Wednesday 19 November 2014

Street dance steps up in Singapore

By Chan Luo Er, Channel NewsAsia17 Nov 2014

Street dance has moved off the streets in Singapore, into mainstream schools and even onto the global stage.

There is now a street dance club in every tertiary institution here, each averaging nearly 200 members. One such student group is SIREN, which made its presence felt this year at the Gatsby Dance Competition. For this top Asian street dance event, SIREN finished second in an eight-strong field in Japan.

Another student group, NRA Legacy, beat 15 international rivals at the World Supremacy Battlegrounds competition in Melbourne, Australia - emerging champions in one division.

Ms Gladys Lim, a member of NRA Legacy, recalled: "When the Singapore team was being announced, we screamed and jumped around everywhere. It was extremely surreal, very overwhelming."

NRA Legacy is a team from the street dance club at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. The club was formed in the year 2000, with just eight members. Today, it has 200 members - whittled down from many more who audition.

Street dance is also seeing growing support. For example, 90 per cent of NRA Legacy's expenses for the trip to Melbourne came from a National Arts Council (NAC) grant.

Actual figures are not available, but NAC says funding for street dance has been increasing. Mr Kenneth Kwok, Director for Arts and Youth at NAC, explained: "Every year we do a review on what art forms we see a lot of interest in, and where there are gaps where our funding can make a difference. With street dance and such art forms, we find they tend to attract young people as well, not exclusively. Therefore, funding does make a difference because if you are a young person or young group, then funding is what you need to get you started."

Such support enables such groups to focus more on training. The close-knit dance community here is also stepping up to help itself. It started a web collective called DanceLah to share dancers' news and achievements, and - in their own words - show the world that "Singapore can dance, lah!"

"When young people initiate something, I think that is always the surest sign that it is real and tangible and that people are passionate about it," said Mr Kwok. "And when our artistes go overseas, that is something we can all take pride in, especially when they do so well in competitions. It also helps to change the conversation about what Singapore is as a country internationally.

"We have so many talented people who are free-spirited and go-getters and very dynamic. And I don't know whether or not, internationally, that is how Singapore is seen, so it's great when our Singaporean artistes get out to show the world what we are capable of, in many different fields and not just in the conventional fields of industry and business."

Another way street dance is changing perceptions of Singapore is through a non-profit event called Swaggout. This was started by a group of dancers to bring renowned international choreographers to Singapore to conduct dance workshops.

Swaggout has attracted dancers from around the region. Australian participant Shawn Liow said: "We flew from Australia just to take these classes and do the show. You get a lot of opportunities here that we don't get. The dance scene is so much better as well, people are so passionate."

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