Arts in Context

Austin organization breathes new life into ancient art of dragon dancing

Austin group breathes new life into ancient art of dragon dancing

Editor's note: CultureMap is proud to present the latest installment in our partnership with KLRU's documentary series Arts In Context. The series explores the process of creation and what it's like to be a working artist in the Austin area. You can watch more stories at

If you've attended a Chinese New Year celebration, perhaps you've seen the dancing dragon, gracefully snaking its way through the crowd. Here in Austin, the performers are likely members of the Summitt Lion Dance Team, a nonprofit organization that teaches the ancient art — and cultural importance — of lion and dragon dancing.

The tradition dates back thousands of years and is often used for big celebrations to ward off evil and welcome good luck into a business, home, relationship, or for the year ahead.

"Southern lion dancing, which is what we do, [is] more incorporated with martial arts schools," explains instructor Linda Cao of the sometimes gravity-defying moves. "That's why you see a lot of martial arts moves in the lion dancing."

Though the dance team originally began as an extension of Summitt Elementary School's dual-language program, it has grown rapidly since its founding. Today, it consists of a youth team, ranging from kindergarten to college, as well as an adult team.

KLRU-TV, Austin PBS is dedicated to telling stories that entertain, inspire, and change our lives. KLRU highlights what makes Austin unique — whether music, arts, or public issues — by creating and distributing award-winning original content. KLRU produces several series, including Austin City Limits, Arts In Context, Central Texas Gardener, Decibel, and Overheard with Evan Smith. As a nonprofit educational organization, KLRU also prepares children to succeed in school and creates lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Summitt Dance Team KLRU Arts in Context
Summitt Lion Dance Team performs at celebrations across Austin. KLRU/Arts in Context