Learn to somersault in the air

Learn to somersault in the air
Different strokes: Airstraordinary Sports’ head coach Alan Zhang demonstrates a somersault at the Amped Trampoline Park in Tanjong Katong.

In June, Cara Nicole Neo, 23, is opening a mermaid school in Singapore.

The specific location has not been decided yet, but at that school, you learn how to put on a tail and swim underwater like the mythical creature in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.

There is no age limit and wannabe mermen are welcome too, says Ms Neo, who performs at children's parties and corporate events with her alter-ego Syrena, also dubbed Singapore's first mermaid.

The mermaid class is one of many quirky activities one can pick up in Singapore.

Other than the regular skills which people choose to learn, such as pole-dancing or playing the ukulele, the more "niche" schools teach novelty skills such as mastering the trampoline or how to become a master at elaborate card tricks.

At the mermaid school, Ms Neo will teach four levels of a "mermaid certification syllabus" - bronze, silver, gold and platinum - each level consisting of four or five 45-minute weekly lessons.

Participants currently pay $352 for each level at an early-bird rate.

They must also either buy a mermaid's tail for about $250 or rent one for the duration of the course at about $150.

At the bronze level, where all beginners start at, participants learn how to care for their tails, get in and out of them easily and swim mermaid-style with the aid of flotation devices.

At higher levels, they will learn to swim without assistance, do tricks such as flips and somersaults in the water and swim in a synchronised manner with other mermaids. Throughout the levels, they will also learn about the mythology of mermaids, their representation in pop culture and the international mermaid community.

Since classes were announced two weeks ago, more than 40 people - mostly females aged seven to over 40 - have expressed interest.

One of the interested is social media executive May Lim, 25.

She says: "I've always liked mermaids since I was a little girl and wanted to swim in those beautiful tails.

"But it might be embarrassing to slip on the tail and jump into a public pool alone. I'd feel more comfortable going to a mermaid class to wear the tail."

Prefer to stay dry instead? Consider a trampoline class, where you learn how to perform somersaults and flips while bouncing.

Trampoline school Airstraordinary Sports has been conducting hour-long classes at the three Amped Trampoline Parks in Tanjong Katong, Jurong East and River Valleyfor the past two years.

Ten lessons cost $350 to $380 and the school has more than 160 students aged three to over 30, although most are under 12.

Airstraordinary's founder and head coach Alan Zhang, 28, says his classes teach children body awareness, aerial awareness and body co-ordination.

Adults can also get a workout from jumping on trampolines and enjoy the sensation of being suspended in the air, adds the former national gymnast.

Housewife Patama Lovajana, 37, has been sending her son, seven-year-old Algin, for weekly trampoline classes for the last 11/2 years.

She says: "With an instructor around, I'm assured my son is executing the moves safely. Now, he can even do double somersaults and is keen to take up gymnastics as a co-curricular activity in school."

For the less athletically inclined, a card flourishing lesson might be just the thing.

A local card flourishing group called Virtuoso, or the Virts, has been teaching people how to perform elaborate card shuffling techniques and displays through free tutorials on YouTube and paid tutorials on its website since 2007.

More than 50,000 enthusiasts - a few hundred from Singapore - follow the free tutorials, which teach classic moves such as flicking, twirling and catching cards.

Paid tutorials, which teach moves created by the group, have also attracted about 200 customers from Singapore, who pay US$4 (S$5.40) to US$10 a tutorial.

In addition, the group's co-founder Huron Low, 27, has also taught card flourishing moves to 10 people one on one, for about $150 an hour.

Some of the students have even moved up to become teachers. This was the case for Mr Jeremy Tan, 24, one of Mr Low's former students, who now works as a photographer and director with Virtuoso.

He says: "I was interested in card flourishing as a hobby and having a coach was great because it allowed me to personalise the classes based on what I wanted to learn."

These kinds of classes attract users who are drawn to novelty, says Associate Professor Ang Swee Hoon, 53, from the National University of Singapore Business School.

The lecturer, whose research interests include consumer behaviour, says: "People want something different from the slew of swimming and self-improvement classes.

"They want to feel unique and have something interesting to talk about with their friends."

Mr Seah Seng Choon, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), advises people to do thorough research on course providers before signing up.

"Consider the reputation of the school, size of the class, credentials of the teaching staff," he says. "Look up reviews by past customers on whether the service provided was satisfactory and if the course met their expectations."

He adds that if students are not satisfied after the classes, they should first seek resolution with the school. If this fails, they can approach Case for assistance or file their claim at the Small Claims Tribunals.

Some are fads that will not last long, Prof Ang says.

"While I can see magicians putting the card flourishing skills to use, who would regularly swim like a mermaid?"

bang@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Apr 19, 2015.
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