The Rag Dance Experience

Joining rag dance is a unique and memorable experience, something which I do not regret joining, as it adds vibrancy to my university life. I always wanted to be part of such a group of people, practising together for a common goal, although it also means sacrificing lots of personal time and social life.

This year’s SoC rag dance is considered quite slack as compared to last year, for the practices started later in the holidays. From 3 times of 4 hours a week (2-6pm), it gradually evolved to everyday 8 hours per day as the days to the actual rag day were numbered. The dance choreographers, Alicia and Jazreel, worked very hard to train us, most of us first-time noob dancers. For myself, it was also good way to continue my dance classes from UCSC.

At first, it was quite fun to learn the new dance steps, although some of them, especially the “Do you remember” song, were quite difficult and fast. Audacity helped in slowing down the tempo of the song, and we learnt from slower tempo to faster tempo. After a while, it got a little repetitive as we kept practising the same dance steps, waiting eagerly for the newer steps to be taught. Somehow, I could not get some of the steps initially, and was accused of skipping steps and doing shortcuts. Haha.

Then, the people who did the cheerleading stunts last year started practising for them. At one of the sessions, I was asked to try to be a backspot base for one of the flyers as the original person was not around. After 3 or 4 tries, I successfully lifted up the girl from in front of me to sit on my shoulder. However, it activated my old injury in my bicep/tricep, which is probably a muscle tear from army (and is also the reason I could not surf). Hence I was not able to continue anymore. For some reason, the muscle pain reoccurred quite a few times over the next few weeks, even during some seemingly minimal action like doing a star jump or swinging my arm upwards. However it was a good experience to be able to try the cheerleading stunts.

As the day drew closer, we stayed over in school for practices with the float at night, once during the fow camp, once on Monday, and the last two nights before the actual day. The nights were filled with waiting for midnight, which is when the shuttle buses stop operating, and practiced till like 3am or so. Not forgetting playing lame games like mi-mi-mi-re-mi-fa-so-mi and the nightly supper from the now popular Al-Meem Northern Indian restaurant, with Naans, roti-johns and Teh. It was also always a hassle to find a place to bathe, whether is it ICube or SRC, and we always end up sleeping close to 5am.

Very soon the actual day arrived. Before that, it was filled with pep talks from Peide, Ziqing and lots of scolding from our choreographer. Our energy level was not enough, we were not up to performance standard. We always also screw up our blocking and centre marking. There was also a lot of time spent on decorating and painting our weapons, as well as buying materials and sewing our custom made costumes. We wore a vest made from old CGF shirts, and lion-dance-like pants wirg blink blink shiny stuff. The actual day arrived, we woke up at 5.30am to start doing our make-up, hairdo, and everyone was transformed into “pretty boys” in 4 hours. Super gay.

We had free McDonalds for breakfast and was transported to CP10 for the pre-judging posing and static displays. Looking at the other floats and costume-clad people, the mood was exciting and colourful. Our float is the biggest and best one so far as compared to the previous years, yet it was still smaller compared to other faculties’. But it is still beautifully done.

After lunch and a few practices, we were ferried to a holding area in a tent near SRC. The mood was anticipating yet tiring, due to the hot sun and warm weather. Peide say we must not go into shag mood, but we must hype and warm ourselves up and prepare for our performance as we were the first group. After some warm-up excercises, we did the dancers-woosh, and we were ushered to the SRC tracked.

Soon our moment arrived, the float was pushed in, and the initial twinkling of the tea party song was played. We jumped unto the stage enthusiastically, and I was clapping my hands up in the air. Then, OUCH my old injury was activated again >.< by the clapping, of all timings! I was struggling to dance tea party, but fortunately managed to twist my arm back before the fighting part with Julian and Brandon. The diagonal lines were good, and the second fighting seen was done well. Everything else was good, except the end when some of them were not able to finish their stunts successfully, and they were quite sad after that.

After our dance, it was a fun time to watch and admire other faculties’ dances, as well as taking photos and videos. The highlight of the night was the SYOG flame arrival ceremony, complete with fireworks and fanfare. It arrived on a modified open-top coach bus (similar to NUS Shuttle Bus), in a safety lantern, before being transferred to the torch, and then it lighted up a cauldron by President and 2¬†athletes. It was the first time rag ended with such a big bang, and I guess it was a good addition and also interesting to see the halls dancing in different countries’ culture. I must say the Mexican dance is a pretty good rendition, as I have watched some of it in California.

There was a post event party in which they played some cool songs and the SoC people got very high and we started forming a human train along the field and running all around. We then proceeded to the float for a massive photo taking session and multiple camera horing, cheering, some tau poks and crowd surfing and what not. It was a tremendous wonderful cheerful ending for the whole orientation week.

Joining rag dance allowed me to make some new friends, as well as bond better with existing ones. It also gave me a chance to experience the discipline and effort needed in a dance performance, as well as learning how to respect the choreographers and fellow dancers by dancing with all our might, putting in 100-150% of effort (often any figure >100% is an overly exaggerated figure), and putting on a great big smile unto the audience. =D

And as they say, for us, it’s about the process, not the final result. Although many other groups will beg to differ.

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