2024 Artistic Direction

Year of the Dragon

Born to be Free

Do cultural symbols represent identity or the limits of it? Throughout the long road of human civilization, have we provided more constraints on our behaviours, or have we allowed for more freedom to imagine? In a culture with a rich history, is exploring the meaning of cultural symbols a form of subversion, or is it just a trend? Is it a reflection on our civilization, or a search for a sense of belonging? Do we only want to tell the stories of the past, or do we hope to create stories for the future?

Traditionally, the dragon symbolizes authority and nobility. After being passed down from generation to generation, what is the essence of the dragon’s spirit? Dragons have found their way into many literary and artistic masterpieces. Outside of fiction, many people take pride in being “descended” from the dragon. In certain Chinese folk customs, lion dances—also called dragon dances in Chinese—not only symbolize driving away evil and welcoming the new but also bring joy to the community. However, behind this symbol, can it be that there are constraints preventing us from being truly free?

If dragons really exist, if they can really guide our future, if they can represent a community, if they can give people a sense of belonging… then perhaps the most meaningful way to welcome the Year of the Dragon is for everyone to reimagine that free-flying dragon, soaring through a world where everyone can truly be themselves.

The Lantern City is grateful to be held on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam Indian Band), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish Nation), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation). We acknowledge our privilege to be gathered on this land, and commit to work with and be respectful to the Indigenous peoples whose arts and stories inspire us to bring communities together.