FIFTEEN students from the Buddhist Ho Nam Kam Prevocational College are among the most excited children in the territory.
They have been selected in the school's lion dancing team and are feeling the pressure of having to perform well at the Chinese New Year Parade.
To celebrate the event, the school has spent about $100,000 on eight new lion heads and dragon bodies.
'It will be the biggest occasion for the boys since the team was set up in 1992 and they have been practising really hard after school,' said Fan Hoi-ching, their teacher and trainer at the middle school in Yau Tong, Kowloon.
A coincidence led to the establishment of the team. Three years ago, Mr Fan went to a lion dance and discovered one of the main performers was a graduate of the school. He immediately came up with the idea of teaching lion dancing to his students.
'Students need pastimes after school. If you don't teach them something good, they go out and play video games and hang around with bad guys who are likely to lead them in the wrong direction,' Mr Fan said. 'I thought lion dancing would be healthy. It requires good physical practice and, at the same time, it involves teamwork. This, in turn, enhances friendship between students as well as a sense of discipline.' The lion dance is not easy to learn. The most difficult part is to dance on top of wooden poles, holding the lion and dragon high without falling. It is difficult to remain balanced when moving fast. Some boys have suffered falls, but have refused to give up.
'They are proud of being members of the team which won the championship in a competition held by the Hong Kong Tourist Association last year,' Mr Fan said.
'When they first started, some parents worried that the training would distract them from their studies. Most students have become more disciplined and tenacious since joining the team and have dropped a lot of bad habits. At the same time, their academic performances have improved a lot.' Over the past three years, the team has performed at old people's homes and orphanages.
People's appreciation has added to their self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
Being given the chance to perform in public has become a reward for good academic performance.
'The few boys who could not keep up with their studies have been told to leave the team. They will be welcome to rejoin us when they catch up,' Mr Fan said.
Dances of China