Backstage with the 'shield warriors'

Performers of the Badang segment go through their paces during a rehearsal. The space under the 2.5m-high stage could hold about 300 people, and there were 34 ventilation fans under the stage that kept the technicians and waiting performers cool. "Sh
Performers of the Badang segment go through their paces during a rehearsal. The space under the 2.5m-high stage could hold about 300 people, and there were 34 ventilation fans under the stage that kept the technicians and waiting performers cool. "Shield warrior" Chin Shao Ming. Above: Singapore Soka Association performers prepare for the show during the preview. Left: With graceful flips of their huge skirts, about 420 performers recreate artwork by beneficiaries from Touch Community Services, symbolising inclusiveness. Above: Members of the Singapore Armed Forces Music and Drama Company practise their warm-up routine under the stage before a rehearsal. Left: They then go on to wow the audience with their mid-air stunts - 5m to 13m above ground.
Performers of the Badang segment go through their paces during a rehearsal. The space under the 2.5m-high stage could hold about 300 people, and there were 34 ventilation fans under the stage that kept the technicians and waiting performers cool. "Sh
Above: Singapore Soka Association performers prepare for the show during the preview.
Performers of the Badang segment go through their paces during a rehearsal. The space under the 2.5m-high stage could hold about 300 people, and there were 34 ventilation fans under the stage that kept the technicians and waiting performers cool. "Sh
Above: Members of the Singapore Armed Forces Music and Drama Company practise their warm-up routine under the stage before a rehearsal.
Performers of the Badang segment go through their paces during a rehearsal. The space under the 2.5m-high stage could hold about 300 people, and there were 34 ventilation fans under the stage that kept the technicians and waiting performers cool. "Sh
Above: They then go on to wow the audience with their mid-air stunts – 5m to 13m above ground.
Performers of the Badang segment go through their paces during a rehearsal. The space under the 2.5m-high stage could hold about 300 people, and there were 34 ventilation fans under the stage that kept the technicians and waiting performers cool. "Sh
Above: With graceful flips of their huge skirts, about 420 performers recreate artwork by beneficiaries from Touch Community Services, symbolising inclusiveness.

Apart from the furious pounding of feet as performers stormed the stage in a fight sequence with folklore hero Badang, full-time national serviceman (NSF) Chin Shao Ming, 20, could hardly tell what was going on as he waited for his turn in the show.

But a frisson of anticipation surged through the group of 200 "shield warriors" as they received a cue to prepare to enter the stage through four trapdoors - one of the unique features of yesterday's National Day Parade show.

As the battle above raged on, the trapdoor opened at Mr Chin's section of the stage. Two men pushed out a staircase for the shield warriors to access the stage, which was 2.5 m above ground.

A final cue was called, and Mr Chin led a pack of 50 warriors onstage, where they duelled with Badang under the dazzling lights of the stadium.

"The atmosphere below was quite different. But when the trapdoor opened, you could see the flashing lights and all the spectators in the stands, and I started to feel nervous," Mr Chin said.

"It's quite exciting, because the audience did not expect people to emerge from under the stage itself."


“Shield warrior” Chin Shao Ming.

NSF Chia Xun Ming, 20, one of the show management ground personnel who passed on cues to the trapdoor operators, said coordination was key.

"We had four trapdoors that were supposed to open at the same time, so we needed to get the timing right. If not, it might not have looked good on stage," he said.

Safety was another concern.

Said Mr Chia: "We had to make sure that there were no people standing on the trapdoors when they were lowered. There were spotters on the stage who would help us to keep a look-out, and then the show caller would tell us when it was safe to open the doors."

  • 13

  • Number of trapdoors under the stage from which performers could appear

Mr Chin said taking part in the first NDP at the refurbished National Stadium was a "once in a lifetime experience".

"It was a great feeling when we started running up to the stage, and heard everyone cheering. I'm honoured and happy that they chose me to lead this group of performers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2016, with the headline 'Backstage with the 'shield warriors''. Print Edition | Subscribe