at one of our favourite Chinatown restaurants like BBQ City or Ky Chow.”