By Lee Young Yit (19S03H), Boys’ team captain and Tan Si Jing (19S03P), Girls’ team captain
Volleyball is a complex game of simple skills. The ball is spiked from up to 3.65 metres and takes fractions of a second to travel from the spiker to the receiver. Within this time frame, the receiver must decide where to pass the ball in the blink of an eye. Indeed, volleyball is a game of constant motion and players cannot risk missing a second of the game.
Raffles Netballers— The ones you can hear screaming miles away in the toilets during our ice baths after matches. The ones who randomly greet each other along the corridors, in the canteen and even in the lecture theaters with bear hugs and loud screams, as if the last time we had seen each other was 10 years ago when in reality, it was probably just the previous day. While many of our peers often question our affectionate greetings in public, it is through these small actions that we encourage each other and gain that small amount of energy needed to push through school after a tiring training the day before.
By Samuel Loh (16A01A), Nah Sze Perng (16A13A), Olivia Tan (16A01E)
Photos by Isaiah Tan (15S06G)
It’s often easy for one to think of fencing as a sport that places a great premium on individual skill, and to do so wouldn’t be far from the truth — the sport demands nothing but the quickest of wits and most attuned of instincts. But Raffles Institution’s showing at the recently concluded National Inter-Schools Fencing Championships offered a refreshing perspective on this discipline, with our A Division fencers individually proving to us just what it really meant to be part of a team. Each one stepped forth with the backing of their teammates, proudly bearing the Gryphon on their sleeves.
In fencing, athletes vie for points by striking at predetermined scoring zones on their opponents within a fixed period of time. Teams compete in three different events, distinguished by the weapon used: the foil, épée, and sabre. The tournament began with a series of preliminary rounds, requiring fencers to score 5 points to win that particular bout. Based on their total individual scores, 32 proceed to compete in the elimination rounds, where scoring 15 points clinches a spot in the next stage. Nimble footwork, precise blade-handling, and lightning-fast reflexes are important elements of the sport, where mere fractions of a second could mean the difference between triumph and defeat. Watching the action was certainly nerve-wracking.
The Men’s Foil event was particularly intense with foilists going against several formidable national fencers, including top fencers in Asia. Preliminary bouts were especially hard to pass due to daunting opponents — however, 4 out of RI’s 5 foilists managed to qualify. Foilist Ian Chung lost to finalist Jet Shang in a cruel match ending with a score of 15-1. Despite the intimidating point gap, Ian’s grit and tenacity remained unwavering till the very end of the match, which was very admirable indeed. RI’s Ariel Lim (15A01E) successfully qualified past the Men’s Foil preliminary bouts after gaining an impressive 21 points. His entry into the quarterfinals was greeted by the cheers of his fellow fencers, where he went up against Kevin Chan from HCI. Ariel’s perseverance especially shone during the semifinals as he stood strong and narrowed the disadvantageous point gap from a stressful 11-4 to a stunning 14-11. It was an intense match indeed and both competitors were on edge with the constant turning of tables. However, his hotly-contested matchup was lost to eventual event champion (and Asia’s top 16) Kevin Chan from HCI on a close 15-14 margin.
The Men’s Épée event was no less of a tense fight, with RI’s fencers pitted against tough and experienced opponents. The Round of 16 saw Zhan Zhide (15S06B) and Kumar Baid Dhruv (15S06L) paired against each other, whilst Paul Rin (16S06K) faced off against senior and fellow teammate Loh Huai Kai (15S06I). Effectively, Raffles was guaranteed a place in the quarterfinals, but at the cost of two fencers being eliminated by their peers. Keeping in mind the spirit of friendly competition and mutual respect, Paul and Zhide progressed to the quarterfinals. Paul put up a valiant performance, rallying his momentum and pulling back from an initial 1-5 disadvantage to 9-11, before losing 11-15 to HCI’s Justin Lim, the eventual champion of this event. Despite Zhide’s best efforts, he lost 3-15 to Jean Hun of TPJC, and the RI épéeists were dropped from the Épée title’s running.
RI’s top performing sabreur Isaiah Tan (15606G) performed commendably in his early rounds, attaining second overall position in the qualifiers after gruelling bouts against fierce competition. Although Isaiah sparred skillfully, Tan Yue Fang from IJC was the one to leave the quarterfinals victorious on a 15-2 scoreline.
The Women foilists weren’t about to be outperformed either; Chloe Wong (15S06N) sprinted her way through after qualifying overall second in the preliminary bouts with a comfortable 25 points. But the finals was certainly no walkover. In an exhilarating confrontation against CJC and national team fencer Rachel Yu, the duo matched each other closely in points. Advantages were almost immediately lost as the other responded in turn, exploiting weaknesses and executing highly-precise but equally well-calculated attacks. The scoreline froze at a stalemate three times throughout the entire finals — Chloe lost her 5-1 lead to 5-5, then 9-9, and finally 11-11. The stakes surged incredibly as the timer hit zero: the next point would be the game-deciding tiebreaker. A decisive lunge by Chloe brought an end to the finals’ nail-biting suspense, with the champion’s title ceded to RI amid resounding applause.
All of RI’s fencers in the Women’s Épée event made it past the preliminary stages with little difficulty. Fencers Chloe Chu (16S01E) (who also performed well in Women’s Sabre) and Grace Tern (15S03E) fought their way into the quarterfinals comfortably — until Chloe meets HCI’s Cher-Lyn Low in the quarterfinal match with great difficulty, ending the match with a close defeat of 15-12 despite her best efforts. Our first runner up Grace picked up an early lead, breezing through to the quarterfinals, then beating HCI’s Lim Jie Ying 15-4 to secure a spot in the finals. Facing off against national fencer Nicole Aw from NUSHS, Grace’s focus and agility was unwavering by neither her opponent’s threatening attacks nor the clock ticking down slowly. She fought for every point to the best of her abilities, but her friend and competitor was simply too high a hurdle — closing the match with a tight scoreline of 15-12. True to her name, Grace remained respectful and gracious in defeat, embracing her counterpart — an inspiring display of sportsmanship and sheer dedication to the sport they all loved.
Our quarterfinalists of the Women’s Sabre event included Denise Tan, Cheng Wai Yee and Chloe Chu. Chloe’s match against eventual champion Lim Xin Yi was particularly stirring as she fought on despite the immense lead her opponent had over her. Every point by Chloe was received with cheers of encouragement by the Rafflesians — though it was a mere 3 point she had scored in the entire match, Chloe’s perseverance was admirable. Cheng Wai Yee’s flawless performance continued in the quarter finals as she and Denise Tan advanced to the semis with little difficulty. Wai Yee’s competes with Chloe’s previous opponent, Xin Yi, and puts up a good fight against the eventual champion. Despite her skilful sparring, Wai Yee lost 15-8 to Xin Yi, leaving Denise to face Xin Yi in the finals. Denise Tan (15S06N) bested every one of her opponents in the preliminary bouts. Each hard-earned score was accompanied with her fearless cries of triumph, which soon gained the attention of many competitors. Her relentlessly aggressive style made her one to be wary of. Up against NYJC’s formidable fencer Lim Xin Yi in the finals, the pressure built as each fencer fought point for point on the strip — the scores on each side inching closer and closer to the coveted 15. The match peaked as the scoreboard flashed a worrying 14-12 to NYJC. Denise resiliently pushed on, closing the gap to 14-13 against the backdrop of roaring cheers of Rafflesians, but ultimately lost 15-13. Still, her remarkable fight was truly one for the books — her teammates gathered around to share reassuring embraces and kind words of encouragement.
As the fencers celebrated their individual successes, they never once forgot their belonging to something greater than themselves: one team gunning for common goals. Captains Chloe Wong and Ian Chung (15S03I) were pleased to say that “words could not emphasise enough the appreciation and joy” they felt for their team’s effort and hard work. “They forged a team spirit that could last a lifetime, and made memories that they would cherish forever. They got up, and never gave up”, asserted the captains, who acknowledged that victory was pleasant, but only ever secondary to the shared experiences and closer relationships forged. “Winning was just a bonus,” Grace concurred, “It was heartening to see everyone giving their all and knowing they’ll leave without any regrets. It wasn’t just about the results. It was knowing I had given my all,”.
Our fencers put in long hours and boundless effort to perfect their craft, never doubting the solidarity of their collective spirit. “One would think that fencing is a solely individual sport, but what we have experienced over the last 2 days has shattered that notion,” said the two Captains unanimously. Weapon Captain Ariel praised the team’s combined determination, “Everyone did much better as a team, and functioned really well together,”. And if there’s one thing we learnt from this season, the Rafflesians certainly rose together — as a team. It was indeed inspirational to see each fencer never allow their individual aptitude get the better of team strength, or lose sight of their shared aspirations; it wasn’t just about themselves, but always being there to break each other’s falls and support them on their ascents.
Raffles Institution was represented at the A Division National Inter-Schools Fencing Championships by:
By Liew Ai Xin (16A01A) and Collin Teo Jun Kai (16S06Q)
It all starts with a whisper.
In the spotlight, a single dancer wearing red stretches her hands heavenwards. The rest of the dancers – clad in black – stand as one mute entity in the back, before an unseen cue from the soloist ripples them into action. Together, the group inches forward and moves backwards, all whilst the sibilant whispers of many overlying voices continue over the speakers.
The tension created is almost palpable, as if someone is waiting and watching –– as the audience is held in suspended disbelief at the improbability of dancers dancing to something without a rhythm. After a good two minutes, a steady beat finally appears, and soon a dark melody strung by a cello comes into play.
The soloist in red continues to move amongst those clad in black, who constantly sift together as several interchanging groups. Near the end of the piece, the whispers return, leading the dancers perform a remarkable act of synchronization. This time, with their back towards the audience, they reform the mass of black from the beginning of the piece, to watch the soloist again in her increasingly frantic movements to escape the undercurrent.
After the performance, audible murmurs of “that was so good!” were heard from the stunned crowd, who applauded the dancers enthusiastically after the lights dimmed. However, there were also questions being asked, namely: “What did the piece mean?” and “How did they manage to dance to music without rhythm?”
Indeed, one thing that contrasted “Undercurrent” with the other schools was the lack of a definitive explanation of their theme and title, which allowed for more diverse interpretations amongst the audience. This is a very characteristic move of their resident choreographer and coach, Ms. Low Mei Yoke. When interviewed before the performance, she laughed and said, “I just thought about the phrase, ‘Ambush from ten sides’ (十面埋伏).” Dressed in black, with a simple woven jacket, she looked relaxed compared to the tense faces of the dancers she trains. “The dancers are still young, still students,” she mused, “But I feel that they can understand it.”
Ms. Low, whose works explore issues in society that she observes, often eschews elaborate costumes and formations for favour of a more direct approach. Another conscious decision by her was to create a simple but distinct colour scheme, with one soloist dressed in red and the others dressed in black. Compared to the long, flowing and intricately designed costumes worn by other schools, their costumes looked simple and commonplace. Yet, in a stage as large as that with such understated lighting, the red stood out as a single drop of colour that instantly caught the audience’s eye. Like she said, ““I didn’t want it to be overly “dramatic”, just something with foreboding tension.” In the interplay between the mass of black and that one red soloist, a message about the self was created that did not need to be overtly explained to the audience.
As for the dancers, many were jittery with post-performance nerves. Although the responsibilities of rehearsals and practice had been lifted off their backs, some still cited areas they thought they could have been better in. Perhaps it is true that performers are often the most critical of their own work. Isabella Lee (15S03N), the dancer wearing red, said, “We did okay … It was our best given how we only got to practice with the stage for fifty minutes.” Later, she added, “It was a good run, but not as good as our morning rehearsal.” This, coming from the person who had shouldered most of the solo work, was akin to Beethoven saying “Thank God, there is less lack of imagination than ever before.” Granted, there were slight slips in synchronicity and moments when the soloist felt swallowed by the rest. However, one has to consider that large sections of their music had no discernible rhythm, making silent communication a paramount part of their performance. Their costumes also included socks, which made running around the stage a more slippery task than the other performers dancing barefoot.
When asked what the dance represented to them, Choong Kai Xin (15S06B) said, “It represents our hard work for the last half of a year, and the dancers’ commitment to this CCA.” Hard work was certainly evident in the detail and execution of the work. Although every dancer had a slightly different journey, all agreed that they have learned something other than moves and formations from those four-hour practices, three days a week. One dancer, Tan Yu Bin (16S03O), said “We’ve learnt a lot through this experience, not just in the technique department, but also a lot about ourselves –– in terms of how our bodies move, and how to connect with the audiences.”
“We hope the effort pays off,” Andrea Low (16S03I) finishes.
Well, their efforts have definitely paid off, for Modern Dance has received a Distinction for their stellar performance! Raffles Press is proud of their achievement, and hopes that they will continue to create stunning, thought-provoking performances.
By Choo Shuen Ming (16A01E) and Tan Su (15S07A)
Photos by Hethav Sivakumar (15AO1E)
Dancefeste is arguably the most highly-anticipated Feste in Inter-House Competition (IHC) Remix, and thus it was unthinkable that it was very nearly called off this year. Nonetheless, the show went on, helmed by a group of members from the Song and Dance (SnD) committee of Orientation 2015 — a major change from previous years when one of the school’s dance CCAs would take it up.
To the disappointment of avid Dancefeste supporters, however, a ticketing system was implemented this year. If you were at last year’s Dancefeste, you would be lucky to find a seat among throngs of eager, sweaty-from-training Y5s and 6s, packing the auditorium, even resorting to taking seats on the floor. A member of the organising committee told us that the ticketing system was to prevent Dancefeste from once again turning into a giant fire hazard. Unavoidably, this disappointed some as they were unable to support their friends, while others lamented that the decrease in numbers made Dancefeste less “hyped”. To address these, alternatives have been thrown around, with a popular suggestion being that Dancefeste be held in the MPH next year. The organizing committee of Dancefeste will be recommending their juniors to consider this for next year’s IHC remix.
It must be acknowledged that organising such a massive event is no mean feat. We certainly owe the organising committee due credit — the complexity of the logistical and administrative work that goes into Dancefeste is something many fail to appreciate. To quote Choong Ting Wei (15S06Q), a member of the organising committee, they had to “coordinate … split the different logistics to different people … and find ways to cater to each house’s performance”, — not an easy job since they had to consider many “different elements such as the different light settings and props”. Furthermore, “it was really hard pushing through the idea of an informal, independent student interest group organising such a large school event”, but in the end, it was worth it. As Ting Wei shared, their “passion for dancing and [the fact] that [they] couldn’t let one major Feste just disappear … just because no one could organise it” was their ‘fire within’ for IHC Dancefeste. They certainly did their best despite the odds.
When it comes down to it though, Dancefeste is ultimately about the spirit of dance. Ticketing issues were the least of peoples’ concerns as stories of cheese tofu dreams, ‘Lepak corners’, resurrected robots, phoenixes calling, and teenage romance unfolded on stage. As insensible as these may seem when put together, they were the themes that the houses led the audience through their dance numbers with. With teams given only a week and a half, hardly any time was available for them to prepare. That being said, each item was entertaining and impressive in its own right.
BB was first up, their dance number surrounding the concept of two teen dance crews fighting over a ‘lepak corner’. They chose costumes that were not typical of a Dancefeste team, with none of the dancers wearing green but instead red and blue. The energetic item drew laughter from the crowd with its comedic elements and unashamedly cheesy acting, and wowed the audience with unconventional segments and moves. Their unique use of the theme song from “Bob the Builder” was heralded by judge Ernest Yee as “very, very entertaining!”. And just as BB’s routine showed how the red and blue dance crews eventually came together to fight for a common goal, the spirit of unity and fun of BB was summed up nicely by the judges who liked their “teamwork, and how [they] communicated with each other through dance”. Their last-place may have been viewed as undeserved by some, but in the end, that mattered not, as they simply enjoyed themselves. As a BB dancer, Samantha Rabino (16S07A), put it, the “sense of satisfaction of working together, putting everything together, overpowered the news … when they announced [the results], we just started laughing like ‘woah … top five, congrats!’”.
BW came next with a wacky storyline involving cheese tofus. Their item showed off a technically solid performance – praised for being “very, very in sync” by the judges, further confirmed by dancer Nicole Yap (16A01E) who told us that “training synchronization was one of the most tiring parts”. Their impressive performance was testament to hours of work put in, and clearly showed their passion for dance. Their coordination was even more stunning when you consider that teams were formed “12 days before Dancefeste, but we effectively only had about a week of practice due to CNY”, as Samantha Ng Hui (15S06S), a dancer for BW told us. Despite this, Nicole shared that what kept them going was “love for doing what we love, and also house pride! Especially for the Year 6s because they have exams too. It was tough on them. ” In the end, BW claimed 3rd place, but for the team, their path to that end mattered more. “You end up remembering the smallest things, like late night pizza parties and Chill raids,” said Samantha. For BW, what they will treasure in years to come is not the award, but the memories and friendships formed through their time together.
HH was next – darkest of all the Houses’ items, the first scene’s realistic ‘hanging’ caused one judge to later cry out that he “nearly died”. Despite the item having many small groups (most notably differentiated by gender) performing on stage at different times, the transitions were smooth and very well pulled off, with the judges liking how they “flowed here and flowed there”. Matching shirts also added to their ‘cool’ factor. This team was the only team to print matching shirts, and team member Danson Lim (15S03R) tells told us that they wanted “something material to take away from this year to remember the team and bind us together”. Overall, HH’s use of the stage was impressive and the item as a whole very innovative and entertaining – many agreed that they fully deserved their 2nd place. This was in spite of their music cutting off towards the end of their item. When that happened, Danson recounted that he “was lost for a moment, but someone in the team started singing and I got back on track again”. In fact, the technical problem was so well handled that the judges even thought it was “scripted”. Danson also shared that they faced other problems like how the “choreography had corrections down to the last day”, but in the end, HH put up a strong performance despite those odds.
MR used a clichéd but easy to follow storyline of boy-chases-girl, with an MR dancer who declined to be named sharing that they mixed elements of “joy, regret, romance” into the item. They started off with a toe-tapping Hairspray segment but also included many other genres of dance, one of the most impressive being pairwork, with the judges gushing that “[their] partnerwork was amazing.” The judges also praised how the energy of the dancers shined through. “At the end you all [were] supposed to get more tired, but then you all smiled even bigger … I felt happier watching you all.” said judge Ernest. This was echoed by one of the Year 5 MR dancers, who said, “Usually during practices, I get so tired from the routine, but that night I didn’t feel tired at all performing.” Eventually, MR faced synchronisation and cleanliness issues and placed 4th, but this did not matter so much to the dancers. Before the results, one dancer said she was “quite chill … I [felt] like I gave my best so it doesn’t really matter”. While she did feel “a bit bad that we didn’t win for the House”, what mattered most was how “it just felt really nice that we all came together and managed to bond over something we all love doing”.
MT’s winning performance was packed with simple yet very effective moves which ensured that the item was cohesive and synchronised. MT actively tried to add the ‘X factor’ into their item by using “Be A Man” from the Mulan soundtrack, with judge Ernest Yee praising the song choice. It was evident that they had put a lot of thought into planning the item, with dancer Mazie Tan (15S03J) telling us that they “tried to do different genres to keep the mood changing and to sustain the interest of [the] audience”. Also, cameo appearances by their House Captain and mascot made the item all the more memorable and unique. Ultimately, the Dancefeste experience for MT dancers came down to moments after practice where they would “just go crazy…blast music and start partying at the mirrors”, and their passion for dancing itself. According to Mazie, “Knowing you are going to go all out for something you love and having that chance to share your work with your friends and the audience is just very nice … Before we performed we said okay, positions don’t matter, just go up and have fun.”
After all the performances, what followed was what one audience member described as “the epic dance battle”, which drew large cheers from the audience as dancers from all houses stepped up to showcase their freestyle skills. It was not what more experienced dancers would define as a proper dance battle, as Danson from Street Dance said, “Dance battles aren’t parties … They have the atmosphere of parties, but I think if it’s called a dance battle then maybe there could be more regulations.” But he did acknowledge that it captured the passion of Dancefeste, with everyone feeling “high and happy”. The other dancers echoed this, with Nicole saying that “it was [her] favourite part of the whole experience, watching strangers and friends do what they love”. The audience definitely felt it too, with one audience member declaring that “Dance is magic!”.
So despite some disappointments about this year’s smaller crowd making the atmosphere less electric, most who attended Dancefeste enjoyed it immensely. For the dancers themselves, “Dancefeste was a very good platform for people in non-dance CCAs to get a chance to perform, and at the same time do their part for the House,” Mazie shared. Nicole added that in the end, “… I nearly cried because there was so much shared passion.” Many were definitely impressed, invigorated and fully entertained at Dancefeste, and for them there is no disputing that IHC Remix isn’t the same without Dancefeste.