CHINATOWN — When the 101st annual Lunar New Year parade steps off Sunday, joining the throngs of marching bands, floats and performers will be the Tong Liang Dragon Dance team, a dance troupe from the People’s Republic of China.
It will be their first visit to Chicago and their first visit to the United States, said Gene Lee, who heads up the Chinatown Special Events Committee, the volunteer group that helps hosts the parade.
"These guys are like rock stars in China. They're big time," Lee said.
The parade is scheduled to kick off p.m. at 12:45 p.m. Sunday with a fireworks ceremony. The parade then steps off at 24th Street and Wentworth Avenue and heads north up Wentworth to Cermak Road.
Lee said he's expecting about 10,000 people to flood the streets and watch marching bands and colorful floats move through the neighborhood's main drag.
The Tong Liang Dragon Team will perform a version of the dragon dance, in which they'll hold up a costume dragon's head and snaking body on poles and then move through an elaborate series of movements and poses.
The dance is meant to symbolize the wisdom, power and strength of the dragon, revered in Chinese culture as a wise and caring creature.
The 11-person team hails from Tong Liang County in the northwestern part of the country. It's known as the "home of the art of the dragon dance." The troupe, Lee said, is like "the hall of fame of dragon dancing."
They've performed at Chinese national ceremonies, including a 1982 performance at Tiananmen Square and at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing.
The visit was organized by People’s Republic of China’s Chicago consulate and was aided by representatives from a state-run media entity, the Chongqing Administration of Culture Radio and TV.