The Gund Kwok Asian Women’s Lion Dance Troupe is the United States first all-women’s Lion Dance troupe, now in its 25th year. Founded by Cheng Imm Tan in 1998, the group meets weekly in the basement lobby of a downtown Boston mall to practice for their big performances around the Lunar New Year and Spring Festival period in late January 2023. Cheng Imm Tan is now 65 and says that when the group started, there were only a couple similar groups in the world. The success and longevity of Gund Kwok has inspired similar all-women’s groups in Boston, the US, and around the world.
Gund Kwok, which is Cantonese for “heroine,” practices the Southern style of Lion Dancing, which originated in Guangdong Province in China and is the most common form of the style in other places including Singapore and Malaysia.
One of the performers who’s been with the group for about a year said that it’s the first time she’s found a safe place that’s just for Asian women. Another first joined 5 years ago because of her interest in the athleticism mixed with art and dance, but came to appreciate it being a women’s only group for how welcoming the group is week after week.
These images were taken as the group prepared for and performed in their big annual performances at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., and Boston’s annual Chinatown Lion Dance Parade.