SINGAPORE - This year's National Day Parade - the first at the National Stadium in 10 years - kicked off on Tuesday (Aug 9) evening with a roaring start as the 55,000-strong crowd revived a local tradition - the Kallang Wave.
Led by parade hosts Chua Enlai, Ebi Shankara, Jean Danker and Nurul Aini Abdul Rahim, spectators at the domed arena raised their red scarves and flags and rumbled to their feet in true Singapore fashion, as the wave of spectators ebbed excitedly across the stands.
They were later treated to renditions of favourite local songs by 53A, the band performing this year's National Day song, as well as a video recapping historical moments of the National Stadium, which was built in 1973 and hosted 18 NDPs from 1976 to 2006.
The parade and ceremony segment started immediately after with the military tattoo - a sharp performance by the Combined Band - comprising members of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) band and the Singapore Police Force band - together with the SAF Precision Drill Squad.
Marching to the tune of an original composition, they created formations that represented Singapore's multiracial diversity, unity and love for the country.
This was followed by the march-in of the 31 contingents, comprising 1,424 participants. This year's marching was led by parade commander Lieutenant-Colonel Poon Des-Mon and parade regimental sergeant major Master Warrant Officer Dennis Chia Hong Hung.
Loud cheers could be heard from the stands as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Tony Tan Keng Yam arrived.
While this year's state flag flypast could not be seen from inside the dome, spectators were given 16 big flags to unfurl during the singing of the National Anthem. As the crowd moved the huge flags up the stands, the state flag, measuring 27m by 18m, was flown across the southern coast of Singapore by a CH-47D Chinook helicopter.
Tap into inner ‘Badang’ to help one another
Just as the sun had set, the show segment began with Act 1 - the tale of Badang and the Singapore Stone. Legend has it that the fisherman who lived in ancient Singapore acquired superhuman strength from a spectre, and used his powers to help his fellow villagers.
When challenged to a duel, however, he tossed a huge rock which landed in the mouth of the Singapore river, and a part of it remains today as the Singapore Stone. The story was reenacted with gripping fight scenes between Badang, played by actor Rizman Putra Ahmad Ali, and his opponents, who included six performers wielding fire tools, 200 bamboo warriors, 200 armour warriors and yet another 200 fire warriors.
The shimmery costumes and choreographed fight scenes thrilled the crowd, but perhaps not as much as when Badang himself "flew" away from his enemies and single-handedly split the fabled giant rock hanging above the stage.
The story served as a reminder for Singaporeans to tap into their inner Badang and use their strengths to help their fellow countrymen.
Four races, One Nation
Act 2 followed with four beauties to commemorate Singapore’s four main races, played by Bettina Su-Jen Harbottle, Krisha Balakrishnan, Marshlinda Zakariah and Jacqueline Yap Xinyi. Rising out from trap doors under the stage, the aerialists, clad in intricate ethnic costumes, gradually rose higher only to reveal colourful, draping skirts sporting characters from different languages.
Equally colourful were the 400 dancers from People’s Association below them, who also dazzled with their ethnic-inspired garb and star-shaped brollies.
Just as the stadium lights went down, a glittering “unicorn” emerged, galloping gracefully above the audience to the tune of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. This was Act 3 of the show segment, which called for Singaporeans to dare to follow their dreams.
Riding the unicorn prop many metres above ground was seven-year-old Minejima-Lee Kai, who drew plenty of oohs and aahs for being the adorable little boy who did not seem afraid of heights. The boy is the son of well-known blogger Benjamin "Mr Miyagi" Lee.
The future is here
The fourth act celebrated Singapore’s ingenuity and commitment to innovation and technology, with more than 700 dancers in psychedelic LED-studded suits, some dangling in the air, and drones resembling atoms hovering around the stadium.
As the dancers moved to upbeat tunes like Pitbull and Christina Aguilera’s Feel This Moment and the Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling, some members of the crowd found themselves jiving and singing along too.
The next act followed in the same futuristic vein, with a huge Sky City prop of buildings floating above the stage, bathed in colourful 3D projections. In the futuristic skyline were buildings that do not yet exist, along with iconic landmarks such as Changi Airport and Gardens by the Bay. It was nothing short of breathtaking as dancers in LED-suits moved in sync to Don Richmond’s dreamy song, Rise, under the floating buildings.
An inclusive society
The sixth and final act saw 420 performers from the Singapore Soka Association flip their coloured skirts to recreate colourful artwork by beneficiaries from Touch Community Services. They were later joined on stage by 150 participants with special needs, from visual and hearing impairments to physical and intellectual disabilities.
In a moving call for inclusiveness in society, they led the crowd in hand-signing popular songs Home and Count On Me, Singapore.
As all the performers returned to the stage for the finale of a medley of National Day songs, including this year’s Tomorrow’s Here Today, the stadium burst into an energetic riot of crooners, indoor fireworks, confetti and red and white balloons.
Together with the fireworks over the Kallang Basin, this last rush of pyrotechnics and merry music capped off the night’s festivities with the pomp and colour deserving of the nation’s biggest party.
Catch the key moments of NDP 2016 here on our blog.