Breakthrough 2018: Shattering Expectations

By Claire Zhai (19S03B), Mabel Yet (19S03Q) and Mahima Sowrirajan (19S07A)
Photos courtesy of Dylan Siew (19S06E) and Zheng Huijun (19A13B) of Raffles Photographic Society

It’s hard to fathom that behind every street dancer is a typical Rafflesian who, like you and me, toils endlessly over their tutorials and occasionally falls asleep in lectures. The images of a student in immaculate uniform and someone breakdancing in the middle of the street just don’t seem to click. But for 30 minutes on the 26th and 27th of April, these students transformed into a group of passionate, stunning dancers we barely recognised.

Through an Instagram account counting down the days to the showcase and screening publicity videos in the canteen, Raffles Street Dance had many of us anticipating Breakthrough for weeks, where we were privy to a glimpse of our street dancers showing off their moves.

For those unfamiliar with street dance, Breakthrough lends an insight into what it is all about. What makes this form of dance special, RSD member Hu Xuanyuan (18S02A) shared, is that it “isn’t really a genre”, but rather a combination of incredibly “diverse dance backgrounds and styles”. It is this unique attribute of street that Breakthrough aimed to present, with deafening success.

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The fight scene

Compared to previous years where the showcase dived straight into their first item, this year’s show kicked off a little differently. Opening with a set-up of a dressing room, the audience buzzed excitedly as each item took their spots on stage. Our street dancers proved to be fine actors as well, putting up an entertaining skit that demonstrated their interpretation of the theme Breakthrough.

Pretending to be at loggerheads, different groups of dancers shouted at and fought each other comically, drawing crows of laughter from the crowd. In a bid to prove their mettle, dancers from the three items: Circus, Freakum Dress and Finesse, were pitted against one another in an epic dance battle. Each item took centre stage in turn to reveal their inner prowess, to electrifying cheers. As for the other two items, it was quite amusing to see them tut-tutting and mocking the performing item from the sidelines!

If the intensity of cheers was any indication of which group emerged champion, there seemed to be no clear winner, as the dancers themselves soon realised. After the chaos onstage, the sudden quiet as the dancers reflected upon their previous immaturity caused an emotional stir among the audience. As Xuanyan explained, this prequel showed how conflicts would “significantly affect our unity and form a ‘glass ceiling’, preventing us from reaching our fullest potential as a group.”

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An emotional moment as the dancers found their way back to each other.

In the end, the dancers reconciled their differences, showcasing their strong camaraderie and team spirit through their choreography in “This Is Me”. The powerful ballad is a journey of self-discovery and being unafraid to show ourselves to the world, a heartwarming, felicitous song as the dancers finally came together to share the spotlight.

As the chords began to build up, the music was abruptly cut off, just before the chorus. For a few moments, the hall was completely silent, the audience holding their breath in anticipation. The pause was interrupted by a yell from backstage: “dancers, standby!”, and the street dancers broke out of their stance, in preparation for the actual showcase to begin. As they raced backstage to get ready, the audience’s eagerness became almost palpable, with the energy in the hall running high.

Circus

The first item to hit the stage was ‘Circus’, a fast-moving, electric piece choreographed by Nicole Quek Jingyi (18S05A) and Tan Su Yin (18S03Q). Clad in chic black overalls, fishnet stockings and black boots, the dancers dressed up as circus ringleaders, capturing the audience’s attention from the get-go. With their perfect formations and sharp moves, they seemed effortlessly synchronized, but we can only imagine the sheer amount of effort put into the short two-minute performance.

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The dancers showcased their impressions of circus ringmasters in their performance.

Choreographing a solo performance is no easy task, but piecing together choreography for a group is something else altogether. As audiences, we are satisfied with being completely mesmerized and wowed by the performances, yet the convoluted process of putting various layers together is unbeknownst to most. As the choreographers highlighted, “While [they] had many ideas for various layers and formations, [they] found that [they] couldn’t fit all of it in” due to their distinct “dance styles and abilities”.

Besides the impressive routine, something that really stood out was the dancers’ confidence. One inevitably feels nervous and insecure when performing, but it was certainly commendable that the team managed to overcome their fears to put up a stellar performance. Their passion kept the audience entranced and the energy level up, noticeable in the cheers that reverberated around the hall.

Freakum Dress

If the audience was hyped by the first item, they had no idea what more was in store. As the first item came to an end, the set was wheeled apart, revealing dancers dressed in glittery silver tops, black tights and something completely unexpected: heels! This was met with a chorus of cheers from the excited audience. The popular track “Freakum Dress” by Beyoncé started playing as the dancers strutted forwards in their heeled boots, channeling their inner divas.

Choreographers Amirah bte Shaik Ahmed Allyn (18S03G) and Janelle Dai (18S03D) definitely challenged the dancers with this piece, but they were nevertheless able to execute each move with precision. Even though they made dancing in heels look like a piece of cake, it undoubtedly required substantial effort and hard work, testing their balance and strength. The dance featured several standard moves like chest pumps and body rolls. But far from being uninspired, it was packed with allusions to female power, a dance about a group of girls who were not afraid to show the audience who they were.

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Through their routine, the dancers hoped to inspire and empower women.

Freakum Dress required the dancers to step out of their comfort zone, without being shy about expressing themselves in front of an audience. The dancers mentioned that one of the challenges during the choreography and rehearsal process was adding their own personal flavour to the piece. At the end of the day, they were only able to bring across their personalities well because they had become truly confident in their own skin.

Finesse

As the dancers from the third item, “Finesse”, took the stage, the atmosphere of the performance transitioned to something more refreshing and lively. Choreographers Nicole, Amirah, Janelle and Su Yin collaborated on the piece, which adopted a more hip-hop, retro vibe. While the previous two items donned similar, exquisite costumes, this group of dancers experimented with their outfits to bring out an old-school feel. From vibrant hoodies and sweatpants to flashy headbands and caps, our dancers went all out to put up a sensational performance.

Set to the catchy Bruno Mars tune, the dance brimmed with energy and fun. It was evident how much they enjoyed grooving with one another on stage, and it was impossible for the audience not to feel the same level of exhilaration. The dancers’ enthusiasm was clearly contagious, keeping the audience enthralled and kindling their urge to move to the music too.

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Finesse dancers grooving on stage.

Seeing as Finesse differed vastly in style from the other items, the choreographers undoubtedly faced many challenges in keeping it in tune with the rest of the showcase. However, they managed to pull it off successfully, with one Year 5 in the audience commenting that the “transitions in between items was very smooth”. As the hit song kept a continuous beat, the choreographers “had to come up with fresh twists and ideas so that the performance would be an exciting one” throughout, something we can ascertain to given how all eyes were riveted on them throughout.

Beauty and a Beat

In this next item, the Year 6 dancers entered the stage energetically, smiles radiating from their faces. They opted not for an elaborate costume, but for simple black tights and their bright orange “Breakthrough” T-shirt. As they grooved to Justin Bieber’s EDM track, “Beauty and a Beat”, the Year 5s finally joined them together on stage. It was a heartwarming sight to see the entire CCA dancing and doing what they loved together, as one.

All too soon, the showcase had come to an end as the dancers had their ending curtain call, crediting the talented choreographers, and giving thanks to all that had helped them along their journey. But just as everyone thought that the showcase had ended, the emcees announced, “And for the final time, presenting Raffles Street Dance!”.

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All the dancers came together one last time for their breathtaking finale.

While the audience yelled themselves hoarse, the dancers came together for a surprise finale, jiving to the empowering anthem, “This Is Me” once again, finally coming back full circle. This time, the song choice could not be more apt for the dancers owned the stage, their energy and their power radiating throughout the hall, leaving everyone with their hearts full of warmth. It being the Y6 dancers’ last time sharing the stage together, the atmosphere was especially bittersweet.

Despite it being only thirty minutes long, Breakthrough definitely surpassed our expectations. It was only through months of hard work that it was met with such electrifying success, and as audiences it was impossible not to leave the hall in admiration for the passion these dancers had. For those out there who might lament your own lack of dancing ability, don’t lose hope just yet, as “dance is not about the choreography or the skills, but expressing yourself”. Raffles Press would like to congratulate Street Dance on their awe-inspiring performance, and wishes them all the best for their dance journey ahead!

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Exuberant smiles as the showcase ended on a high note.

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