Prancing feverishly to the beat of drums and the cacophony of cymbals, they turned Chinatown into a playground of lions.
Well, lion dancers, to be more precise.
On Saturday evening, the crowd at Kreta Ayer Square, which numbered over 1,000, were enthralled by the acrobatics and the intense rivalry of participants in the 8th International Lion Dance Competition.
The square, which has a capacity of about 300, filled up quickly and overflowed to the neighbouring Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Chinatown Complex.
Fourteen troupes from 10 countries showcased their artistry, athleticism and sheer bravado with gravity-defying moves.
The troupe from Singapore's Nam Sieng Dragon and Lion Dance Activity Centre clinched the top prize, edging out Taiwan's Master Lu's KeeLung Lion Dance Troupe by only 0.05 points.
Mr Charles Tay, 23, a lion dancer from the winning team, told The New Paper: "The Taiwanese were a strong team, so I didn't expect to win. It was great that we won it for Singapore."
Mr Tay had trained four times a week for four months before the competition.
The full-time national serviceman recounted: "I even sacrificed my nights out to attend lion dance training, but it was worth it."
Throughout the five-hour competition, the crowd was vocal in letting the judges know how they felt about the scores.
When the troupe from Myanmar received 7.48 - the lowest score of the night - after a seemingly near-flawless routine, the audience erupted in a chorus of boos and jeers.
Mr Thet Naing Oo, 26, one of the lion dancers from the Myanmar team, said: "We didn't know there was a time limit, so we exceeded it and received a 0.5 deduction. I'm very disappointed."
Although a local troupe walked away with the title, the Malaysian team won the biggest cheers of the night even though one of its dancers fell off a stilt.
The crowd let out a collective gasp when Mr Har Teck Fei missed his footing and landed on the safety mats below.
The 20-year-old quickly brushed himself off and remounted the stilt to wild applause as he completed the rest of his routine.
"All I could think about was to get back up and finish the performance," he told TNP as he rubbed his left chest which bore an angry red mark from the fall.
"Although my team didn't win this year, we'll be back next year."
This article was first published on Feb 09, 2015.
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