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When asked what they missed most during the pandemic, most people will probably reply with, “family” or “friends.” However, I differ from them. What I missed most is the Singapore Youth Festival 2020 or as others might call it, “SYF.” It is a competition that performing arts students participate in every two years.

I was supposed to participate in the Singapore Youth Festival 2020 under the “Chinese Dance” category. As a troupe we had been practicing since August of 2019, and we were supposed to perform in late April. Our last performance was in 2018 and since then I had learnt and improved not only in my technique, but I had also learnt new contortion and acrobatic tricks. It deeply upset me when I received a message the day before our practice run that SYF had been cancelled. It was the March holidays and by then we were practicing twice a week, four hours, each session. Spending each session dancing my heart out and stepping out of my comfort zone to put on a good show, I would always leave exhausted and in severe back and muscle ache. Being one of the leaders in the troupe also meant taking account of costumes as well as taking care of the other members well-being. I still remember how all of us were in a frenzy when one of the costumes had gone missing – looking back I still remember the horror on our faces. It was a huge deal when a costume went missing. You might think, it’s just a piece of fabric, what’s the big deal? Believe it or not, each costume is like a queen’s gown, with its owner waiting on its hand and foot. It had been stitched multiple times to fit each person’s body type perfectly, washed on a delicate cycle and we had to sun it almost every day so it would not have any musty odours. Costumes aside, it went from the two emcees not being able to announce the title and description of the dance and not having to put tape on the floor to indicate where we had to stand due to the safe management measures, to having to cancel the performance entirely. All that made me really upset at that time, my effort? Poof! Be gone… over the course of a few months, I did finally learn to think positively and instead of crying and moping, I started to think about all the fun times training with my fellow dancers.

The thing I miss most is definitely the feeling of being on stage, front and center, having the spotlight on you. Although “Virtual SYF” was a thing, Primary Six students were told to participate as the infamous PSLE was just round the corner. Of course, nothing beats performing in front of a live audience. During SYF 2018, although barely visible, I could see the impressed looks of the audience as well as the judges. When they clapped, you would feel this warmth in your heart, which I believe is the feeling of joy and pride. The cancellation of SYF really made me feel furious; I was a bear with a sore head for god knows how many days but that also taught me the pain of losing something very precious or irreplaceable to me. At the end of the day, I learnt to be appreciative of what I have.

As a side note, the preparation for SYF 2020 will always remain in my heart but as Alexander Graham Bell quotes, “When one door closes, another door opens.” This year, I have blessed with the opportunity to be a part of Temasek Junior College’s IP Modern Dance Club. Although the people I am dancing with as well as the coaches have changed, I await the day that I can perform on stage again.

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