NDP performers overcome challenges of rehearsing online amid pandemic

Madam Lee Kek Lan will be performing with volunteers from the People's Association at the satellite site at Yio Chu Kang Stadium.
Madam Lee Kek Lan will be performing with volunteers from the People's Association at the satellite site at Yio Chu Kang Stadium.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - With the help of her 10-year-old granddaughter, Madam Lee Kek Lan, 76, used Zoom for the first time when she attended a virtual rehearsal in May.

The retired health assistant will be the oldest of nearly 1,200 performers in this year's National Day Parade (NDP) show, which will take place on Saturday (Aug 21) evening.

She will be performing a dance inspired by the four main ethnicities in Singapore with volunteers from the People's Association (PA) at the satellite site at Yio Chu Kang Stadium.

Speaking to The Straits Times in Mandarin, Madam Lee, 76, said: "When my dance teacher suggested I take part, I felt very honoured to be a part of the nation. I don't know when I will not be able to walk, so I took this rare opportunity when it came."

This year's show will comprise four acts and feature pre-recorded performances from four satellite sites around Singapore. These involve members from the PA, tertiary institutions, secondary schools and organisations such as the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds).

Rehearsals were moved online during the phase two (heightened alert) period when in-person gatherings were limited.

This came with its challenges, Republic Polytechnic student Thesingu Srivarshini, 18, told ST.

"For the recording, we had to shoot from different angles. We had to do the same sequences multiple times.

"But each time, every performer didn't give up. Not one time did the energy level go down," said the second-year biomedical science student.

Many performers have been training from as early as March.

Said 18-year-old Faris Azhari Ridzuan: "In the past month, I have taken part in almost 100 hours of rehearsals. That got really hard, especially juggling school work and family time."

Rehearsals at The Float @ Marina Bay in July saw him tearing up as well - not because he got emotional but because of weekly swab tests he had to undergo.

Smiling as he recounted this painful aspect of his experience so far, the Republic Polytechnic student said: "Even though it's been a challenge, it's something I will always remember."

He added that he would cherish the memories "with all the people I've made friends with here".

It will be both teenagers' first time taking part in the NDP.


Faris Azhari Ridzuan and Madam Jumariah Jumaruddin are among the performers in this year's National Day Parade show. PHOTOS: CHONG JUN LIANG

For Madam Jumariah Jumaruddin, 60, who has taken part in at least 10 NDP shows since 1974, passion has driven her involvement and brought her back every year since 2014.

"I also have a lot of old friends who I only see once a year at the National Day Parade," she added.

The retired Tan Tock Seng Hospital staff member said that not having a big live audience has been a significant difference.

"At first, we felt a bit disappointed. But since we like to dance and we want to contribute to our country, we keep dancing. Even though it's Covid-19, we still celebrate."