National Day Parade 2015

Behind the curtain: Overcoming the challenge of choreographing 600 pupils

After more than 2,700 hours of rehearsals over six months to perfect their snazzy routines, about 8,000 performers and parade participants, from children as young as six to pioneers in their 80s, will finally put it all together at this evening's National Day Parade. Lim Yi Han and Melissa Lin go behind the scenes to talk to those behind the Golden Jubilee Show

Tonight, on the Padang stage, more than 600 pupils will dazzle the audience by dancing in bright stickman costumes and waving star-shaped cut-outs.

Putting together the performance, however, was one headache after another for freelance choreographer Gordon Choy.

Getting the chatty pupils to listen to him was the main challenge, as there were 680 of them, aged between seven and 10, said the 40-year-old, who has choreographed every parade since 2006, save for one.


Then, there were the costumes, which resemble space outfits lined with LED lights. Each comes with a button which switches the lights from red to blue to green.

"The kids will press here, press there, messing up the whole picture during rehearsals," he said with a laugh.

The LED lights will also stop working once bent, which means the pupils should not sit when wearing the costume - a rule they tend to forget. At each combined rehearsal, a contractor has been on hand to fix the damaged costumes.

Mr Choy said: "A lot of soldiers have been helping me too. When they see the kids, they'll remind them not to sit and not to keep switching the lights on, otherwise the battery will run out."

It helped that the kids, being so young, were fast learners, he said.

He added: "I'm satisfied with their performance now. They're actually very good now, it's very impressive given their age."

Primary 3 pupil Ashley Tok, nine, who is participating in the parade for the first time, admits he already has butterflies ahead of the event. But the Montfort Junior School pupil has a plan.

Just before going on stage, "I will take several deep breaths and spread my arms so that I won't press the button by accident."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 09, 2015, with the headline 'Overcoming small challenges BEHIND THE CURTAIN'. Print Edition | Subscribe