Lunar New Year: Meet the men who have learned to think like lions

Hong Kong (CNN)More than 1 billion people will celebrate the start of Lunar New Year on Saturday. Customs practiced leading up to and during the 15-day period, known as Spring Festival, include setting off fireworks to ward off evil spirits and eating dumplings.

The most recognized celebration -- and the act most closely associated with the Lunar New Year around the world -- remains that of the iconic lion dance. In Chinese communities from New York to Shanghai, colorful lion dances are performed to ensure an auspicious year ahead.
    For members of Kwok's Kung Fu and Dragon Lion dance team in Hong Kong, Lunar New Year is their busiest season, with dancers training more than eight hours at a time and performing at 40 events over the two-week holiday.
    "You have to work hard and practice hard," says master Andy Kwok, who has instructed 500 of the dance team's members over the last two decades.
    Beyond Lunar New Year, the team competes in various competitions in Hong Kong and Asia, and performs at special occasions, such as new business openings and weddings.
    Based on kung fu techniques, the lion dance is rooted in both discipline and form. But bringing the playful lion to life requires a degree of artistry and playacting.
    "When you go inside the lion head, you have to think like the lion, not like a human," Kwok explains. "You have to know the character of the lion, blink like the lion, be hungry like the lion."
    In the video above, watch the main two characters of the Southern style of the Chinese lion dance demonstrate movements. The monk is played by Tony Yuen, the lion's head is played by Reeve Chan, and the lion's tail is played by Steven Cheng.