September 29, 2010 marked the first of what will hopefully become many Annual Half Day School Singing and Dancing Contests. For a month and a half, the teachers at the Half Day School (HDS) advertised this fun-filled event to all students, from kindergarten to grade 6, and encouraged their participation. “The teachers want the children to use their spare time to do something fun but meaningful and productive”, explains Kru Pikun, Head of Education at HDS, “and we want the students to learn to be creative and to express their originality through music and dance.”
Indeed, the students did not hesitate to express themselves and in no time, 7 singing acts and 10 dance groups had signed up for the contest. For a whole month, they picked their music, choreographed and rehearsed on their own with no assistance from their teachers. They explored their artistic side by creating their own costumes and outfits to complement their acts. For all students involved, there was no better project to learn about teamwork.
For the contest, 5 judges were carefully chosen from the HDS staff to help determine who, among all the very eligible groups, should be winners. They had to evaluate each act based on a variety of criteria, including dress presentation, performance style and stage presence, interpretation, vocal and rhythm (for singing), and synchrony and creativity (for dancing). The competition categories included Best Singing and Best Dancing, separated into two age groups for 5-10 and 11-15 year-olds.
When the big day arrived to showcase their talents, stage fright seemed not to be an issue. Whether it was a love ballad, a pop song or a more folksy tune, the students handled their singing acts with a sense of professionalism and seriousness that belied their young age. Some demonstrated a very gifted range of vocal ability while others must have worked on their stage presence for quite a while now, looking at how easily the singers engaged the screaming crowd of enthusiastic students. The dancing groups put on equally dazzling numbers. In a couple of groups, the students’ athletic abilities shone as they performed several gravity-defying break-dance moves, while others chose a more subtle way of charming choreography and synchrony to show off their efforts and creativity.
Despite the pretext of a competition, the event was not about winning and losing. Rather, like most activities at HDS, it was about the meaning of working together, of respecting and helping fellow peers, and of good sportsmanship. As Kru Pikun explained, the contest gave the students a channel to exercise their creativity and to demonstrate their individuality through the arts. Through giving their best, the students also gained the self-confidence and the ability to express themselves freely. While one act was given first prize in each category, every performer went home a winner.
Stay tuned for a follow-up report when all the first-prize acts will be invited to perform in front of a larger crowd on HDS Parents Day and don’t forget to check out the students’ awesome performances in action on the MYUTC Youth Tube channel! (Click here and here for videos from the contest.)