NDP to reach new heights with aerialists

This year's National Day Parade features aerialists - performers spinning and soaring at up to 30m in the air.
This year's National Day Parade features aerialists - performers spinning and soaring at up to 30m in the air.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Above: Aerialists Wayne Wee, Rajid Ahamed and Biwa Mastura Mohamed Said have undergone intensive training since May. Above left: Ms Biwa and the MDC unit rehearsing at the National Stadium for the first time.
Ms Biwa and the MDC unit rehearsing at the National Stadium.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
This year's National Day Parade features aerialists - performers spinning and soaring at up to 30m in the air.
Aerialists Wayne Wee, Rajid Ahamed and Biwa Mastura Mohamed Said have undergone intensive training since May.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

When Mr Wayne Wee was 10, he was so afraid of heights that his mother had to ask for a roller-coaster ride he was on to be stopped because he was crying so badly.

Now 22, Mr Wee has conquered his vertigo in order to be part of this year's National Day Parade (NDP). He is among 26 performers - called aerialists - who will be spinning and soaring at up to 30m in the air.

He quipped: "When you're up there, you're so disoriented you don't notice how high you are."

It is the first time the parade has featured a large formation of aerialists. This is made possible as the celebrations this year take place in the National Stadium which, unlike previous open-air venues, has a domed roof from which performers can be suspended.

Twenty of the aerialists, including Mr Wee, are from the Singapore Armed Forces Music and Drama Company (MDC). They will be performing a choreographed dance sequence 5m to 13m above ground. They have undergone intensive aerial training since May, each clocking about 88 hours in the air even before they take the stage on Aug 9.

Major Tan Sheng Yang, the officer in charge of aerialist training, said it was a challenge to get the performers acclimatised to the demands of aerial work, as most had not done it before.

He added that safety is a "top priority", and that there are stringent measures in place such as load bearing tests and pre-flight safety checks. Performers also spend only 10 to 15 minutes in the air each time, and must rest in between sessions.

MDC aerialist Biwa Mastura Mohamed Said, 26, said: "This has been the most physically gruelling thing I've done in my life."

The tight harness bruised her body, and her severe motion sickness left her feeling faint during training. At one point, she broke down in tears. "It was draining physically and emotionally," she said.

Now, when she is nervous, she looks to her fellow aerialists for support. "When we are going up, we don't look down. We look at each other," said Ms Biwa, adding that it was "a good experience" and she would want to explore more aerial work in future.

Besides the MDC group, other aerialists include an actor playing Malay folk hero Badang, who will be flown to a height of 30m, and a seven-year-old boy who will ride a glimmering unicorn through the air.

Four aerialists will play the Four Beauties, each representing a different race. Suspended at 9m, they will wear long, colourful skirts that flow all the way to the ground.

WATCH IT ONLINE
See the NDP aerialists twist and turn in the air.
http://str.sg/45Hp.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2016, with the headline 'NDP to reach new heights with aerialists'. Print Edition | Subscribe