Getting into Riverside Secondary was a dream come true for these four dance enthusiasts.
For Noor Syafeeqah Bte Abdul Hamid, Chong Xue Yi, Jeyashangari and Nurul Nadhirah Bte Hamdan, the new school year has been a special one. All dance enthusiasts, these Sec 1 students literally danced their way into their choice school under the Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme - even before they took their PSLE last year.
Now enrolled at Riverside Secondary School, these four students were among the 52 applicants who took part in the school's DSA Exercise from May to August 2008. The admission criteria included the students' academic results, dance qualifications and achievements. They also had to undergo rigorous dance auditions and interviews.
By the end of August, 16 successful applicants were offered places in the school.
Riverside Secondary School is the only Niche Programme school with a focus in dance, a status it received last year in recognition of the school's achievements in dance and its talent development programmes. The DSA students can specialise in one of four types of dance: Malay cultural dance, Chinese cultural dance, Indian cultural dance and modern dance.
Students will have their potential stretched at Riverside Secondary, a niche programme school for dance.
A nurturing environment
For Noor Syafeeqah, Xue Yi, Jeyashangari and Nurul Nadhirah, being at Riverside Secondary School is an opportunity to further develop their dance potential in a nurturing environment. All four of them started dancing in primary school and participated in the biennial Singapore Youth Festival (SYF) Central Judging, where they earned silver and gold medals.
Mr Wee Gark Kung, the teacher in charge of the DSA, explains that Riverside Secondary School has a Dance Excellence Programme to nurture dance talents. Students can look forward to taking part in competitions and national performances. In addition, Mr Wee highlights, "We are exploring the possibility of bringing our students overseas for competitions, as there are few local competitions."
The school is also the first centre in Singapore to offer a graded examination for Chinese ethnic dance. This examination is accredited by the Beijing Dance Academy and achieving the certification will mark a milestone in the students' dance journey.
It's not only the dance enthusiasts who benefit from the school's talent development programmes. Dance is a part of the curriculum for all Riverside Secondary School students. This year, Sec 1 students will be introduced to Chinese dance, Sec 2 students will learn Malay dance while Sec 3 students can look forward to picking up some Indian dance moves. Students will be tested on the skills they are taught and their progress will be reflected in their report books.
The point of dancing
As any of the four Sec 1 students will tell you, learning dance is not just about aesthetics. Nurul Nadhirah, who is doing Modern Dance, says, "Dancing allows me to feel and express a wide range of human emotions." Although she gets jittery about a solo performance and enjoys dancing in a group, she feels she has learnt about teamwork through dance and recognises that trust is important for dancers to work well with one another.
Riverside Secondary is the first centre in Singapore to offer a graded examination in Chinese ethnic dance.
Adds Xue Yi, who is specialising in Chinese dance, "When we dance in a group, if one person makes a mistake, the whole group will have to start all over again. But each of us can make mistakes and learn to be more understanding and patient towards others."
Noor Syafeeqah says that dancing helps her academically. "In the Malay dance that I do, I need to remember many steps. This helps to improve my memory, which also helps in my studies," she explains.
So are they looking forward to dancing their way through adulthood? "I hope to become a professional dancer when I grow up and teach younger generations," enthuses Xue Yi.
Jeyashangari, who loves Indian dance, says, "I would like to be a dancer, but I have other interests too. I hope to be a forensic scientist or a flight attendant! But even if I don't become a dancer when I grow up, I still hope to continue dancing," she concludes, her words echoing the sentiments of the others.