- HOCC 2021 will be held at the Lee Kong Chian Lecture Theatre on March 2 instead of the Nanyang Auditorium, as it coincides with another event organised by the school, said organisers
- Dance captains worry that some features of the lecture theatre’s facilities may compromise their planned performances, with some teams considering withdrawing from the competition
- The switch in venue is the latest in a series of abrupt changes and pandemic-related restrictions that disrupted dancers since HOCC 2020 earlier this year
By Tan Yu-Lynn and Bernice Yong
Photo courtesy of Cloud Nine
School authorities have overruled the 2021 Hall Olympiad Closing Ceremony’s (HOCC) booking of the Nanyang Auditorium, to the dismay of competing dance teams worrying that the new venue provided may be unsuitable for their performances.
The annual dance competition, which is slated for March 2 next year, will instead be held at the smaller Lee Kong Chian Lecture Theatre, announced organisers on Monday (Dec 14). The competition will tentatively involve teams from 21 Halls of Residence.
Organisers had booked the Nanyang Auditorium since at least October, but were informed on Dec 3 that the closing ceremony would have to make way for another event, said HOCC chairperson Riyadh Al-Muttaqin, a freshman studying Sociology.
Soapbox understands from various sources that the prioritised event will be a convocation, though further details have not been confirmed.
In response to queries on why the booking was cancelled, an NTU spokesperson said: “An event is being planned at the Nanyang Auditorium in March, and the HOCC organisers were asked to use the Lee Kong Chian Lecture Theatre instead so as not to disrupt the HOCC.
“As with any event on campus, more details will be available nearer the date.”
The change in venue is the latest blow dealt to teams in a spate of eleventh-hour changes and pandemic-related restrictions that stretches back to HOCC 2020 in March.
While traditionally a highlight event that draws thousands of spectators and school-wide attention, 2020’s closing ceremony was crippled by the sudden onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Its live audience was reduced to a panel of four judges, with the competition streamed online for spectators instead, and safe distancing restrictions forced participants to drastically alter routines or cut their performing squads to 50 dancers. Some dance teams, such as Hall 8’s Srethgie, even withdrew completely from the competition.
Now, team captains fear their plans may once again be undermined by next year’s departure from the Nanyang Auditorium, which has hosted the closing ceremony since 2012.
Plans up in the air
Hall 6 dance captain Khloe Tan said that news of the change has hit morale among her senior dancers, who are concerned that the lecture theatre’s stage is too small to accommodate all of the team’s background props.
“Our entire item revolves around our props, so they are going to be used throughout our performance… I’m scared we won’t have that same ‘wow’ factor, especially since we are a Hall that is known for our props,” said Khloe, a second-year Chemistry and Biological Chemistry student.
She added that the lecture theatre has limited lighting options compared to the Nanyang Auditorium, and that the backstage area is smaller and visible to the audience.
“Dancers who need to do a quick change of costumes between items would be in full view of the judges,” she said.
Dance captains from Pioneer Hall and Hall 16 echoed similar concerns about the lecture theatre’s facilities. They said they were unsure if their teams’ performances could fit on the new stage in accordance with the latest National Arts Council’s guidelines.
“The first thing that went through my mind when I heard about the switch was if it was possible to appeal to use the Nanyang Auditorium. The switch came very unexpectedly,” said Hall 16 dance captain Winnie Tan.
The third-year Maritime Studies student said the combination of safety guidelines and the sudden move to Lee Kong Chian Lecture Theatre made her team consider pulling out of the competition.
“Our main focus is to put up a good performance. It has to be something we can be proud of,” said Winnie.
Pioneer Hall dance captain Wong Sue Jin said her team was also considering withdrawing from the competition and organising an internal showcase for Hall residents instead.
On the other hand, Hall 8 dance captain Chew Shao Wei said his team has decided to stay on.
Hall 8’s dance team, often known for fielding a large team of dancers, previously chose to withdraw from HOCC 2020 instead of cutting its squad to 50 performers for safe distancing regulations.
Though next year’s competition will restrict performances to even fewer dancers — 30 members both on stage and backstage — Shao Wei said that Hall 8 has already prepared for the new limit.
“We considered pulling out again this year, but we decided to participate in the end. We pulled out last year because we did not want to deprive over 20 people of the chance to compete after all their hard work. However, this year we were informed of the 30-person capacity much earlier on,” said Shao Wei, a third-year student from School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.
No alternative in sight
Hall 11 dance captain Samantha Lim said that teams had appealed to organisers for an alternative venue such as The Wave or an external location, but were turned down due to time and budget constraints.
Samantha, 20, a third-year student studying Public Policy and Global Affairs, added that the captains were told by HOCC organisers that changing the date of the competition would be difficult as the Nanyang Auditorium has been booked for the whole week.
HOCC chairperson Riyadh said there were few replacement dates that his organising committee could choose from.
“We don’t want to push HOCC too late into the semester, as students need time to study for their finals,” he said.
Samantha worried that the changes to both the previous and upcoming competitions could jeopardise the future of Hall 11’s dance team, particularly if HOCC 2022 is to suffer from the same restrictions.
“We don’t really have a lot of events, so HOCC is the time where a lot of us bond and get the experience of Hall culture,” she said.
Samantha added: “With the switch in venue and new safety guidelines, I’m afraid that the freshies won’t get to experience the entire HOCC experience, or even worse, not be able to compete for the next two years, especially with Phase Three planning to last a year. “