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Musings at NUS Arts Festival 2013: Behind the Scenes with “Mirror.Moon”

At the National University of Singapore (NUS), the NUS Arts Festival is the flagship arts event of the year, showcasing the artistic talents of its student population. Organised by NUS Centre for the Arts (CFA), this year’s festival will be taking place from 9-23 March 2013. With the theme “Open Questions”, it aims to set the audience thinking and encourages them be open to an infinite number of possibilities and experiences to be pursued.

Dancers practising "Bittersweet Yearning"

This year is also the year in which yours truly will be participating in the festival. As a member of the NUS Chinese Dance troupe, I’ve spent a better half of my free time tirelessly practicing for our show, a festival highlight titled “Mirror.Moon”.

When many of you were travelling the world during the December holidays, we were stuck in NUS practising day after day. When you were stuffing your face with delicious Chinese New Year goodies, we were desperately trying not to be tempted, because if we were to put on one inch of fat around our tummies and our costumes couldn’t fit, who could we blame? When you were mugging at Central Library during Recess week, we were mugging too- mugging our choreography as we itched for our notes, wondering if we would fall at the bottom of the bell curve this mid-terms.

And on March 17, we will know if our efforts were to bear fruit.

Guest choreographer Wang Cheng in action

It all started during the December holidays, when our guest choreographer Mr. Wang Cheng and his wife Ms.

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Tao Wen Jun flew to Singapore from Anhui, China.We endured a whirlwind of dance practices both day and night, and finished learning five out of eight slated items in a record-breaking two weeks! In those two weeks, we also broke many other records: most number of consecutive hours spent in CFA, largest amount of sweat collected, and most bottles of Yoko Yoko (a medicine for muscle aches) used.

When school reopened, we were faced with another dilemma: such a grand production will need tons of money- money that we didn’t have. Led by the executive committee, we dug into our wardrobes, gathering mountains of pre-loved clothes, bags and accessories. For three days, we held a flea at Central Forum, trying to tempt passers-by into purchasing our wares. Often, we were the ones who fell prey to our own temptations. We ended up “donating” to the troupe by buying one another’s clothing. I found myself the owner of four new dresses, a new sweater and a gorgeous pearl necklace! Of course, to the people who patronised our booth: we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your “donations” helped us raise up to $1000, a significant sum that will go a long way into funding this production.

Pas de deux in "Ascend"

As the show date drew closer, our dancers became more in sync with one another and our items gradually became neater. Ticket sales, however, remained dismal. In a bid to increase publicity, we combed the school, putting up posters at every bulletin board we saw. We placed flyers at SISTIC outlets all over Singapore, and distributed them to all who would accept them. We performed a sneak peak of the show at the NAF roadshow at UTown. We even shamelessly harassed our juniors, friends and family to please please support us. We faced countless rejections, some outright (“Chinese Dance? Er… no thanks!”) and some subtle (yours truly was ignored, not once, not twice, but thrice, by her junior college classmates). Yet we persevered, and ticket sales started climbing, steadily and slowly, yet not quite reaching our target.

As I write this today, we have just about a week to go! Tomorrow, our guest choreographers will land in sunny Singapore, signalling the start of a crazy week of full dress rehearsals, light plotting in the theatre and dinners at the Alcove. Come March 17, four months from when we had begun, we will be ready to put on a spectacular show for our audience. Together with my fellow dancers, I will be waiting in the wings…


For more information on NUS Chinese Dance, please visit this page.

By: Charlotte Lim

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