It is Thursday, and the Great Hall is full. At 7.30pm, the lights dim over an excited audience, bringing the chatter down to an attentive silence. A spotlight comes on, centre stage, and the emcee for the night pops out and welcomes us all to SWA6 Academy.
In it’s sixth chapter since its conception, SWAG is the Nottingham Dance Club’s annual dance showcase, featuring UNMC’s very own talents strutting their stuff showcasing various types of dance on one stage. This year’s lineup spanned more than 14 different dance genres from urban, street, tap and contemporary, with more than 100 dancers taking to the stage to perform their hearts out. As part of their tradition, proceeds from the production is donated to a charity, and this year Bangsa Ria, a home for orphaned children, was chosen as the beneficiary.
One of the most anticipated shows of every academic year (NDC didn’t win best student experience at the SA Ball this year for nothing), SWA6 The Academy gave us two hours of non-stop energy, not just from the dancers, but also from the crowd, as we whooped and cheered our way through the show. Trying to describe the entire experience, and all 25 dance pieces in writing will not do it the justice it deserves. To be there in person, to see these talented performers in their full visual glory was something to experience for yourself. But I’ll leave you with some of my highlights from SWA6.
The energy was palpable, and the buzz in the air was almost electric, as the emcee taught us the SWAG chant, our refrain for the night. The crowd’s calls of “check” in response to the emcee’s “SWAG” filled the space, and the show is ready to begin. And what a strong start it was, with an opening act that combined fancy light work, immaculate music cues and locking to grab our attention. The dancers moved swiftly into shuffle, and then threw us back to the 90s as they danced to the sounds of MC Hammer’s iconic U Can’t Touch This and Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. It’s easily one of the best opening performances I’ve ever seen, and the clever use of coloured lights, lasers and well-timed blackouts only helped to accentuate the crisp moves from the dancer on stage. This piece also transitioned cleverly between different dance genres, to give us a little teaser of what the rest of the night entailed.
This year’s Girlstyle performance, choreographed by Mandy Ng, set the stage on fi-yah (insert fire emojis here). Starting off to the slow and sultry sound of The Weeknd singing Earned It, the dancers seduced their way around four guys, and into our hearts with their burlesque moves, dressed in black, white, knee-highs and fishnets. But these strong, independent women need no man, as the track turned into beat heavy 16 Shots, and they moved into the more familiar hip-hop/girlstyle that we look forward to every year.
Remember those four guys that I mentioned earlier? The saying “if you can’t beat them, join them” came true, as they brought out their own posse of men, complete with sheer black stockings and booty shorts, to prove that girlstyle isn’t only for the girls. Different from the cheeky and satirical cross-dressing that we’ve seen in previous SWAG productions, these guys come out and they mean business, popping their backs to the beat and even getting on their knees. After a little friendly battle between the guys and the girls, they ultimately join forces to end one of the hottest performances of the night.
My favourite piece from the night was the Tap dancing performance. Perhaps it was the music choice, This Is Me from The Greatest Showman (one of the best movies in the last year, objectively speaking of course), or the fact that tap is one of my favourite dance forms, or even that this is the first time in my four years as a UNMC student that tap dancing has been showcased in SWAG. Sasha Amira, the choreographer, made the piece inspirational, with the rhythmic taps of metal on polished wood fitting gracefully with the track, each tap telling a part of the story that ended in a shower of confetti, a proud proclamation that this is me and I’m proud of it.
This next highlight confused me when I first looked at the programme list. The genre was Chinese Hip-hop, and I had to ask myself if I’ve ever heard of that genre, and what could possibly be added to make hip-hop Chinese. Turns out I was not prepared for what it meant, as a troupe of women dressed in traditional floral red cheongsams marched on stage, only to start pulling perfect punches and splits. It fell somewhere between hip-hop and girlstyle, with elements of the Chinese culture, such as in hair & costume, song choice and certain moves. It was a refreshing change to see the fusion of two cultures coming together through a unifying art form and having it work so well on stage.
There was something for everyone at this year’s SWA6 The Academy, with K-pop covers from bands like BTS, Seventeen and I.O.I; Bollywood dance in colourful flowing lehengas; Contemporary pieces on bullying and finding strength in togetherness and solidarity; B-boy with impressive spins, freezes and breaking; Shuffle with their fancy footwork; Urban performances from yellow-tinted upbeat choreography to literally blue and mellow moods; to Hip-hop, Locking and Street.
Even the finale and encore performances were full of energy and showcased the combined talents of a diverse group of people coming together through a mutual passion for dance. NDC definitely lived up to their own standards, a proving time and time again that the talents available in UNMC are boundless. Congratulations on a job well done to all involved in this year’s production.
SWA6: Academy Setlist
Opening: This is a test by Amin + I Can Only Imagine by David Guetta Ft. Chris Brown & Lil Wayne + Promises by Skrillex + U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer + Billie Jean by Michael Jackson + Blue by Eiffel 65 (Jason Koh)
K-Pop: Very Very Very by I.O.I (Lum Bao Yi)
Urban: Yams by starRo (Arthur Barnabas)
Girlstyle: High Heels by JoJo + London Bridge by Fergie (Jamie Ong)
Urban: No Filter by Chris Brown + Blue by We Rabbitz + Funkytown by Alvin and the Chipmunks + Dance by DNCE (Brandon Pillay)
Dubstep: Beastmode by Terminite (Jason Koh)
Girlstyle: Earned It by The Weeknd + 16 Shots by Stefflon Don + Boom by Tiesto (Mandy Ng)
Hip Hop: DJ Bring It Back (Instrumental) by Precious Paris (Heng Ling)
Bollywood: Nachange Saari by Raat + Pallo Latke by Jyotica Tangri + Oh Ho Ho Ho (Remix) by Sukhbir, Ikka & Abhijit Vaghani (Sheetal Prasad)
K-Pop: Mic Drop by BTS (Caroline Tan)
Tap: This Is Me by Keala Settle & The Greatest Showman Ensemble (Sasha Amira)
K-Pop: Clap by Seventeen (Brandon Pillay)
B-Boy: King Shit by DJ Flow + Groove Session 2017 by DJ Nobunaga (Hiew Yee Wah (Jason))
Chinese Hip Hop: Sleepless Rainy Night by IU + Du Yi Wu Er by Sammi Cheng + Whirlwind by Spol (Cherry Lew)
Contemporary: Too Good At Goodbyes by Sam Smith (Nicole Lwi & Sasha Amira)
Urban: Blessed by Daniel Caesar + Aruarian Dance by Nujabes (Arthur Barnabas)
Contemporary: Fix You by Coldplay + Unsteady by X Ambassadors (Mistika Idris)
Urban Contemporary + Funky: I See Fire by Ed Sheeran + Only One by Carly Hanson + Laffy Taffy by D4L (May Lim & Brandon Pillay)
Locking:Basic Elements by Shame + Remember the Time by Michael Jackson (Dylan Chyo)
Hip Hop: Daddy’s Lambo by Yelawolf + DJ Turn It Up by Yellow Claw + Harlem Shake by DJ Samuel (Jason Koh)
Shuffle: Shoot for the Moon by Rave Republic + Secrets by Tiesto (Brandon Pillay)
K-Pop: It’s Me (Pick Me) by PRODUCE 101 (Lum Bao Yi)
Finale: Happy by Pharrell Williams
Encore: Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Ft. Ray Dalton
By Neda Al-Asedi, photos by Joann Chua and Kuan Meng Xian