If you could be any mythical creature, what would you be? A leprechaun leaping through green fields? Or how about a proud unicorn galloping through a dense forest?

If you want to be a fierce flier, you might choose to be a dragon. Who wouldn't want to breathe fire and fly through the skies, claiming all the territory below as your own?

When you hear the word dragon, what comes to mind? Breathing fire? Scaly skin? Huge wings? How about awesome dancer? If you're like most people, you probably don't associate dragons with dancing, but that's exactly what many people in China think of!

In Chinese culture, dragons are important symbols of a variety of concepts, from heavenly guardians to water spirits. For example, two different types of dragons commonly associated with Chinese culture are the Spirit Dragon, which controls the rains and winds, and the Earth Dragon, which controls the rivers.

To celebrate the importance of the mythology of dragons in Chinese culture, the dragon dance was invented as a form of traditional dance performed at public celebrations, such as parades. The dragon dance is also often performed during the holiday of Chinese New Year.

The dragon dance requires a team of coordinated dancers. A long, flexible dragon figure composed of many different pieces is manipulated using poles positioned along the length of the figure.

A traditional dragon consists of a head piece, a tail piece, and several pieces that make up the length of the body. Although early dragons were made with metal and wood, today's dragons are more often made with lightweight paper, plastic, and aluminum.

Many dancers can participate in the dragon dance, because dragons can be quite long. Although dragons can be made to be any size, many dragons used for large festivities can be 200 feet or longer!

Using poles to manipulate their particular piece of the dragon's body, dancers create the illusion that the dragon is moving. Since the dragon is often viewed as a river spirit, dancers often seek to mimic the smooth, flowing movement of a river. Other popular dance patterns have interesting names, such as whirlpool, cloud cave, threading the money, and looking for pearl.

It takes an impressive combination of strength and agility by a large group of people to execute a successful dance. Hours and hours of practice are necessary. Some people believe a dragon dance team is like a combination of a professional sports team and a professional performing arts group.

Historians believe the dragon dance may have originated over 2,000 years ago during the Han Dynasty. Over time, different regions of China developed their own unique versions of the dragon dance. Today, there may be over 700 different types of dragon dances across China!

Exactly what type of dragon an area may create for a festivity will depend on the number of people and amount of available resources. Longer dragons require more people and can be quite expensive to produce.

Dragons also come in a variety of colors, each of which can be a symbol of a particular desire. Popular colors include green (a great harvest), yellow (a mighty empire), gold or silver (prosperity), and red (excitement).

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