On Saturday, lions will jump and spin as cymbals crash. Folklorico dancers’ feet will kick and their skirts will swirl. Breakdancers will spin and flip to the cheers of the audience.

Guests will enjoy classical music and hip-hop, shop among booths selling handmade soaps, Indian-style handbags, Mexican clothing, jewelry, get henna tattoos, and learn about the variety of cultures where Lodi residents have their roots.

The goal of the Multicultural Bazaar, according to organizer Marina Narvarte, is for people to make connections with their neighbors.

Narvarte, the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce membership director who launched the event last year, wanted to give guests a place to enjoy one another’s music and dance, sample each other’s food, and get to know their fellow Lodians in the process.

“We need to learn from each other,” she said.

This year’s event is being hosted at the Deshmesh Darbar Sikh Temple, which will be serving some of the food. There will be vegan, Mexican and Indian food, along with Chinese tea.

But the big draw of the day is the performances. The day will include the symphony, mariachi, hip-hop and more.

The DJ sponsor is Ballet Folklorico Janitzio de Vivian Resendiz. Resendiz teaches children of all ages the traditional folk dances of Mexico.

Based in Stockton, the group tours all over the area for performances, Narvarte said. They perform at weddings, quinceañeras and community events.

They’ll be joined by a stellar cast of performers, including one musician who is newly arrived in the Lodi area from Los Angeles.

Yukiko Matsuyama, originally from Osaka in Japan, is a master koto artist. The koto is a traditional Japanese stringed instrument, which dates back to about the 7th century.

Matsuyama first began learning the instrument as a young girl.

“When I was 9 years old, my mom just heard the koto sound in our neighborhood,” she said.

Her mother asked if she wanted to learn how to play it. Matsuyama didn’t know what the instrument was, but she enjoyed music, so she agreed to take classes.

She played for several years before quitting to focus on school. Then, at the age of 24, she decided to become a koto master. But while becoming a master required learning how to play traditional music for the koto, Matsuyama had other ideas.

“I wanted to do my own style with koto, not traditional,” she said.

When she was young, her brother also played an instrument — the guitar. She enjoyed hearing the pop and rock songs he got to play, and wanted to try something like that.

Today, she mixes the traditional sound of the koto with jazz, world music and other influences to create something truly unique.

“It’s my thing,” she said.

It’s caught the attention of listeners. She recorded with new age artist Paul Winters on his Grammy-winning album “Miho, Journey to the Mountain.” She has also performed with Motown legend James Gadson, and joined Shakira for a performance at the Latin Grammy Awards.

“That was an incredible experience for me,” she said.

Matsuyama especially enjoys composing pieces for her KotoYuki band, which includes both western and Japanese instruments. She will also be performing in concert at Micke Grove Park’s Japanese Garden on June 2.

LionDanceME will also be amazing crowds at Saturday’s Multicultural Bazaar, dancing to the pounding beat of drums and cymbals, with high-flying leaps, humor and, of course, elaborate lion costumes.

It’s all part of the troupe’s mission to take lion dancing mainstream.

Founder Norman Lau has been performing lion dances for more than 30 years. He loved the combination of acrobatics, martial arts and dance so much that he wanted to become a professional lion dancer.

But in the United States, that wasn’t really something people did — until now.

In 2011, Lau began turning his dream into a reality and founded LionDanceME. A year later, the troupe went on “America’s Got Talent,” amazing the judges and making it all the way to the quarterfinals.

“We were in the final 48 out of like 30,000 contestants,” Lau said.

In 2016, they were tapped by GoPro to create a short film in a performance high atop one of San Francisco’s tall buildings. In 2017, they were featured in W. Kamau Bell’s CNN show “United Shades of America.”

And behind the scenes, LionDanceMe has established programs in four Bay Area high schools and a number of elementary school programs.

Lion dancing has a long history in China, with its origins stretching back as far as the third century, when “lion acts” are recorded by at least one scholar. By the Tang Dynasty, lion dances were a Chinese tradition.

As for how they started, there are different stories.

The one Lau tells involves a monster who descends on a village every Lunar New Year to wreak havoc and steal food.

“Lion dance is based off of martial arts,” Lau said.

In the village, the story goes, a pair of martial artists came up with an idea to scare off the monster. They created a lion costume to fit them both, then enlisted the help of their fellow villagers.

“When the monster came back one Lunar New Year, they came out and banged on pots and pans,” Lau said — hence the cymbals and drums that accompany most lion dancers.

During the cacophony, the martial artists came out in their lion costume, dancing and performing acrobatics.

The monster fled and didn’t bother the village again.

Today, lion dancing is less about scaring monsters and more about a kind of acrobatic showmanship rarely seen outside of acts like Cirque du Soleil. Lau’s troupe blends traditional lion dancing with modern innovations to create a unique show.

They’re excited to return to Lodi after the audience’s response to their last performance here in town, at the grand opening of Tea-Tasting.

“This one should be even better,” Lau said.

Recommended for you

comments powered by Disqus