Youth Festival moves with the times

File Photo: Loyang Secondary students will play angklung music at the Esplanade's Live at the Concourse, as part of the Singapore Youth Festival Celebrations.

Rock bands, hip-hop dance groups and the Chinese martial art of wushu are all on the agenda at the revamped Singapore Youth Festival Celebrations this year.

The annual event will still feature the more traditional art forms like choir and drama performances, but the Ministry of Education has followed up with plans it announced last year to introduce more alternative areas.

Jay Huang, 17, a Secondary 2 student from Manjusri Secondary School, did not think he would be selected to perform beatboxing, a form of vocal percussion.

"Not everyone considers it an art, but now I'm more motivated to excel in it," he said.

The five-day event, now in its 47th year, began on Tuesday and will see about 5,000 students from 167 schools performing.

Among them will be Regent Secondary School's concert band, Qifa Primary's Malay dance troupe and a hip-hop routine by students from Juying Primary.

Performances will be held until today at the Esplanade, Ngee Ann City, Suntec City and three National Library Board libraries.

In previous years, performers came mainly from seven categories - arts and crafts, band, Chinese orchestra, choir, dance, drama and instrumental ensembles.

To perform at the festival, schools had to take part in the annual inter-school arts assessment held between April and May, or be invited. But this year, the ministry also invited schools to submit entries via YouTube for the first time.

A total of 180 were selected.

The assessment's award structure has also been streamlined to just three levels: distinction, accomplishment and commendation.

To get the highest award - a distinction - schools need to score only 75 per cent from the judges.

Previously they needed to get 80 per cent for gold, and 85 per cent for gold with honours.

This previous system had drawn criticism for fuelling unhealthy competition and causing stress to festival participants.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who attended the event on Wednesday to watch the performances and launch a new festival logo, said that the ministry has received good feedback about the changes to the festival.

He added: "Schools welcome the revised objectives of the festival to encourage wider participation in the arts."

A mass dance event will also be held today at Ngee Ann City mall and 470 artworks from primary schools are on display at Suntec City.

A video demonstration of the mass dance is on YouTube for members of the public interested in participating.

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