Wednesday, June 15, 2011

National Day Parade 2011: Onward March rehearsal

One hundred and thirty two steps is not a fantastic distance to march.

But try doing it as part of a Company-size marching contingent, up a flight of stairs, within arm's reach of an unpredictable audience, in sync with music while singing out loud with the whole of Singapore and the Internet crowd watching and filming your every move and these 132 steps become a nightmare to choreograph.

This morning's rehearsal for the 132-step Onward March segment of the National Day Parade 2011, while hardly show-ready, was a showpiece for how the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) gets the best from its people. This includes the hundreds of Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and Singapore Police Force (SPF) personnel who practised alongside the SAF under the blazing morning sun at the Float at Marina Bay.

Even without the help of a public address system, the stentorian bellows from SAF enciks (regimental sergeant-majors or RSMs) barking out marching commands could be clearly heard across Marina Bay.

The contingents from the Singapore Army, navy, air force, SCDF and SPF seemed to have little problems marching onto show centre in neat, serried ranks.

But things became unhinged when they tried marching up the stairs in the spectator stands. Marching columns stretched out along the stairs with timing, spacing and rhythm out of sync with the music. It was, afterall, a rehearsal and such sessions are meant to iron out the kinks and polish the routine.

Show-and-tell: With all eyes focused on them, Master Warrant Officer Jennifer Tan and an unidentified SAF drill instructor (marching up the stairs) demonstrate how the Onward March segment should be performed to NDP participants about half their age. MWO Tan ordered the marching contingents to the red seats for a mid-action review and pep talk after watching the contingents snake their way up the seating gallery in a less-than-satisfactory performance.

It was heart-warming to see one of the enciks, presumably the parade RSM, Singapore Army Master Warrant Officer Jennifer Tan (we were too far to see who it was), take charge by ordering the participants to gather in the red seats for a quick mid-action review. She is the first female assigned the RSM's post at a National Day Parade.

MWO Tan drilled down to the basics and explained to her audience how they could get their act together. The RSM's tone was measured, the delivery direct and the guidance that was shared dissected the problem and offered solutions for getting the pace, timing, distance and march order all straightened out.

Time was running out, she said, as the NDP team would not have the luxury of umpteen rehearsals practising on the tiered gallery as the venue was unique.

That drove home the urgency of the rehearsals. The NDP 2011 team would have till Combined Rehearsal 2 to get things right as they will perform in front of spectators from the third combined rehearsal (CR3), which is the date when their families would be invited for a sneak preview of the parade. The pressure to get the Onward March routine done properly with just two CRs is thus quite intense, to say the least.

Instead of simply blasting the verbal tip sheet into the ears of the marching contingents, MWO Tan assured them that it could be done - because she had practised it yesterday.

As all eyes trained on MWO Tan and a couple of her RSMs, there they stood in show centre waiting for the music to start, which was their cue to demonstrate how the Onward March should be properly done.

The live demo was not without its risks. If the RSMs could not get things together, then goodness knows what the marching contingent personnel would think and say.

But MWO Tan and team got it right, showed what could be achieved with some effort, commitment and practice. It was a very public demonstration of leadership by example.

The MWO's handling of the situation - forceful and result-oriented, yet demonstrating her EQ in coaxing her men and women to give their all - underscored the fact that the NDP 2011 RSM is clearly on top of her game.

1 comment:

Ah0Lim said... waiting to see the pictures...