Students take to the stage or dance floor twice a week in Yio Chu Kang Secondary School's Arts Enrichment Curriculum.
Ng Jing Yi is a keen Chinese cultural dancer, while Vishnuvarthan is an ardent Indian dance buff. It's no wonder that Yio Chu Kang Secondary School, with its strong reputation for dance, was the school of choice for Jing Yi and Vishnu, who are now in Secondary 3. .
The two had eagerly wanted to join their desired Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) - Chinese Cultural Dance and Indian Cultural Dance respectively - but there was more. To their surprise and delight, Jing Yi and Vishnu found that apart from honing their respective dance skills, they were also able to learn other dance forms, and during curriculum time too!
With a dance tradition dating back 35 years, Yio Chu Kang Secondary has nurtured a diverse performing arts programme which includes drama, band, choir and of course, dance. Over time, the school observed that these activities, which require creativity and coordination, could play a significant role in developing vital life skills and positive values among the students. This led to the launch of a performing arts programme that forms an integral part of the class timetable, with students having opportunities to perform twice a week.
An artistic niche for every student
Yio Chu Kang Secondary is a performing arts niche development school, and students are banded not just based on their PSLE T-score, but also according to their performing arts abilities. Sec 1 students who demonstrate a penchant for dance, drama, band or choir are placed in an Arts Foundation Curriculum, where they get to delve deeper into their area of specialty. They also get a spot in the respective CCA. Meanwhile, other students undergo an Arts Enrichment Curriculum that exposes them to various performing arts and creative fields.
Dance as well as drama, festive drums and even design and digital videography form part of the Arts Enrichment Curriculum.
The two tracks in the performing arts programme cater to students with differing levels of interest and competence in the arts, according to Mr Sivakumar s/o Viswanathan, the school's Head of Department for Arts, Media and Design. The Arts Foundation Curriculum provides in-depth exploration for students such as Jing Yi and Vishnu, who learn a broad range of dance forms and disciplines through practical sessions, theatre outings and overseas immersion programmes.
Conducted over two hours each week, the Arts Enrichment Curriculum introduces Sec 1 students to seven fields: dance, drama, festive drums, 3D animation, interior design, digital videography and robotics. In Sec 2, the student can choose to specialise in two areas, before settling on a sole area of focus in Sec 3.
Acquiring life skills and values through art
Jing Yi certainly relishes the chance to try out dances such as salsa, hip hop, modern jazz, ballroom dancing and ballet. Besides adding a new dimension to her dance skills and fitness, the dance sessions foster cooperation and esprit de corps, as they comprise students from different classes. "Teamwork is very important as we have to choreograph our performance pieces," she said, adding that though disagreements occur at times, the dancers have learnt to "give and take".
Dancing together foster cooperation and espirit de corps among students from different classes.
"I learnt that there is no right or wrong in dance - everything has to do with movement of the body," stated Vishnu, who credits his involvement in the art for helping him improve his time management, personal discipline and self-confidence. After two years of practice, he is now used to juggling schoolwork, dance rehearsals, personal practice sessions and CCA.
For Leonard Lim Kian Hui, the Arts Enrichment Curriculum is a "great stress reliever" that also helped to unearth latent skills. Before he joined the school in Sec 1, Leonard was not aware of the school's repertoire of performing arts programmes. But having made it to Sec 3 this year, it was natural for him to pick dance as his area of specialty. "We can showcase our hidden talents and portray our true selves when we dance," stated the budding dance enthusiast who practises hip hop moves in his spare time.
The school hopes to provide more platforms for the young performers to display their skills.
Students in the Arts Foundation Curriculum are assessed on how they 'create', 'perform' and 'respond' using their respective arts. Mr Sivakumar explained that this provides a way to gauge the technical and creative skills of the performers. He added that in time to come, there will be more new platforms and competitive opportunities for the young performers to showcase their music and moves.
Amid all the action on stage, Mr Sivakumar offers a reminder that the performances deliver an experience that goes beyond skin-deep. "The performing arts programme isn't just about fun and play", he said, explaining that the school works closely with instructors to ensure that values such as teamwork, mutual respect, responsibility and integrity are transmitted to the students. The value of such lessons have clearly sunk in as the dancers gather and draw upon their inventiveness and ingenuity to create dazzling moves that are no mere copies but which they proudly call their very own.