Submitted by Elizabeth Tan

Elizabeth Tan takes us behind the scenes of how a GAYA 2016 dancer juggles rehearsals with group projects, night classes and sleep! Answer: regular warm-ups, copious vitamins, and a little chocolate before bed.

GAYA 2016: Sang Pengibar is showing on Sunday, 20 March 2016 at the National Library Building. Tickets start at $19; buy yours here.

Ever wondered what goes on in the daily life of a GAYA dancer as they move closer and closer to the day? I did, and as the only Singaporean in an otherwise all Indonesian dance team, I soon learnt the few common dance terms my instructors always used, from “maju lagi, ke depan, balik” or even the oftentimes annoying “lagi lagi” that implied more exhausting practices ahead.

Simple Indonesian vocabulary aside, if you ever wished to know what goes on behind the scenes, read on!

10.30 AM: Rise and shine, sleeping beauties!

Let’s face it, SMU students are all night owls, and with so many weekly rehearsals that drag past 11pm, there’s a TINY chance you’re going to be up before 9 AM. Believe me, I’ve tried.


12 PM: Class, or rather, time to unleash your inner Forrest Gump

One of the perks of being a dancer is how your weekly PTs (physical trainings) prepare you for all the crazy sprints you are going to make from the MRT to your seminar room in that last five minutes before class starts.

Are we there yet? I only have 5 minutes!

3.30 PM: Group meeting

Unfortunately, Hell Week is a real thing in SMU, and dancers aren’t spared the pain: we still have to turn up at group meetings for project deadlines that loom just a few days away. Love them or hate them, they are going to be the people you “date” on a regular basis in SMU.

And no, there’s no such thing as a “no-show” or standing up your group mates on these dates, as much as we dancers want to. We would much rather do 10 planks than have our group mates give us the most difficult part of the project during “no-shows”, thank you!

Happy and friendly groupmates are a lifesaver!

5 PM: Costume shopping

One of the best parts of being a dancer is getting to wear all sorts of fancy costumes and flash them on stage as you groove to the energizing beats. Bugis Street is a perfect place to get our costumes for the big day! The best part is that it’s only a 15 minute walk from school – perfect for a little retail therapy in the midst of Hell Week!

Costumes and fashion galore at Bugis Street.

6 PM: Dinner

My tummy is ready! But sadly, fried food, alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, sugary drinks and candy are out of the question in the run up to the big show. Carbs are an absolute must! This yummy plate of salmon pepper rice from Pepper Lunch sure hits the spot.

Eat well, live well, dance well, and say YES to carbs!

Also, remember to buy lots of vitamins for your rehearsal – for your own health and your fellow dancers’, all of whom will confirm take your vitamins.

Health is wealth.

7 PM: Night class

Bored in class? Got loads of work to do? No worries, night classes are the perfect time to do them. And with Telegram and Whatsapp Web, the professor would think you are a diligent student taking down notes, rather than doing your own unrelated work while he talks.

Multitasking in class and getting my fill of dance updates.

8 PM: Warm up warm up!

A wise dancer once told me, “Keep fit, keep healthy and STAY WARM.” Jumping jacks, burpees, crunches and stretching will fire your muscles up to get them all hot and ready for that energetic kick you guys will see onstage.

Happy faces all revved up for rehearsal!

8.30 PM: Full dress rehearsal

And the show begins! 🙂

Dancers are advised to always STAY WARM during the downtime between our scenes by doing the usual warm up and stretching routine. But due to the many costume changes, many of us end up warming up by running into the dressing rooms to change into our next costume – sometimes in just half a minute! Which brings us to these magical lifesavers we call costume bags!

Costume bags are such an essential part of a dancer’s life: it is where all our costumes go, packed in order of our scenes and all ready to be whipped out for a new scene! Kudos to the costumes team for lovingly labeling our costume bags for each rehearsal and helping us tie our batik when we don’t know how to. What will we dancers do without them?

Only half a minute to change? Don’t worry: use your costume bag!

Dancers also make it a point to remember the faces of their lovely Assistant Stage Managers (ASMs) during rehearsals – they are the ones who give us cues for when to go on stage.

Our lovely ASM and her cue sheet.

11 PM: Home sweet home.

Relief, happiness, joy… Anything that implies a nice cold shower is good news!

12 Midnight: SMUgger time!

Stress eating at its best.

Is it time to bid goodnight? You wish! Not for a dancer in SMU during hell week. Work awaits, but thank god we have this invention called chocolate to keep us company through the night. CAUTION: Only 1 chocolate bar per night. Any more and you’re going to be a MIA dancer.

4 AM: Goodnight, world!

At last, my head hits the pillow and I am complete. Rest well, dancers, and try to get at least seven hours of sleep!