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.

 

 

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.


 

Project Week: Creativity and Activity

Saturday:

We left for Chiang Mai around mid-day, meeting at Changi Airport with our parents for check-in. Since one of the group members bought the tickets together on one account, we all had to check in with the details from her flight details. We were using the digital check-in, and ran in to slight problems when only two of us could check in. While going to the counter to fix the issue, the two girls tried to get the printed ticket set. After completing check-in and immigration, we waved goodbye to our parents and went into the terminal. Some of us exchanged money to prevent having to worry about it later on, while others already exchanged money beforehand. We had lunch and then boarded our flight to Bangkok Don Mueang International Airport. Landing in Bangkok was confusing, as the airport didn’t have much signage for transfer flights and there were many people going in and out of the terminal. However, after going through a second immigration, we had around an hour to relax and get re-situated. Two of us bought Thai sim-cards in the airport, while the rest were going to use their Singaporean numbers with data plans. There was a slight mixup with our gate and our flight was delayed, but we landed in Chiang Mai International Airport on time. We arranged for a shuttle service to pick us up from the airport, but there was confusion with where they would wait for us as international passengers are divided from domestic passengers, even if the flight was domestic. Eventually, we found the shuttle and drove to the hotel. It was a short distance and checking in was very quick. After setting our things down, we went to the hotel cafe to eat dinner and went to bed not long after. Overall a successful journey 🙂

Sunday:

Bright and early, we scheduled our day trek with Wild Planet to begin at 8 am. Wild Planet came and picked us up, and we were informed that we would be driving for around an hour to a market to pick up supplies, before continuing up to the mountain area where we would be trekking. It started out fairly cool, but the weather eventually warmed up, and by the time we reached the base of the mountain to quickly stop for a break, it was already quite warm out. The temperature was estimated to reach 38 degrees, but humidity would make it feel like 42. As we drove up the mountain, I started getting a bit carsick as the road was very windy, but it was a beautiful location, forested treescapes as far as the eye could see. The top of the mountain allowed a wide view of the surrounding lands, and our guide pointed out our final destination, approximately 15 km away. That was our first issue, as we anticipated the trek to only be around 5-7 km. While I have done several hiking trips before, they have never been in such warm weather, and I knew this would be a personal difficulty. The initial part of the trek was slower going and also easier than the later parts of the trek as the descent was not as steep and we were not in heavily wooded areas. On this part of the trek, our guide showed us many local Thai plants, including coffee and tea plants, along with several different fruits and vegetables. He also showed us a particular type of wood that easily burns and was once used as torches by the local hill tribes. During lunch, we stopped in a small village. In my past hiking trips, we did not get the opportunity to interact with the local culture, so I found this to be a slightly different experience compared to what I have done in the past. After lunch, our trek because much harder. We were in much steeper sections of the forest, with many uphill and downhill changes. The path was only wide enough for single file walking, so we all took turns in the various positions. There were some parts of the trek where I was quite scared because one side would be the side of the hill and the other side would be straight down. I was concerned that someone in my group would slip and would be injured. It was also getting progressively warmer, especially as we exerted more effort, so we started taking electrolytes to make sure we stayed properly hydrated. One of our group members became slightly heat-exhausted over the course of the trek, leading the rest of our group to take initiative for various small tasks, such as periodically giving her water, ensuring she wasn’t the last person, fanning her if she needed, and trading bags so she was carrying a lighter load. This sense of responsibility and teamwork was the most important aspect of the 7 hour trek, and we gained not only an appreciation for the Thai landscape and Hill tribe culture, but also an understanding of our personal strengths and weaknesses, along with how we could support each other using these discoveries.

 

Monday:

I found and organized the cooking class that we went to on Monday for the aspect of Creativity. We decided on cooking because food is an important part of culture, and we wanted to be able to take what we had learnt back home through learning something practical. There are actually many different cooking schools in Chiang Mai, but I found a cooking school within walking distance of our hotel called Thai Akha Cooking School that looked interesting because we would get to experience going to a Thai market to buy ingredients before cooking a variety of dishes. It was only around 10 minutes or so to walk to the school, and after the other participants arrived, we went to a local Thai market. Our instructor showed us various different food dishes and ingredients that are important to Thai cooking. I noticed that many of these ingredients were familiar to me, as my mom grew up in Thailand and cooks Thai food fairly often. Additionally, Indonesian cuisine also uses similar ingredients. The entire cooking experience was nicely planned out by the cooking school, despite there being 10 different dishes to cook. We also learnt that the Akha in the name of the school refers to a particular hill tribe, which has their own cooking style that differs from traditional Thai dishes. This day was far less challenging than our trek, but more creative and interesting. The environment we were working in was friendly and inviting, and the situation 

was a very dynamic and animated one. I wouldn’t say there were any downsides to the cooking class, other than the fact that is was essentially outside, and therefore very warm, and the fact that we made 10 dishes and ate them all. I personally really enjoyed learning how to cook as I don’t cook very often, and I don’t often cook complex dishes such as some ofthe ones we made. It was an overall fun experience for everyone, and time passed very quickly through the “learning process”.

Kahaani: Show Week

I didn’t know that “Kahaani” meant “story” for the longest of times, but it truly lived up to its namesake.

From what I’ve come to learn about UWC, performances are intense and the amount of time that goes into preparing for the shows is far longer than anything I’ve done before. The week of Kahaani was very busy, with rehearsals until 8 or 9 pm for a few days. But, there was a large highlight to the preparations: people from Voice of World School For the Blind who are partnered with Kolkata GC came to UWC. We had an assembly and they presented to us how exactly the money and awareness that Kahaani brings is used, and they shared a humbling video of the goals that the school works towards. To actually see a physical manifestation of something that we dedicate our time and energy, there are very few words to describe that. I love the idea of actually seeing our efforts, because I think it became very easy to just think of Kahaani as another performance and event that the school has and forget exactly why we all dedicated ourselves to helping Kolkata GC. That was the most meaningful moment of the whole Kahaani experience to me, and made all the long rehearsals and other annoyances worth it. The people from Voice of World School also stayed the whole week to watch the performances, and I hope it brought them much pride and joy to see the amount of people that turned up.

Only since coming to UWC have I had such an immersion in a different culture, mostly due to the amount of different people from different ethnicities. Kahaani is only my second time doing Indian dancing, and it was so different from the first time. There is such a diversity in the styles of the dancings, costumes, and music that it is a constantly changing experience. Kahaani was still incredibly fun, there were so many people I knew in all the dances, and the show week was filled with so many fun memories. I hope to do Kahaani again next year, because it was only something to gain.

Dance Showcase: Show Week

Dance showcase was definitely challenging, perhaps not so much in the actual style of dancing itself, but in my own personal feelings about how everything was organized and how the week itself went. It was a busy week, with rehearsals and then the show itself all right on top of one another. I also had two tests that were supposed to occur that week, but that I ended up having to move to the next week. I’m not sure how I felt about that, because I personally feel that my academics are more important than my extracurricular, and that having to reschedule assignments because I wasn’t released to go home until 9 at night is a bit unfair. That is perhaps one of my main negative experiences about the show week, in that I felt there was a lack of clarify and order in what needed to be done, and that I had to be on the stage very last minute for the entire show.

However, Show Week was a true test of commitment and collaboration between everyone. My dance had to meet during some of the lunches to fine tune some aspects of our dance that we continued to struggle with, and we all put in time on the weekend before to meet and put together all the different components of the dance. There were some things that we had to change of the week of the show, but everyone relearnt the choreography and integrated it back into the dance. Everyone worked together and shared different resources for hair and makeup and costume, and there was overall a good relationship between all the dancers and the dance leaders. I know that it was difficult for some people in my dance who were in multiple other dances, as I myself was part of the transitions in the show and it was an added aspect, but I didn’t feel there was anyone who wasn’t committed to the dance.

Especially to my dance leaders, one of who had never choreographed or taught before, it turned out wonderfully. We kept to the theme, through our music and our dancing, and the end result was everything that we had spent the months working towards. And while this week was exhausting, there is exhilaration in dancing in a group, when you’re on the stage and the music and lighting is as it is supposed to be, mistakes don’t change that feeling of pride.


Science Fair: Finishing and Displaying the Project

I feel like it’s really important to reflect on more than just things that you enjoyed from, but to reflect on different activities or experiences that you were not necessarily comfortable with or enjoyed. I would say one of the experiences that I continued doing but wasn’t completely invested in was the Science Fair. Which is not to say that I am disinterested in science in any way, but I realized that the idea of our research project wasn’t completely something I was passionate about, and it wasn’t something that the rest of my group members were passionate about.

I did of course continue until the end, because I felt obligated to finish what I had started, and I didn’t want to let my group down by not completely any research at all. I would say this was more perseverance for me than many other activities, because there is usually more of a desire to persevere with an activity you really love. That’s why this experience for me was one where I really did persevere, because I forced myself to follow through with the plans we made and the research question we originally set out, and I did learn along the way. While personally fungal infections were not the highest on my list of things I find fascinating to read about at home, I did end up writing and editing the majority of the report. In the end, I’m rather proud of my personal achievement with this, because I spent a lot of time researching the different aspects of fungal infections and different drugs that can be used to treat fungal infections, and I worked with another group member to get all the information finished on time. I’m quite happy that her and I were able to pull it together.

Link to the Full Report

Wavelengths: Middle School and High School Music Concert

Wavelengths was a massive performance comprised of different instrumental and vocal groups from middle school and high school, including the middle school and high school orchestras and bands, middle school girls choir, Bersama, Sonos, three marimba groups, and percussion groups. This led to a really wonderful evening wherein all the hard work and new skills of the past few months could be displayed by a large group of students. The auditorium was packed with both family members and friends who were there to see the musical display and achievements.

Sonos choir sang one song from the upcoming HS musical Aida called “The Gods Love Nubia”, along with Bersama and the Middle School girls choir. This was actually rather shocking, because we didn’t know that we would be performing with the other choir groups until very soon before the concert, and this led to a large amount of adaptation while in rehearsal, in order to best fit the different vocal parts with all the new members, who had learned the song separately. It became absolutely necessary to focus on the way your personal voice and sound would interact and contribute with the other singers.

While Bersama does have tenor and basses, there were far more sopranos and altos as the middle school choir was comprised of girls. This led to a rather imbalanced sound, and the male parts were rather overwhelmed. This is a good area to focus on for any future performances that we do, to learn our strengths and which songs are fitting, and then work to make a performance with a solid and even sound throughout.