Raffles Rhapsody

By Wong Wan Ting (12A03B) and Dion Ng (12A01A)

Raffles Rhapsody 2012, in Mrs Lim Lai Cheng’s words, was a ‘passionate and enthusiastic expression of feelings and emotions’. Its goal was to showcase the talented performing arts CCAs in RI, and achieve that goal it did. Initial reactions towards the event were mixed (grouses ranged from expensive ticket prices to the short performance times for all CCAs involved), but as it neared 20 April, there was no doubt that Rhapsody looked set to be an event of great proportions. Combining efforts from all the performing arts CCAs in RI and the 31st Students’ Council and held in NUS’ University Cultural Centre, it was clear Raffles Rhapsody was not just another school concert.

Modern Dance opened the concert with a dance titled The Last Feather.  With their spasmodic, jerking movements, they were strangely graceful, but only received lukewarm applause. Karen Gwee (12A01C) believed that ‘the applause wasn’t as loud as they deserved because the dance was so abstract’, and we agree. Indian Dance, with its symmetrical formations and synchronised moves, was a feast for the eyes, accentuated by the constantly-changing lights in the background.

Chinese Dance was, as usual, excellent – Rachel Lim (12S06E), in a flowing red and gold dress, was a star, contrasting and complementing the other dancers in equal measure. The Harmonica and Piano Ensembles’ performances were stunning but all too short, providing Rafflesians with a mere glimpse of their talent, through instruments that we do not hear as ensembles on a regular basis.

Raffles Jazz’s two performances were a different and interesting take on the original songs, and the vocalists’ (Priscilla Goh, 12A03B and Baik Gi Won, 12S06Q) voices matched their bands’ instruments perfectly. Raffles Rock performed three songs in total, and while One Direction’s One Thing is more bubblegum pop than rock, Joshua Phang (12A01B) and Marcus Yeo (12A01A) performed it well regardless, and The Painted Owls and Bucket of Six certainly brought the house down, receiving cheers and whistles from a clearly supportive crowd! One puzzles over the peculiar arrangement of the performances with Guitar Ensemble placed right after Rock, though – there was a tangible shift in the energy level, despite Guitar Ensemble’s upbeat strumming and plucking, a veritable display in itself.

Malay Dance’s performance stole the show – it stood out with the extensive use of props, including a bicycle ridden out onto stage, which was immediately met by the roar of cheering laughter from the audience – making ‘awesome’ and ‘cute’ just some of the adjectives used to describe their performance. Street Dance then claimed the denouement to end Rhapsody with a bang, filling the stage with a whirlwind of movement, colour and pulsing neon lights. Their energetic performance was a preview of how talented the Street Dancers are, and with the amount of effort they put into their dance, we can only expect an equally good – or even better – show at their upcoming concert, ABCD.

Overall, each performance was outstanding in its own right, and Raffles Rhapsody did an excellent job of showcasing Rafflesians’ talents. But what we definitely felt was out of place was the backing storyline that was supposed to tie all the items together – the quest for the Rafspark. The four gods of pride, passion, soul and speed were no doubt an interesting take on the Rafflesian spirit, but the weak narrative storyline undermined its cohesive function. With the gods popping up onstage only now and then, it was obvious Raffles Rhapsody was less a coherent performance and more a revolving showcase of short items by different performing arts CCAs, which actually, suited the audience and performers just fine. Each CCA did an excellent job, and if the main objective of Rhapsody was to display Rafflesians’ talents, it definitely achieved that.

Photos by Mark Tan (RI alumnus) and Ho Sheng Yi (Raffles Photographic Society)

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