Dancing in Macau

It was the night of our flight, but I was still struggling to pack. The excitement of what lay ahead in the week kept me going, until finally I zipped my luggage up, and pushed it upright. A moment of satisfaction always follows. That is, until you suspect you’ve forgotten something, and you  begin the entire procedure of unzipping it, squatting across it like a frog and digging through the contents only to realise that yes, what you thought you’d forgotten has already been tucked in there.

Packing smart proves to be a challenging task to me, and no less a chore. In this particular case, there was extra baggage, beyond the usual clothing and essentials. I was bringing along bags of costumes for the trip.

Tops embellished with sequins, and long flowy skirts, some complete with gold satin and tassels. Not to forget the huge pile of makeup. These were all costumes for our performances. You see, this was a trip to dance and perform, together with other dancers from all over the world.

This was a trip to dance and perform, together with other dancers from all over the world.

A few months ago my team and I had received news that there was to be a dance festival in Macau, welcoming youth dance groups from all over the world and so we thought “Why not?” After the long process of the application, planning, rehearsals and more rehearsals, it was finally time. We were off, representing a team from Singapore, in the Macau International Youth Dance Festival 2016. Other than our endless complaints about packing woes, we were pretty much bubbling with excitement.

The Macau International Youth Dance Festival, IYDF in short, is a biannual festival held in Macau, featuring both local Macau dance groups, and teams from different countries and regions.

Macau 2

(photograph courtesy of JingYi Choy)

This year, there were 17 non-local dance groups, from Australia, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, Korea, Malaysia, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan!

The first few days of a trip are usually filled with energy, combined with curiosity and anticipation for the coming days. While rushing to and fro between rehearsals and our hotel, we refused to give up on making full use of every minute of free time we had to do some shopping as well as hunting for Portuguese egg tarts, Macau’s most popular snack. Despite the exhaustion from rehearsals, we had fun walking around. It was as if dancing overseas somehow required less energy, or that we simply recharged a lot faster.

(Portuguese egg tart @monchichitasting)

Being a Portuguese overseas territory until 1999, Macau takes on both Portuguese and Chinese influences. At times I felt confused, to be amongst Chinese locals who were speaking Cantonese, and selling traditional local delicacies, but under a completely European-styled building.

The mixture of cultural influences kept us constantly looking around at our surroundings in intrigue. Our hotel was located near Casino Lisboa, and also within walking distance to Senado Square. Senado Square is a pedestrian-only zone, and is entirely covered by Portuguese-styled pavements. As we walked along the street, we reached St. Dominic’s church, and venturing further down the right eventually brought us to the St. Paul Ruins.

(Macao was the first and last country to remain a European colony, with the Portuguese first arriving in the 16th century, and the last Portuguese governor leaving in 1999. Pictured: ruins of St. Pauls) @macaotourismmalaysia

As part of the dance festival, dancers kicked off a parade from the steps of St. Paul’s Ruins, all the way back down to the front of St. Dominic’s Church. The energy was infectious! The heat in Macau during summer is intense but, thankfully, the sun started to set as the team headed on to a second location.

As part of the festival, we were invited to perform at an outdoor stage — Macau’s Tap Seac Square, a major public square and also the site of a former stadium. Performances from different countries rolled on into the night as the emcees introduced the various teams in English, Chinese, and Portuguese.

(The International Youth Dance Festival 2016 took place July 22-28th and featured more than 600 young dancers from Macao and all around the world @macaotourismmalaysia)

Sounds like a rather packed and fulfilling day, but this was only the first performing day of our trip! The rest of the week in Macau continued to be rewarding, with two more performances and even exchange classes with the dance groups from other countries.

It was a fascinating experience, not just to perform but to watch and observe the other teams. Lucky for me, I got to experience being both a performer and an audience member.

(photograph courtesy of JingYi Choy)

(photograph courtesy of JingYi Choy)

Perhaps the best thing about travelling is always the chance to observe and realise a little something about other cultures. Throughout the festival, dance was something we all had in common and yet the most rewarding part of it all can be watching and learning how others do things differently from how we would ourselves. Somehow this makes us go on to appreciate the art and culture of both ourselves and others a lot more.

The most rewarding part of it all can be watching and learning how others do things differently from how we would ourselves.

While away, us free-spirited and adventurous types wanted to go all-out and try new things and the discomfort from discovering something different and strange from what we are often already familiar proved to be quite rewarding for me.

Featured image via sirinitii