By Joyce Er (403) and Kate Tan (405)
RAWR, ARTreach, !nkspiration, Renaissance Fair, DramaFest, Arts Tapestry. While most current RGS girls are probably familiar with this litany of terms, strangely enough, their seniors just a batch or two earlier may find them completely foreign. Not only are all the above terms much-celebrated arts-related events in RGS, they were all also only implemented in recent years, illustrating the sudden boom of the RGS arts scene.
This is thanks to the little-known Arts Education Committee, which was established two years ago with the intent of ‘nurturing the high-ability girl who will have increased self-awareness and communication through the arts’.
What the AEC has done is set in place is a four-tier arts education programme, as well as encourage student-initiated arts appreciation events.
The programme is based on Treffinger’s Levels of Service, more well-known to students by its four tiers— beginning, developing, proficient and accomplished. All students achieve the second tier through the mandatory General Aesthetics Programmes (the memorable dance, design and technology, art, music, and home economics lessons of lower secondary). Those in performing arts CCAs, the arts and music elective programmes and Literature RA (Raffles Academy) attain tier three, and the select few of international standard are awarded tier four.
However, the arts scene does not end with merely arts education, as testified by the advertisements for multiple arts-related events that paper the walls of the campus. The last two years in particular have seen an unprecedented increase in the visibility of the arts scene in RGS, mainly with the aim of cultivating arts awareness and appreciation in students. Most of the exciting large-scale events that have dramatically shaped the arts scene in RGS today were only started in 2011 (as more than one disappointed senior can attest), around the time that the Arts Education Committee was established in RGS.
Behind every much-publicised, well-planned (or well-improvised, as some of them unabashedly admit) event is a group of arts lovers who dedicate much of their time to bringing art to the masses of RGS. Proponents of the art scene in RGS include the recently-formed ARTreach, comprising passionate art advocates who aim to bring art to RGS through organising activities pertaining to the literary, visual and performing arts. One such event would be the Really Arty Week @ RGS (RAWR), an annual week-long event dedicated to promoting awareness and understanding of the arts in RGS. This was achieved through activities such as Dress as an Artwork Day, CCA busking, workshops held by performing arts CCAs and external vendors.
Another fervent advocate for the arts scene in RGS would be !nkspiration, a Student Interest Group (SIG) self-described as ‘RGS’ resident book club and writing society’. Traditionally headed by the year’s batch of Literature RA students, !nkspiration welcomes all students to join and appreciate literature. Chairperson Sandra Tan (408) says their goal is ‘making creative writing (be it poetry or prose) accessible to the student body, and establishing that literature is for everyone.’
To the skeptical eye, it would seem that the so-called upwards trend of emphasis on the arts is merely the result of a sudden spike in student-initiated and teacher-supported arts advocacy. Nevertheless, promising event participation rates, would have us believe that such a trend of arts events in RGS will be more than a flash in the pan.
Of course, all of the above is based upon the assumption that arts education and appreciation is good. We don’t doubt that we echo many a parent when we ask the resounding question: what is the point of arts?
Now, we could quote a metric ton of statistics and research here, like legions of Singaporean parents, who boast their knowledge of the supposed manifold benefits of music or arts education as they shuffle their children from one enrichment class to the next. But ask an RGS girl what she got out of her decision to spend time indulging in writing, music, dance, theatre and arts, and you would get far less pragmatic answers, as well as a lot of initial confusion, stuttering and mumbling.
Perhaps the word that featured most was the word ‘passion’. Although it’s used so often to explain our dedication to various activities that one might think it’s just a platitude, we can confirm that it isn’t a politically-correct front—witness the tireless dedication to repeated rehearsals to the extent of actual physical injury, and it’s obvious that nothing but passion (or insanity) could drive us to do what we do. For good reason too—if interest and enthusiasm are not a good reason to spend time and effort on something, then what else is? Passion is what drives all pursuers of the arts to spur on and improve themselves through months and years of practice.
The second most-spoken word was none other than ‘friends’. Where studying tends to be done alone at night with only the feeble glow of a phone screen for company, the arts conversely offer collaboration in spades, and with it the chance to interact with and grow alongside like-minded friends. Any performing arts girl can tell you (or more accurately, good-naturedly whine and moan) about the near-miraculous coordination required to produce a successful combined musical performance, or that perfect comedic timing borne of chemistry between actors. It is the not-so-simple joy of many hearts and minds coming together to create a unique showcase of their abilities that makes the arts so rewarding—not to mention the rafter-shaking applause from an appreciative audience afterwards.
Of course, no creative enterprise comes together as easily as the movie High School Musical would have you believe. Behind every successful performance lies a frazzled instructor, a thousand and one ‘Again!’s, countless nights spent in rehearsals in school, and underlying all that, the sheer perseverance and discipline of the performers to keep calm and carry on. This extends to more individual artistic ventures as well: every Year 4 Special Arts Programme student struggles with the monstrous construct that is coursework, and it takes a particular strength of spirit and mind to keep revising that poem even when the writer would like to just ball the offending paper up and chuck it in the wastepaper bin. Whether you’re a prodigy or just someone who’s got a passion for a particular profession, it takes years of perfectionistic self-improvement before one attains any semblance of proficiency. Because of this, exacting standards and rigorous self-discipline are two more rewards from the arts that students can hope to take away.
But these reasons only apply to those who are actively involved in the arts, we hear you protest. Not everyone has the potential for, or even the interest to pursue the arts. So what other reason can there possibly be for the arts?
Simply put: liberation. Everyone has at least once experienced the freedom of being completely and utterly immersed in a piece of music or dance or art. There’s the tone-deaf friend who enjoys belting out Broadway numbers, or the girl with two left feet who still imitates dances of K-pop music videos—and why not? The arts are not only something to pursue for the sake of excellence. One does not need to satisfy any prerequisites to enjoy the freedom that the arts provide. The arts are there to offer a liberating option of self-expression that we often seek in our carefully planned lives, a chance to simply let loose and indulge for indulgence’s sake.
Given the manifold benefits of arts and RGS girls’ enthusiastic receptiveness to the various arts schemes and events of recent years, we can only hope that the school will continue to take these cues and support the development of the arts.
As we went to press, we learnt that RGS has discontinued Arts Tapestry and Dramafest because of budgetary constraints. In addition, EL Week and Y2 Lit Renaissance Faire will be integrated. RAWR may be integrated into EL Week and Y2 Lit Renaissance Faire as well but this is still under discussion.
English Language and Literature Week
Organised by the English Language and Literature department, !nkspiration and Year 3 Literature RA students, the English Language and Literature (ELL) Week was a one-week homage to words at play. The most celebrated event was undoubtedly Poetry Confessions, a two-part spoken word poetry event courtesy of !nkspiration, where RGS girls performed their poetry alongside Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, renowned and prolific American spoken word poets and co-founders of Project Voice.
ELL Week also included Renaissance Faire, a celebration of the Elizabethan times that produced William Shakespeare—or, as the organisers would have it, Wilma Shakespeare. With performances, a best-dressed competition, games, crafts and food booths set up by students of all levels from the ‘kingdom of Raffleshire’, the Faire was a night of revelry and merrymaking for both Rafflesians as well as guests from other schools. The week rounded up with an under-the-stars screening of the movie Pride and Prejudice. Besides this, a five-part play was broadcast over the AVPA system each morning.
Really Arty Week @ RGS (RAWR)
During RAWR, the Student Interest Group ArtReach, Aesthetics, Home Economics and Humanities departments came together to create a blowout week packed with fun-filled activities and events. Every morning, students walking into the foyer were greeted by busking performances put up by Choir, Angklung, and many other Performing Arts in the mornings.
Throughout the week, comics and book sales, face-painting, Dali Colour-by-the-Numbers Participative Art (courtesy of the Art Club students), and a host of workshops covering latte art to tie-dye to cupcake decoration kept us thoroughly entertained. Dress as an Artwork Day challenged students to showcase their creativity as they turned up in interpretations of their favourite artworks (think Dali’s dripping clocks, Mondrian squares and classes of sunflowers). The Hall Assembly that week was testament to the immense talent housed by RGS, opening with a symphonic reinterpretation of the school song by Guitar Ensemble, Strings Ensemble and Angklung. The week closed with Book Day and a late-night picnic under the stars cum screening of Rango, a movie about the enthralling misadventures of a lizard seeking the cause for his desert town’s lost water supply.
Traditionally held biannually, Arts Tapestry was replaced this year by RAWR. 2011’s Arts Tapestry featured workshops covering henna painting, floral arrangement and culinary workshops, collaborative graffiti painting on the wall of the amphitheatre, and Night Extravaganza, a showcase of various SYF-decorated performing arts CCAs including English Drama and Choir.
The upper secondary accompaniment to the lower secondary’s annual Drama Nite, DramaFest is also designed to be a sister event to RI’s Drama Feste (minus the space and the pretentious spelling of ‘Feste’). Each of the five houses has to write a script based on a prompt given by the organising committee, and produce and present the play with cast and crew of each house. DramaFest was first organised in 2011, and looks to be a long-standing tradition to come.
Writer’s Block: The Musical was a joint collaboration by RALit and RAMusic, produced by ARTReach, and is the first musical that RGS has produced in a long time. The production featured a live orchestra and jazz band, as well as a cast that spontaneously burst out into both whimsical and heart-wrenching numbers adapted from other musicals. Put together in no more than two weeks, the musical was opened its curtains in October 2013 for two sold-out shows.