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Sunday, Aug 10, 2014

Singapore

NDP 2014: People in the limelight

The Straits Times | Sunday, Aug 10, 2014

This year's National Day Parade is Mr Lawrence Liao's 10th, and it marks the fulfilment of a promise he made to himself 10 years ago.

"It's a show of gratitude to the country," said the 55-year-old housing agent. "And the best way to do that at the national level is the National Day Parade."

He was one of 580 performers kicking off the show segment in the Soka display, which features neon costumes and glow-in-the-dark props.

The performance, choreographed by 28-year-old Mr Pua Jin Wen, is supposed to show "the different walks of life coming together".

Tying the whole show together were the tunes and lyrics of NDP songs from years past, remixed with contemporary beats and meshed together to form a flowing narrative.

Music director Sydney Tan, who produced the ever-popular Home, said he immersed himself in current hits for two weeks for some inspiration.

"We draw you in so that suddenly you're saying, 'hey, we're grooving to One People, One Nation'," he said.

Although some questioned the decision to not have a theme song this year, Dr Tan said reworking past songs is a different way to achieve the same end.

"Let's not concentrate so much on whether they're old or new, but on what the resonance is with what's going on on the ground."

One of the things he wanted to portray is a place where people know they can achieve their dreams, and not at the expense of others'.

"Everyone has dreams, everyone has circumstances. We either complain, or we do something about it," he said.

"This is our city; we don't just walk away. Grab it and don't let it go."

 Safety officer turns with a ballerina's grace

Student Gayathri Gopakumar recalls stumbling upon her father in the living room at their home in Boon Lay, pivoting on the spot, arms raised overhead, merrily spinning a cloth.

But it turned out that Mr Gopakumar Narayana Pillai was rehearsing for his role to twirl a "roti prata" cloth at this year's parade.

"He's been practising so hard, almost every day," said the 18-year-old, who had first encouraged her father to join the NDP last year.

And Mr Narayana Pillai's practice is evident in his performance - the portly 52-year-old safety officer turns with a ballerina's grace and precision, arms expertly twirling the 2m-wide prop, feet never missing a beat.

"I'm standing right in front and there are a lot of people looking at me, so I want to get it right," he said.

Over the past four months, Mr Narayana Pillai has also befriended his fellow performers with whom he discusses and shares tips.

"It's not easy," he added. "The cloth weighs 3kg, and you have to watch out for wind direction and stabilise yourself so you don't get dizzy."

Despite his skill at flipping the giant mock roti prata, he is not an avid fan of the actual dish.

"I don't eat it often," he said, chuckling.

"It's oily and not that healthy."

 
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