A crowd of pedestrians, tourists, and children in Dilworth Park Sunday gathered around the drum beat and dancing lions of Philly's Sun Lions dance troupe as they performed to preview the coming Chinese New Year celebrations.
Steven Wu, 19, a sophomore at Temple, is one of the lead dancers who held a 25-pound traditional lion head over his head while performing in the traditional ceremony – and snapped its oversize jaws near members of the audience, to onlookers' delight.
"These are lions. We try to mimic as good as we can how lions are, how menacing it can be and how playful it can be at the same time," Wu said. "We don't want to scare our audience – we just want to get them involved."
Wu started out in the Sun Lions organization six years ago playing in their associated basketball and volleyball teams. Over the years he got involved in the lion dance which celebrates the coming of the traditional Chinese New Year.
"I felt I had to give back. I really enjoy doing it," Wu said. "It's good for the community to come together and show off Chinese culture.
Now the Sun Lions are one of the most recognizable faces of Chinese New Years' celebrations in Chinatown.
The performance, meant to ward off bad luck, was previewed at Dilworth Park on Sunday, and followed up by a midnight performance in Chinatown.
The full festivities of the Philadelphia Sun Lions Dance parade will take place Sunday, Feb. 14 and will include a martial arts performance.
Between now and then, Philadelphians can look forward to other events and festivities celebrating Chinese culture as the Year of the Monkey begins.