Singapore Youth Festival: Celebrating 50 years

When a team is in step with each other

Dance instructor Vijaya Nadesan with the National Junior College Indian dance group. She believes in collaboration and getting her students involved as much as possible in their performances.
Dance instructor Vijaya Nadesan with the National Junior College Indian dance group. She believes in collaboration and getting her students involved as much as possible in their performances.PHOTO: VIJAYA NADESAN

Dance instructor Vijaya Nadesan is no stranger to the Singapore Youth Festival (SYF), having been coaching students from various schools in the intricacies of Indian dance for the past 18 years.

And that means plenty of memories. But the one that leaps out at her was when she had a student with a hearing impairment in her SYF team last year.

To help her learn effectively, Madam Vijaya explained the steps through text messages.

"Some of the dancers were worried she wouldn't be able to keep up, but I decided to give her a shot. She was dedicated and passionate and she deserved to be part of the dance," said Madam Vijaya, now coaching at National Junior College and St Anthony's Canossian Secondary School.

She believes in collaboration and getting her students involved as much as possible in their SYF performances.

"None of the performances are 'mine'," she said. "It is always 'ours'. I get ideas from my students and we all work on them together." That includes input on choreography, costume, make-up, hairstyle and even the choice of jewellery.

This close working relationship also helps her build closer relationships with her charges, and to better understand their strengths and weaknesses.

While schools get a chance to clinch the top Certificate of Distinction at the SYF - both her current schools did so last year - Madam Vijaya said it is the bonding and the experience that matter most.

"It's not a paperchase; it's about building character, values and learning. It doesn't matter whether or not the students get the Certificate of Distinction.

"When they look back, I want them to feel happy and satisfied that they danced with all their heart."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2016, with the headline 'When a team is in step with each other'. Print Edition | Subscribe