The sight of a multitude of performers dancing and moving to familiar local tunes while decked out in colourful costumes has become synonymous with the National Day Parade (NDP) Show.
Not having any lines to recite or songs to sing, they speak to Singaporeans using the movement of their bodies, reminding them of the beauty of the Little Red Dot's diverse society and the strength of the Singapore spirit every year.
While this year's NDP Show may have already passed, the images of Team Nila members cycling with glowing dove wings attached to their backs and the fiery dance performance by volunteers from Music & Drama Company, Martial House, and Temasek Polytechnic will continue to linger in our memories.
In charge of making these displays realities was first-time NDP Chief Choreographer Ryan Tan, who had previously assisted with choreographing NDP 2010 and NDP 2016. A champion of dance in Singapore, Tan is also the Creative Producer of One Dance Asia and founder of dance companies TRDOco and Dance RePresent.
Before NDP 2023, Tan, the final artist to be featured in the Behind NDP 2023 mini-series, spoke to Hear65 about his experiences of working on this year's Show segment as its Chief Choreographer.
Hi, Ryan! Tell us how you got your start as a choreographer.
I started off in my dance career first as a dancer, and once when someone needed a choreographer, they asked if I could do it. I took up the challenge and said yes. Since then, I started to discover and hone my gift in creating visuals and bringing them to life through movement.
"It feels amazing working with like-minded creatives who carry that same spirit of excellence."
How did it feel to be invited to choreograph this year’s NDP Show?
It’s always an honour to be a part of the NDP, [which is] such a significant celebratory occasion for our nation. I’m so grateful to be able to work with Royston [Tan] and the rest of the creative team. It feels amazing working with like-minded creatives who carry that same spirit of excellence. I feel a huge sense of responsibility toward the audience, the performers, and the team to give them my best so that they may experience the best from me.
What are some of your responsibilities as the Chief Choreographer for the NDP 2023 Show?
I would say communicating the vision of the Creative Director to the Show partners and stirring them towards fulfilling the vision.
"For the choreography [of this year's NDP Show], most of it was governed by the idea of inclusiveness..."
What do you hope to convey to Singaporeans through the choreography for the NDP 2023 Show?
Unity and hope. For the choreography, most of it is governed by the idea of inclusiveness, with people from different walks of life coming together, different races, different skill sets, etc. And when they come together to fulfil the vision of the Creative Director through the choreography, they immediately display unity and hope.
Tell us about some of the challenges you encountered while preparing for the event. How did you overcome them?
The lack of onsite rehearsal time at the Padang was probably one of the most challenging parts of the whole process. As there are many components and people involved, getting everyone and everything together to run rehearsals was tough. I am just thankful that all the Show partners have been very understanding and accommodating in ensuring [that] the rehearsals [would] run smoothly and effectively within the given short time.
"No matter the scale of the project, effective time management is what I have learnt to [have] in all the projects [that I do]."
How do you think the experience of choreographing a big-scale event like the NDP Show will help you when you’re working on other projects?
Besides NDP, I have worked on other big-scale projects like the SEA Games, and the inaugural Youth Olympics. These events trained me to be more patient and time-effective when it comes to rehearsals. No matter the scale of the project, effective time management is what I have learnt to [have] in all the projects [that I do].
Is there anything that you hope to experiment with should you get the opportunity to work on the NDP Show again?
Create a water show!
This interview has been edited for clarity.