Daring Lion Dancer

Thomas Cheong
Thomas Cheong

It's a tradition that dates back to the Han Dynasty. The Chinese Lion Pole Dance is a way to express joy and happiness.

One young Oahu student is jumping for more than just joy, he's also headed for the High Pole Lion Dancing World Championships.

At five-foot-three, 106 pounds, 12 year-old Thomas Cheong is the youngest high pole lion dancer in the state. He showed such promise in his skills that he was sent to Malaysia to study first hand with the best in the world.

Lion Pole Dancing mixes martial arts with dance and requires a tough body, mind, and a lot of feline dexterity. The poles can reach up to 10-feet with platforms for jumping on that are only 12 inches in diameter. Thomas Cheong has had some close calls but feels comfortable with his abilities.

"I have to have stamina, my legs have to be strong enough to jump on the poles, i have to trust my tail player," said Lion Pole Dancer Thomas Cheong.

"He actually trains in kung fu and he has natural abilities to pick up on a lot of the movements. We can see that he has abilities to be light on his foot," said Instructor Ken Kang.

Students of high pole dancing can start as young as 4-years old. They begin practicing on smaller poles and work their way up.

Thomas Cheong is now training to compete in the 2008 high pole dancing world championships in Gen Ting Malaysia. He will be performing with the rest of his team at the "Splendor of China Culture Festival," next weekend at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall.