30 Days To Learn 7 Dances For "12 To 12"

20 Jun

SINGAPORE: Ask any professional dancers and they’d tell you it takes years to perfect any form of dance. Ask the leading cast of Soundwaves ’12 to 12′, however, and they’d tell you it only takes a month.

Not to perfect a form of dance, but to perfect more than seven dances – ballet, hip hop, ballroom, contemporary, tap – just to name a few.

But fortunately for performers George Chan and Elena Wang, they only need to perfect one short segment of each dance in the approximately 90-minute dance musical by the People’s Association (PA).

Directed by award winning choreographer Fan Dong Kai and music by ‘Singapore Idol’ judge Dick Lee, ‘Soundwaves 2008′ is the PA’s annual and flagship concert which showcases and promotes Singapore’s multiculturalism, and celebrates racial harmony in cultural diversity through music, song and dance.

Into its fifth year, its latest item ’12 to 12’ will be a “highly dramatic and truly Singaporean musical” which will dance through Singapore’s streets and depict the island city’s rich and intriguing cultures, landscapes and people.

Using laser projection for the backdrop, the musical promises to bring the audience through a nostalgic virtual tour of Singapore’s familiar districts including Chinatown, Botanical Garden, Shenton Way, Serangoon Road, Orchard Road, Geylang Serai, Bras Basah Road and Clarke Quay.

Featuring an over 100 members in its all song-and-dance troupe, the musical spins the story of a songwriter (George Chan) who returns to his homeland, Singapore, after many years abroad.

He encounters a beautiful muse (Elena Wang) who is trapped by a powerful spell, and can only break free if she regains three songs (which were stolen from her) within a 24-hour period – from midnight to midnight.

The spirit seeks the stranger’s help and together, the pair of music lovers must race against time to recover the songs of Singapore.

While rushing through the island, the pair will also stumble upon different ethnic groups living in Singapore and experience how their dance culture has changed over time and through influences from other cultures.

Both lead characters found it draining psychically and mentally to undertake the challenge of learning so many forms of dances in under a month, to say nothing of getting into character and memorising the script.

“It’s challenging, we have to practice about eight to 14 hours a day, just for the dancing segments,” said Elena.

“But the good thing is, we already know the basic dance form, so we just need to learn the choreography,” continued George, who is best known locally for his judging stint on MediaCorp Channel 5’s reality talent programme ‘The Dance Floor’.

The veteran dancer has found international fame in performances such as ‘Miss Saigon’, ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’. But even so, George found certain dance scenes in the performance complicated to execute.

“Nothing is easy because I haven’t danced for such a long time,” he explained. “So it takes time for the body to get used to dancing again.

“Ballroom dancing is probably the hardest for me because it’s not something I’m familiar with, and it’s all about technique and placement. It differs from the other dance forms in the sense that you have to work (and coordinate with a partner).”

“I think the individual dances are less difficult because you can handle it yourself,” Elena continued. “But it’s the partner work that’s tricky. We had so little time to get to know each other and to get familiar with each other’s dancing styles.”

Apart from Ballroom dancing, solos such as the ballet also proved to be tricky due to the mechanics of its moves, such as dancing on ‘pointe’.

“You know the thing about ‘pointe’ is that you have to train from young,” said George. “So this Elena, I don’t know if she is crazy or courageous, but she just jumped straight into it and started doing all the ‘pointe’ work!”

“We did a lot of workshop before we did the actual dances and the instructors reckoned my ankles are strong enough,” explained Elena. “But I take very great care while dancing ‘pointe’ as once you fall you may just break your ankles.”

For the artistes, who also adore dancing in real life, the host of different dances in the show was the first of two factors that drew them to take on the musical.

“The show has got a very different style and I don’t think you can get a show nowadays that you can see ballroom, tap and ballet, and traditional dances like Malay, Chinese and Indian, incorporated into a single show,” said Elena. “So for me it’s a great thing and a great feeling because I do this one production and I learn so much.”

Another factor that appealed to the cast was the opportunity for them to experience the different cultures in Singapore.

“I’m even learning about the different cultures in Singapore right now,” said the actress, who is Singaporeans but grew up in Australia.

Co-star George, who lived in Europe for a while, agreed, saying: “It’s all about racial harmony – you see all the different groups coming together and doing all these things, merging into one big vibrant and colourful culture and that’s why it’s really exciting because it has been a while since I have done something like that.”

With a little bit of every race and culture throw into the mix “like rojak”, Director Fan said that this musical would appeal to people from all walks of life in Singapore.

“It’s really a show for everyone; we have all sorts of dances from traditional dances to modern jazz and hip hop, as well as classical ballet.

“It’s played by different races in Singapore with different jobs… even the high flying white collared workers will have a dance item to themselves! So I believe our audience will also be all sorts of Singaporeans because we represent everybody.”

Soundwaves 2008 ’12 to 12′ will be performed at the Esplanade Theatre on July 4 & 5; tickets are selling at S$45, S$30 and S$15. For more information, visit

Channel News Asia

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