Cheers and delightful awes filled Jalan Tan Hiok Nee aka JB Heritage Walk aka Cultural Street in Johor Bahru today as this cute pink lion appeared.
After 30 minutes of strutting and prancing to music from a YouTube channel, the two performers of the lion dance were revealed to be Millie Kek, 56, who manipulated the paper-mache head of the lion, and Rafeah Hussein, 37, who acted as its hind legs.
Kek and Rafeah had known each other for nearly 20 years, and when Kek invited Rafeah to try out as her sidekick for the event on Saturday, Rafeah gladly agreed.
“My partner, who is a 70-year-old auntie, had something on this Saturday so I asked Fifi (as Rafeah is affectionately known) to help me out,” said Kek, who started practising for the dance only three months ago.
“We can’t do the difficult moves such as leaping from pole to pole. Ours is just a simple routine,” she said.
Kek, who was formerly an auditor, left her job in 1993 to venture into the insurance industry. She is a cultural enthusiasts, and has formed a group called Sitomi comprising of like-minded women.
“Sitomi is also staging several plays at the Cultural Street. One of them is about a Hainanese matriarch who is trying to get along with a Teochew daughter-in-law. The two main characters are facing difficulties due to the communication barrier. It’s not only generation gap issues but also the dialect disparity,’ she said.
“Cultural differences should bring people together, not pry them apart. I find time to come to Jalan Tan Hiok Nee every Saturday as all the activities here are a cultural celebration,” Kek added.
Meanwhile, Rafeah, who works as a clerk, said she was nervous throughout the performance as she had only practiced three times before the live event.
“The most difficult part of being the hind legs of the lion was that I had to keep my back bent throughout the thirty-minute-long performance,” she said.
Rafeah said she enjoyed visiting her friends’ home and eating the cookies during the Chinese New Year.
JB Heritage Walk committee outgoing chairman Jacky Lim said the Cultural Street is always abuzz with activities on weekends, since its official launch in 2009.
“Sometimes events would start as early as 7am on a Saturday. The last activity will end at 4pm. There are also events on Sundays, but most of the events are on Saturdays.
“We will invite calligraphers, artists, musicians, dancers and other performers to showcase their talents here. Making the Heritage Walk a success is a concerted effort. It is the pride of the Chinese community in Johor and a cultural celebration for all,” Lim said.