Dance Showcase: Bring it On

Instead of only participating in the Pas de Quatre dance, I was also drawn to doing a style of dance that I had never done before, which is a more modern hip-hop style of dancing. Even during Culturama, Kahaani, and last years showcase, I had always been in more traditional or lyrical styles of dancing that were easier for me to learn and incorporate with my previous dancing knowledge.

Despite this, I chose to do Bring it On, which is a cheer and hiphop dance, much faster and more technically different than I am used to dancing. I thought it would be an interesting challenge to set myself, but perhaps I didn’t consider the various factors that would go into being a part of this dance. I am curious to see where it will take us, as there are many new challenges along the way, but I already know most of the people in the dance, and it becomes a fun activity for all of us to do together.

Dance Showcase: Pas de Quatre

Although I have gotten the opportunity to do 5 dance performances at UWC, none of them have been Ballet-related, which is an unfortunate downfall of doing a dance style that is typically considered rather boring to watch. However, dance showcase this year has the theme of “Night at the Movies” which actually contains some ballet movies featuring classic stories and variations.

This year, there is a ballet dance called “Pas de Quatre”, which is the dance of the cygnets in the ballet Swan Lake, used in the movie “Black Swan”. I’m really excited to do this variation, as Swan Lake is truly one of the most class ballets there is, and the music for the piece is very iconic. The downfall is that we are following the real variation almost exactly, and while we all are ballet dancers, the choreography is designed for far more experienced dancers than we are.

So far, we have managed to learn the choreography at a slower rate, but much of the difficulty relies in the stamina and speed, the head movements, and the fact that you must dance while holding each others hands. I enjoy the dance because it is truly beautiful, but it is painful and difficult to dance. I don’t think any of us mind, but it is quite the challenge to learn.

I have high hopes for the performance though, to finally have the opportunity to show my favorite style of dancing and because it is rarely done.

Kahaani: The Show

Kahaani this year was arranged slightly differently than last year, as the theme was related to “A day in the life of a student at Voice for World”. This meant that the various dances were all more closely tied to the service itself. While I enjoyed having a storyline to follow last year, I think that performing pieces that the students at Voice for World can directly relate to is a more fulfilling experience.

My dance this year was called Durga Puja, after the goddess Durga who is worshipped at the destroyer of evil in the fight of goodness and evil. The dance is heavily prayer oriented, and is a key festival in Kolkata, where Voice for World is located. Before our dance, there was a short clip with two young children performing their own dance back at the NGO.

I find myself participating in Indian cultural experiences more and more. In the one and a half years in this school, I have done at least four different Indian cultural events. I find it interesting to immerse myself in part of the local culture, as I already have a stronger Chinese background. Therefore, I welcome the experience to learn new types of dancing, new types of music, and interact with others to support NGOs like Voice for World. It is well in my capacity to dedicate some of my time each week to preparing for a performance that can earn enough money and raise enough awareness to support the students at Voice for World, and that means far more to them I am sure, than anyone here can realize.

Participating in Kahaani for two years in a row has been such an enjoyable experience. I have met new people, created memories, learned how to dance differently, and supported something I feel passionate about. I am thankful UWC has given me the ability to combine my passions of dancing and helping others into one successful event.

 

Ladakh and Behind the Beautiful Forevers

This year, Ladakh GC decided that we wanted to begin expanding our horizons and working together to further the GC as a whole by raising more funds and awareness for our cause. Last year, we organized and held Run for Rights at Bedok Reservoir, which was one of the main ways in which we were able to raise funds towards our goal. While Run for Rights was successful, it was organized along with two other GCs, Daraja and ACE, and Ladakh this year was hoping to be able to do an event that can be distinctly branded as Ladakh GC’s.

It was a late opportunity, but the service department informed us that we would be able to hold a sort of bake sale at the grade 12 drama production of Behind the Beautiful Forevers. In particular, as Behind the Beautiful Forevers is set in Mumbai, India and revolves around under-privileged individuals who lack the opportunity to leave the life they are currently living, there is a resonance with Ladakh as we work in Ladakh, India, and help a school in order to support children out of their current lives through education.

We were not able to directly sell food or drinks at the event, but we worked together with the Parent Association to bake and cook various food items that would be given for free but with a plea of donation. Especially after explaining what Ladakh GC is and what we aim to do, many people wanted to support our cause and donated money to us. Over the course of two nights of “selling”, we were able to earn 382.30 dollars, which will go into part of our overall earnings that will later be used for the Lamdon School. Everyone was really proud of us earning this amount, because we didn’t have a large amount of preparation time and also because of the difficulty with not being able to sell the food directly. While Ladakh GC may be rather small, we are hoping that other small projects like this will add up and help us improve and grow together, and also for future members, so that we may better support the Lamdom School and their goal.

 

Wavelengths 2019-2020

As I have done since 6th grade, I joined choir for my last year of high school. For me, choir has always been about exploring my voice along with a groups of others who all shared the same passion and curiosity for singing. The learning always came implicitly. Over the course of six years, I’ve greatly developed both my vocal range and my ability to read sheet music. I can sing much more complex songs than I could when I started, and I enjoy the challenge rather than fear it.

Wavelengths may be my last high school choir performance, and there only remains three seniors in the choir: me, Georgia, and Tony. For Wavelengths, as it is very close to the holidays, we performed “Carol of the Bells”, a traditional holiday song that I have performed a few years ago for another holiday performance. We also performed “Glow”. by Eric Whitacre, who I have previously sung some songs from. Both pieces are very beautful, albeit rather short. We also sang both pieces with a mix of Bersama and the accompanying orchestra. The final performance was very amazing, filled with many talented performances from the different music groups across middle school and high school. I found it to be a successful show, perhaps a last one as well, and I think it was a complete ending. From grade 6 all the way to grade 12, I hope to continue choir in the future, if this is the way that it will always be for me.

Ballet Showcase

I decided to continue with ballet at the same dance school, Dance Arts, that I began at during grade 11. While the class I was in is both in a different classical style and a much lower level than my original skills, I still find it to be an enjoyable class, as well as a good source of light exercise. It is also much more flexible than many other dance studios, allowing me to miss classes if school demands come first.

For the past few months, the girls in my ballet class and I have been working towards a small dance showcase for our family and friends.

I actually restarted ballet rather late, only beginning at the start of the school year instead of continuing throughout summer like many of the other girls in my class. I was actually a bit behind on learning the choreography because of this. Ultimately, this ended up being a large personal setback, because the time I had to learn the whole dance was significantly shorter than I would have hoped. The choreography was very interesting: a mix between classical ballet and more contemporary lyrical movements, and was heavily focused on small sets of complex footwork and arm movement rather than jumps or turns. I particularly enjoyed the music, but I found the steps very unfamiliar at times to pick up.

I wouldn’t say that the performance was the best possible that we could have all done, despite the work we put into the final product. I know that many of the other girls would also agree with me on this point, but I didn’t find us discouraged. It could be due to the fact that we are quite tight-knit as a class, but also because we understand that we are all at different levels, and that the performance had lower stakes, and as a result was more for our own confidence and our own fun than anything else. Was it challenging? A fair bit. But did I enjoy it? Naturally.

 

 

Ladakh Personal Reflection 2019-2020

Why I joined Ladakh GC:

I have always felt that education is important, especially since I have had the opportunity for a large portion of my life to attend international or private schools around the world, where I’ve been privileged to have a wise variety of resources and tools open to help me learn. As there are many regions of the world where literacy rates are low, especially in areas where children cannot go to school because of family or economical reasons, I believe it is important to support people that don’t have the same resources available to them as I do. Therefore, as Ladakh GC follows the UN Sustainable Development Goal #4 of Quality Education, I felt that it was a cause similar to one that I believe in. Additionally, the Lamdon School (Ladakh GC’s partner school) incorporates Ladakhi culture into their curriculum so culture is preserved in addition to developing other necessary skills.

Project Week: Service

Tuesday:

Since there was another Project Week group working with School For Life, we agreed that they would complete the other aspects of their CAS plan while we went to School For Life for our service aspect of the trip. On Tuesday morning, School For Life brought the girls back to their chosen accommodation and picked us up from our hotel in the Old City. We sat in the back with two of the girls from School For Life, who were really friendly and excited to see us. Although their English was limited and our Thai nonexistent, we were able to swap names and ages, and found out that they are similar in age to us. One of the girls mentioned she liked to listen to K Pop when we were talking about what type of music we like, so Rhea played some K Pop from the girl group Blackpink and we sang along as best we could (which was poorly) but the girls knew most of the words and we had fun. School For Life is around an hour drive away from Chiang Mai city, but it was easy going and we saw more of Thailand in the truck. School For Life was located deep inside a forest and nature area, and was a very large complex. When we arrived, we were met by the other students in the oldest grade, and we were shown our two rooms in their guest area. After giving us some time to unpack and get ready for the rest of the day, we spent the next hour or so playing icebreaker games and getting to know the other students. The group split into two and we got a tour of the School For Life campus, which was very natural. There were living facilities for teachers and students, sports and music facilities, several classrooms, a cafeteria and joint kitchen, offices, a library, a communal assembly hall, and farm areas. We walked all the way to the farm area, and the main academic and living area was concentrated in the front while the back end of the land area was for sports, music, and farming. They explained that the children helped farm and cook, taking turns with their class to help. In the farm area, one of the students in my tour group grabbed some mangoes from the mango trees they had, and as we walked back, explained to me some of the Thai words for various plants. While the students broke for lunch together in the communal cafeteria, we ate lunch in a separate guest area and discussed our plan for dancing which was our first activity and schedules for that afternoon. We chose to teach a modified version of a Kahaani dance that Mallika choreographed and Rhea and Isabella participated in. Aarushi and I spent an hour going over the dance several times again to ensure we also knew it. The dancing was actually very successful despite the dance being a difficult one. Everyone was enthusiastic to learn despite the dance being intimidating, and we quickly taught all the choreography within an hour. By the end everyone was smiling and laughing and enjoying themselves, and we didn’t focus on the precision of the movements rather the community feeling everyone shared and enjoying oneself with the activity. After we taught our Indian dance, we motioned for a trade, since we discovered that K Pop seemed to be very popular with the students, and the girls who rode with us in the truck were very familiar with the dances to many songs and could perform them herself. Thus, we had her teach us, but we spent most of the time watching her dance while we tried to stumble along in the background, but I enjoyed that part the most. At that point, the younger children were done with school, so many of them were sitting in the room watching us all dance. At the end, the teachers asked us to perform the dance as one large group the next day to the rest of the school, so that they would get to experience it as well, and we agreed. 

 

 

Wednesday:

Despite having separate rooms, we all slept together in one of the rooms. There wasn’t access to wifi in the majority of the compound, so the atmosphere was very peaceful and the rooms had large windows that looked out into the surrounding forests. We spent some time getting ready for the morning assembly, which some of the other volunteers explained as being a meeting with everyone in the community for announcements and school events. The students all lined up in order of age with the youngest class on one side and the oldest on the opposite. The teachers were spread out around the children. There were several announcements both from teachers and some of the older students, and there was a school chant in both English and Thai. While much of the announcements were in Thai, there was a part of the morning where everyone participated in stretching with music accompaniment that were able to follow along with. It was quite brief, but we all enjoyed the ceremony and the common theme of School For Life with having strong community relationships. After everyone ate breakfast, we did arts and crafts with a younger class, around grade 7, and the two long term German volunteers who would be acting as translators throughout the duration of our stay. Many of the girls knew various origami animals or flowers, so we spent two hours learning different origami types and drawing pictures. I was personally curious about learning origami, since it was something that I was never good at. It was also nice to be able to do something simple and have conversation without any outside distractions. Everyone was very focused on participating in the activity and I found that something nicer than what we usually have in our lives with all the technology and quick access to information. School For Life let my group and I slow down and step back from the fast pace of life. In the afternoon, we chose to participate in different activities that the children would do since Wednesday afternoon was the time where all the students participated in a club or activity of their choosing. Mallika, Rhea, and I joined Thai traditional dance, and Aarushi and Isabella went to do organic farming. In the general assembly hall where many of the larger group activities were held, we were joined by a younger mixed class of boys and girls along with a very young class of children no older than six. It seemed that the teachers would be sitting back more as supervisors since two of the boys took it upon themselves to organize everyone in two circles. We started in a kneeling position facing into the circles and the students to our left and right showed us what to do. Everything was done within a count of 8, and for our benefit and understanding they all did it in English. We quickly learned that it was not dancing we were doing, but Muay Thai, because after around three counts of 8, the two boys who were leading suddenly spun into a standard fighting pose opposite each other. Rhea was dragged to be with a little girl in the other group, but Aarushi and I were each pair with one of the leading boys while the other children split up to be with each other. While everyone seemed fairly familiar with the moves already, the boys had to repeat the steps in each 8 count several times before we were able to move on to the next section. While fun, there was definitely a large amount of stress since everyone seemed rather amused by the three of us and we really couldn’t understand many of their corrections. Overall though it went really well until one boy braced himself and the other one ran up onto the leg he braced and 

kicked up and over before landing opposite the boy once again. That was where it all completely devolved because really no one else could do it. I would do it again, or for a longer time, but we did definitely join in at more ofa middle level than a true beginner, so it would have been nice to spend longer with the boys to learn at a slower pace and from the beginning. Apparently the organic farming was very successful but perhaps even more tiring, since they were in direct sunlight but we had some cover. Everyone went back to class and we went back to our rooms to shower and share our experiences. In the end, everything was rather different than how we thought the afternoon would pan out but still a good experience nonetheless. Towards the evening, we went back outside to play with some of the children who were playing on the playground before dinner, and they took great delight in the see saw, something I definitely do not find delightful. They rushed off to dinner and we went back to the guest area for ours, and had another delicious Thai meal. All the meals we had so far were very authentic and they were very accommodating to the different allergies that we had, for which we were very thankful. 

 

Thursday:

We had to leave around midday for our flight back to Bangkok and Singapore, but we planned to bake during the morning with one of the classes. After the morning ceremony, we drove with some of the teachers to the nearby town around 20 minutes away, where we went to a market to buy all the ingredients that we had preset for our baking. While we had considered that butter would be hard to find and so found a recipe that substituted butter, we didn’t consider things such as cinnamon not being powdered and that there wouldn’t be many tools like large bowls or measuring cups. The same girls who did arts and crafts with us were going to be baking with us. Since there were no measuring cups, we used a large rice pot to mix all the ingredients, and small plastic bowls to measure out the ingredients as best we could. We also used a mortar and pestle to grind the cinnamon sticks into powder. When we practiced the recipe at home, they didn’t turn out to be that appetizing, so we modified certain aspects and then tried the modified version at School For Life. I’m amazed the cookies even turned out as well as they did, because we guessed the majority of the amounts. They did take a long time to bake, but that was because we were all listening to K Pop and rolling the dough in sugar balls and generally enjoying ourselves. While the last of the cookies were on baking sheets waiting, we washed up in the communal dish washing area, and waited for some cookies to finish. After leaving instructions with the German volunteers, we had to leave for the airport. We never saw the majority of the cookies baked, but all the children that we had gotten to know came and said goodbye, and as we left in the truck all the children were gathering for lunch and waved goodbye to us when we drove past. We hadn’t anticipated Chiang Mai being like it was for us in the end, and despite all the difficulties we experienced while planning, the trip itself turned out to be an amazing experience, both with each other and with the CAS aspects that we had designed and participated in. It was in the end all about the people who made it worth it.

Ballet: CTSD Exam

On June 24, I completed the CTSD exam for grade 4 with my ballet class at Dance Arts in Singapore. The CTSD exam is part of The Commonwealth Society of Teachers of Dancing international dance society, which holds exams worldwide for various forms of dance, including classical ballet. The exams are a form of achievement, with each level progressing to more difficult skills and techniques required in order to dance en pointe and at a competitive level. Singapore offers both the CTSD exam and the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) exam depending on the dance school, but both are similar in concept and are considered equal in their level of preparation of the dancers.

I actually have previous studied the Vaganova style of ballet, which is Russian in origin, and has different stylistic techniques than both the RAD and CTSD programs. However, ballet remains mostly similar regardless of style, so I joined a CTSD class here instead. As my class is actually a fairly flexible one that allows many different ages and levels to join, the exam was a goal that my teacher thought would help direct everyones focus and motivation. She also thought the exam would be a good opportunity to see how we react in a more stressful situation and while being assessed.

The exam follows a general sequence regardless of level, including barre work and center work, with questions about specific techniques, free style movement, and requests from the examiner to show various techniques on the spot. We prepare the barre and center exercises before hand, but the other questions and free movements are on the spot in class. Additionally, all barre and center exercises are done with only the name as reference, meaning the examiner will say the name of the exercise without first showing what the exercise is.

I wouldn’t say it’s fun in the traditional sense of fun. The exam  itself is stressful and you spend several months

preparing for something that lasts around an hour, but you also spend a lot of time with the girls in your exam preparing, and the rest of your class too since the class is often divided into smaller groups. We all arrived at least two hours in advanced to stretch, get ready, and go through the entire routine several times, and that part was probably the best part. However, it is a good learning experience to receive all the comments from the examiner, because it really can only help you prepare more in the future.