In 2006, we got an invitation from an agency in Singapore that specialized in bringing foreign talent in for their clients. We were asked if we'd be interested in producing a number of performances there during the holiday season. Some negotiating back and forth on travel arrangements and the type of shows they wanted us to put together for them, and we were off on an amazing adventure on the far side of the world...
This is a shot looking down Orchard Road in Singapore, one of the top shopping destinations in the world. Orchard Road supposedly got its name from the orchards and plantations that existed in the area until the turn of the 20th century. In the 1900s, a mysterious disease swept through the nutmeg plantations, wiping them out within a year. Because of its location in a valley, floods were also common. They were only controlled in 1965 when Stamford Canal - part of which runs below the pedestrian mall fronting Wisma Atria Shopping Centre today - was deepened and widened.
This is our "performance home" on Orchard Road, the Wisma Atria. We're going to be performing 3 shows a day for ten days. During the breaks between shows, I guess we'll go shopping!
At the time of our tour in 2006, the street is lined with some of the most modern architecture in the world. Today, it's even more amazing and well worth the trip!
We barely had time to get over our jet lag before dress rehearsal for the three shows we'd be performing each day. We arrived at Wisma Atria right at closing in the evening and worked hard until they kicked us out around midnight! The stage was very tiny and it took some adjusting to get a few of our numbers to fit!
After rehearsal, we took a bus back to our hotel to try and get some sleep before the marathon of performances started the next day. Though we were exhausted from the plane trip, the excitement of being in another country made it pretty difficult for everybody to settle down and get any rest. Even more difficult was the fact that school policies in South Carolina made it necessary for us to travel with two certified teachers, since our dancers were missing school. They didn't even get a chance to sleep late the next morning as they had class in a conference room at the hotel almost every day we were there. They'd download their homework assignments off the the web every night, and then have classwork with our traveling teachers each morning.
Feeling a little unprepared due to having just one dress rehearsal, we finish up our morning activities and arrive back over at Wisma Atria an hour before performance time. Everybody presets their costumes because the show is non-stop. Once we hit "go " on the CD player, there aren't any breaks so everything has to be just right, as the girls have up to 10 costume changes during each 30 minutes show. With just a few minutes left before our premier performance in Singapore, Dale makes sure the makeup is just so...
The finishing touches are put in place, Dale double checks everybody to be sure their hair and makeup are just right, the MC makes the introduction and away we go...
Dancing in Singapore was a wonderful experience for us. We were very honored to share our love of dance with people on the other side of the world! The audiences here started out a bit reserved. We were told that we could tell if they liked us if they stayed and watched and didn't walk off. After a day or two, we had them clapping and cheering with us. These are truly lovely people here!
This is one of the most beautiful school campuses many of us have ever seen! In addition to providing the latest in instructional technology, school facilities include an auditorium, drama theater, theater studio, multipurpose theater, six studios for visual arts, four library/media centers, four indoor and one outdoor gymnasiums, two dance studios, two 25-meter swimming pools and a wading pool, a track and stadium, six tennis courts, playgrounds as well as playing fields for baseball, softball, football, rugby, and soccer. Sheesh!
There were approximately forty different nationalities represented among the 2,800 students attending SAS. Since our performances there, the school has grown to over 3,800 students and expanded facilities even more!
Does you school cafeteria look like this? In addition to the Subway and Burger King, there is a grill that can prepare most anything from a snack to local delicacies.
Junior Company "Here Comes the Rain" onstage at the Singapore American School.
Master class and posing with a few of the SAS students during the lunch break.
After getting into the routine of putting on three shows a day, we finally got a chance to get out, take a walk and explore some! Singapore is a beautiful city and we felt quite safe walking pretty much anywhere we wished to go. One of the more interesting sights to explore was the Singapore River, which ran right behind our hotel.
Tours are available of the river on "bumboats". These boats were originally used to carry cargo from ships moored in the main harbor to the many warehouses along the river banks. You'll see them, Chinese in shape and with eyes painted on the bows for good luck, around the bridges where North Road and Hill Street cross the river, where we stumbled upon them by accident, as I suspect many visitors do. We decided to take a bumboat tour out to the harbor and see some sights other than the dance company and audiences!
The Singapore River is very clean, and this is one of the reasons. The Trash Cat scoots around picking up every tiny piece of floating trash in sight. We were told that the river became very polluted at one point, and after a major effort to clean things up it's now suitable for swimming and all the fish that had vanished have returned.
This section along the river has many old warehouses that have been converted into shops and restaurants. Didn't manage to get a good shot of this at night, but it's very exciting with colorful lanterns, music and busy folks crowding along the streets.
This is the "CHENG HO", an exact replica of the Imperial vessel that was commanded by Admirable Cheng Ho during the Ming Dynasty. The Cheng Ho takes you on a voyage of discovery with a 2 hour cruise around Singapore Harbor and neighboring islands.
The Merlion, Singapore's symbol of tourism, overlooks the mouth of the Singapore River. The Merlion commemorates the ancient name and the legend taken from the "Malay Annals" (literary and historical work from the 15th or 16th century) explaining how Singapore received its present name.
In ancient times, Singapore was known as Temasek which is Javanese for "the sea". It was then, as it is today, a center of trade.
At the end of the 4th century A.D, Temasek was destroyed by the Siamese, according to some historians, but by the Javanese according to others. As recorded in the legend in the Malay Annals," Prince Nila Utrama of the Sri Vijaya empire rediscovered the island later in the 11th century A.D. On seeing a strange beast (which he later learned was a lion) upon his landing, he named the island Singapura which is a Sanskirt word for Lion (Singa) and City (Pura).
The Merlion, with its fish-like body riding the waves of the sea, is symbolic of the ancient city of Temasek. At the same time, its majestic head recalls the legend of the discovery of Singapore by Prince Nila Utama in the 11th century, when Singapore received its present name.
We get a really good view of Singapore from our bumboat out in the harbor. This is primarily the financial district
We managed to get one more bumboat ride in at night. The city is truly beautiful in the evening and should not be missed.
This is the historic Fullerton Building. The northern end of this building covers the site of Fort Fullerton, built in 1829 to defend the town at the river's mouth; the Fort gave way to the first General Post Office and the Exchange Building in 1874. The current building, which now houses a 5 star hotel was completed in 1928.
Several mornings, while the rest of the company was working on their studies, Dale and Meredith gave master classes to members of the Singapore Dance Association at LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts. Dale gives a killer warm-up which last almost an hour. If you're not used to it, it's pretty hard to make it all the way through the first few times. The Dance Association students really enjoyed the classes, and found a few muscles they had forgotten about!
Dale and some of the Singapore Dance Association members pose for a shot. Some of them made it by the Wisma to see our performances and really got a kick out of what they saw. The blend of modern, jazz, ballet and natural movement that we do is a little different than what many dancers are used to seeing.
The Singapore Dance Association was registered in October 1999 as a non-profit society "dedicated to the mission of promoting and developing dance in Singapore and providing the dance teachers and practitioners with an effective means of working together."
One of the highlights of the trip for many of the dancers was the visit to the Singapore zoo, one of the top rated in the world.
This is Mary, Katie, Courtney and Casey with Ah Meng, the Sumatran orangutan. Ah Meng was seven years old in 1971 when she was confiscated from a Chinese family which had illegally kept her as a pet. Subsequently, she found her home in the Singapore Zoo.
Ah Meng was the first to orangutan to host the zoo's famous 'Breakfast With An Orangutan' program. She soon became a celebrity, both locally and internationally. She has been featured in over 30 travel films and 'interviewed' by more than 300 writers. In 1992, Ah Meng received a special award from the Singapore Tourism Promotion Board, in recognition of her contribution towards tourism in Singapore. Sadly, we learned that Ah Meng passed away in February of 2008.
The zoo here is an "open" type zoo. For the most part, you see no cages and the animals are all in their natural habitat. There's many exotic birds and monkeys roaming the grounds.
Dancing three shows a day tuned out to be quite a job, especially when everybody was expected to keep up with their school work that was being e-mailed to them each night from the States. We brought two teachers with us and had to set aside space each morning in our hotel for "school"! ACK! However, the great audiences made it worth every second of it.
It wouldn't be Christmas time without Santa, except that they don't really "do" Santa like we do here in the States. This is the "Yahoo Santa" that was wandering around promoting Yahoo. Looks a little odd, doesn't he?
We had time for some fun and games on stage with the audience between shows. It seemed odd at first, but the DJ actually had trouble getting people to come up on the stage and try stuff. Usually, it would take a few of the dancers to prove that making a fool of yourself could actually be a little fun before others would join in. Some of us can hula-hoop really good. Some of us can't. Guess which is which!
There were a lot of interesting sights out there if you looked for them. The girl in the middle is a street performer, not a statue! Shopping and eating are national past-times in Singapore. We were swept away with the wide choice of great stuff and fashion we found. This is where Singapore really shines! Every major haute couture brand and international fashion label is available.
Orchid Road, the area where we were performing, is one of the number one shopping destinations in the world, and it was easy to see why!
We spent a good bit of time in Chinatown taking care of some late Christmas gifts.
The Brent Street Kids from Australia came to see one of our shows at the Wisma Atria. They were performing down the street from us at another venue.
We managed to walk over to see The Brent Street Kids perform a show one afternoon before our performances began. They performed a couple of number from "Cats" for us. This is a group of very talented kids and we were very happy to get to meet them and see them perform. It's always a treat to see performers from other parts of the world.
The Brent Street Kids are Australia's most sought after young performing groups. The Kids were formed in 1992 after winning 6 straight 'Starsearch' heats and appearing in the Grand Final. They have performed live with Michael Jackson on his HIStory tour in Sydney and in the Opening and Closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics. They seem to have great fun performing in these amazing venues and realize how lucky they are. They do lots of charity work helping to make millions of dollars for children who are not as fortunate as themselves.
Read about them HERE.
We have to say "THANK-YOU!" to some very special people that made our trip possible.
Special thanks to Raj (in the center of the picture). He was our MC during our performances at the Wisma Atria. Without Raj, our shows just wouldn't have been the same. He was GREAT and we all wish we could have brought him back with us.! The girls got to know Raj quite well during our stay. Here, Raj is giving an Indian language lesson as the group listens intently. Wonder how much they remember now?
Special thanks to Eric, our wonderful guide and "fix-it" guy, Jack, the right hand guy for Max, and Max, the person responsible for getting us to Singapore in the first place.
It was very sad to have to bring our trip to an end. Our lives were enriched beyond belief and we'll always have a special place in our hearts for the people that made our trip to Singapore possible, for the great friends we made while we were here and for the amazing audiences that appreciated our dancing!!