Modern Dance’s Luminescence: An Illuminating Experience

By Benjamin Lim (19S03I), Chung Sohyun (18A13A), Joyce Lee (19S06O) and Mahima Sowrirajan (19S07A)
Photos courtesy of Chloe Tan, Ting Hou Yee, Melvin Liam, Amy Lin, David Lim and Dionne Pok of Raffles Photographic Society

An outstretched arm, an extended leg, a tilted head — is this what comes to your mind when you think of modern dance? For many, modern dance is an esoteric and abstract art form that seems distant from our everyday lives. However, on the 3rd and 4th of May, in their showcase “Luminescence”, Modern Dance revealed to us how dance, just like any other art form, can be used to tell magical and captivating stories that contain deep meaning.

The doors to the MPH opened and audience members started streaming in 15 minutes before the showcase began, with some even bringing placards and fancy bouquets to show their support for the dancers. As more students filed into the hall, the anticipation for the showcase started to crescendo.

Behind the stage curtains, the atmosphere was one of nervous excitement as the dancers waited to present to the audience the result of two months of choreographing, teaching and practising. Though the whole showcase lasted only 30 minutes, an immense amount of time and effort was put into it by the dancers, who were anxious to see their hard work finally pay off. As dancer Soon Weilin (18S03L) put it, “for the Y6s, one of the greatest struggles was the lack of time… (the dancers often had to) meet at the mirrors during our breaks to learn the choreography or stay back past our CCA time to practice.”

She added that “some of my favourite moments of the performance were not spent on stage, but rather offstage, behind the wings – right before we went on stage, when everyone was huddled in a circle, breathing together; and when we were waiting for our turn to go on stage and we see someone in the opposite wings and we smile and shoot hearts at each other.” This sense of camaraderie and the unspoken acknowledgement that they were all facing this challenge together as a team helped to ease some of the stress they felt.

Soon enough, the lights in the MPH dimmed and the radiant beams of the stage lights drew all eyes to the stage. The loud chattering in the audience ceased, replaced by the echoes of the emcee’s footsteps as she walked to the centre of the stage. Welcoming the audience warmly, she explained the rationale behind the choice of their showcase title, “Luminescence”. Meaning “the emission of light”, through their showcase, Modern Dance hoped to illuminate the story of their batch and their tumultuous journey throughout the past one and a half years.

The Y6s kicked off the performance with a piece that demonstrated their initial struggles in adjusting to a new school environment and a new genre of dance upon joining the CCA during the SYF year. The choreography was highly synchronised and rhythmic, without giving the impression of being robotic or repetitive. The dancers seamlessly changed their formations several times, breaking into smaller groups and sometimes forming straight lines, with each performing a different set of moves. This added variety to the already impressive choreography, comprising of leaps, turns and arresting moves that highlighted the dancers’ flexibility and talent. During the dance, the dancers backstage took turns narrating parts of the Y6s’ story, and this helped the audience link the moves on stage with the story they hoped to convey.

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Y6s performing their synchronised opening piece.

The Y6’s stellar dance number was followed by the Y5’s performance, which aimed to reveal the tension that arose within the CCA upon the arrival of the new members at the start of this year. Eager to impress, the new members strode onto the stage confidently before quickly taking their positions with grace and poise. Compared to the previous piece, this performance had more fast-paced music, as well as an ominous and foreboding mood. The choreography was dominated by choppy and dramatic movements like kicking, pulling and pushing, which symbolised the disagreements and conflict between CCA members.

During one memorable portion of the performance, the dancers clustered in the centre of the stage. As the music slowed down, they crouched down together, before the music was replaced by the ticking sound of a clock. This sudden change represented the dancers’ race against time to prepare for a performance and the mounting stress that was crushing them. Watching the dancers perform their piece with such genuine emotion, the audience almost felt the same anxiety and pressure that the dancers no doubt had to contend with throughout their time in the CCA.

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Y5s performing a memorable part of their piece with confidence, capturing the audience’s attention.

The next part was performed to a spoken word piece called “Instructions for a Bad Day” by Shane Koyczan. According to Oh Shu Xin (18S03G), one of the choreographers, through this piece, the dancers wanted to send the message that “life gets tough [and] sometimes it feels like we’re the only ones, but [we should] remember that there are [other] people going through the same struggles, [and] that everyone is dealing with it together”. The dance started off slow with the dancers standing in their fixed positions, performing knife-like hand movements to illustrate the opening line of the poem, “There will be bad days. Be calm. Loosen your grip, opening each palm slowly now.

As the poem progressed, the dancers shook off their initial rigidity and their motion became more fluid and uninhibited. This matched perfectly with the following lines of the poem which encouraged the audience to “Let go. Be confident.”

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Dancers draping their dark blue cardigans on their backs, looking down at the floor pensively during the last part of the third performance.

The piece ended on a triumphant note with the line “the sun and moon are still there and always there is light”, and to symbolise their release from worries and fears, the dancers removed the dark blue cardigans covering their white costumes and placed them at the front of the stage. However, contrary to what one might expect, they did not fling off the cardigans representing their personal struggles in one sudden, cathartic move. Instead, they took their time to take them off and left them on the stage with a great sense of reluctance — it was as if to emphasise  how overcoming one’s inner doubts is a gradual and painful process rather than a swift, easy action. This subtle detail added nuance to the story and portrayed their piece more realistically.

The last part of the showcase departed from the sombre mood of the previous pieces, with a more joyful and celebratory vibe. The dancers mesmerised the audience with their flawless teamwork as they danced to a “Love in the Dark” cover by Leroy Sanchez. Although the audience had already seen parts of the dance in the showcase promotional video, witnessing it real life was still a fresh experience. As the final dance concluded, some of the dancers stepped off the stage to get closer to the audience and they struck a pose together as a group to end off their thrilling showcase.

It was an emotional moment for the dancers, especially the Y6s who were performing for the last time. As one Y6 dancer, Michelle Yap (18S03J), shared, “it felt bittersweet and extremely meaningful performing for the very last time. Dance has played a large role in all of our lives, and it was very heartening to see how this experience bonded 26 diverse individuals, with a common passion for dance. I am very thankful for this fulfilling experience – for the friendships forged, the opportunity to share what we love and the memories which will last a lifetime!”

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Dancers striking a pose for the camera to end off their sensational showcase.

Modern Dance dazzled and delighted with their moves, and the full meaning of their showcase shines through upon further reflection on their choreography. Truly, the dancers have succeeded in encapsulating and communicating the story of their CCA, leaving their viewers enlightened and impressed.

The Dancers

Andrea Cher 18S07B
Chan Wei Qi 18S03N
Chua Ying Xuan 18S03Q
Ethel Widjaja 18S03R
Foo Jing Yi 18S02A
Fu Xintian  18S03J
Michelle Yap 18S03J
Oh Shu Xin 18S03G
Shania Wong 18S03D
Soon Weilin 18S03L
Stephanie Low 18S06G
Hazel Teh 18S03G
Zenn Tan 18S03G

Alyssa Savier 19S06N
Cherilyn Chia 19S06S
Claire Zhai 19S03B
Clarissa Bella Jew 19S03L
Joy Sim 19S05A
Ariel Lee 19S03A
Leong Kit Yee 19A01C
Lyn Tan 19S06M
Megan Aw 19S03B
Pu Fangxin 19S05A
Patricia Seow 19S07A
Hannah Wong 19S03Q
Yip Wan Ting 19S03N

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