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The Lunar New Year begins this Saturday, February 10th. 2024 is the Year of the Wood Dragon. But did you know that the Taichi Tao Center has a dragon in its own history? Here’s the story first-hand from Master Bob Krzemienski and Master Nancy Grizzle, who were both students back in 1976:

In October of 1976, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago invited a group of Master Waysun Liao’s students to perform a dragon dance. The dragon—given to the group after their exhibition—was originally part of a display at the museum.

The performance started outside the front of the museum, with Master Waysun Liao symbolically painting eyes on the dragon. Music from a drum and gong, along with the fireball, slowly awakened the sleeping dragon. (Photo from the Chicago Tribune above.)

In Chinese art, dragons are usually shown chasing a fireball. Likewise, in the dragon dance, when the fireball is shaken in front of the dragon, the dragon first slowly moves its head and tail. As the dragon awakens even more, the entire body of the dragon becomes alive. The fireball then moves in a way that makes the dragon’s head bow. Now fully awake, the dragon begins to chase the fireball. The fireball leads the dragon to coil, uncoil, rolling over, and looping under itself.

Master Liao’s students completed extensive training to perform all the various dragon maneuvers. The dragon had one staff controlling the head, one staff controlling the tail and nine more staffs for the body —plus the staff with the fireball. That made eleven Taichi members required to move the dragon and one more to lead with the fireball.

Additionally, several other Taichi students performed staff with flag maneuvers as part of the exhibition.

In addition to performing the dragon dance for the museum, the group performed the dragon dance at several parades including one in Chinatown and in the Chicago Christmas parade. They also performed at mall openings, Northeastern University, and at the baseball Little League World Series by the request of Taiwan.

Master Lee Ching Han

Our History of Working with Legends

At the time the group was in training, Master Waysun Liao’s students were very fortunate to learn the traditional dragon dance and its accompanying music directly under Master Lee Ching Han. A friend of Master Liao’s, and an expert in the dragon dance, Master Lee Ching Han came over from Taiwan to help prepare the students for their performance. This is part of our Center’s rich history in bringing other notable martial arts and Taoist masters from Asia to the US to share their expertise.

Master Nancy Grizzle was 23 when she and her husband, the late Master Bill Grizzle, were part of the dragon group. “We practiced dancing the dragon by running around on the sidewalk next to the Center,” she recalls. “It was quite a bit of exercise. Some of those practices were on hot summer nights.”

“Bill and I were grateful to be in the middle of the dragon, because we saw how much more running those working the tail had to do. Our big show was at the Museum of Science and Industry, and I remember how out of breath I was running up and down those steps.”

Dragon Dance

“When we were circling the dragon at the downtown Christmas parade, apparently it took a little longer than they liked, so they asked us to ‘move along little dragon.’”

In addition to Nancy and Bill Grizzle, the dragon group included students Drew Miller, Ben Menna, Bob Constantine, Dave Kellner, Doug Evans, John Kevan, Bob Strutz, Charles White, Monica Bendik, Bill Cornman, John Kroll, Bob Krzemienski, and others.

Do you have photos of any of our historic dragon practices, performances, or pieces of the original dragon itself from the 1970s? Please send photos to so that we can share them!

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