Friday, June 13, 2014

Art from the heART Part 2

It has been quite some time since the last blog post about Z's art class. This was largely due to the studio's move to its new location at Charlton Road in Upper Serangoon as well as some restructuring in our son Z's class. The new studio is located in a residential neighbourhood, and its quiet surroundings seem to be very conducive for students to engage in their artwork.
The studio has a very distinct teaching philosophy and we feel that is important
for the development of the child.
This term, heART Studio is teaching students the work of Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The artist emphasises individual creativity, and his artwork is characterised by bright colours and organic forms.

At the onset of the course, the teachers introduced Z to what they termed as the "Five Treasures of Hundertwasser"; namely lollipop trees, onion domes, swirls, houses and floating eyes.
The "Five Treasures" of Hundertwasser.
The first few sessions were honestly very difficult for Z. He was adjusting to the new class environment. Moreover, Z is a child who does not like too much attention and at the age of 3, is also trying to assert his individuality, which results in him not always wanting to be directed by others. We were however very encouraged by heART Studio's owner Rena, who urged us to persevere with Z, giving him his own time and space to learn and to develop. heART Studio also decided to adopt a firm yet patient approach with Z, providing him with the notion that he had to listen to his teachers, but was at the same time free to express his own creativity. 
Teacher JJ explains to Z patiently on the objectives for the session.
A helping hand is provided to guide Z in order to overcome his
initial reluctance.
Z finally decides to paint, choosing his own colours to depict the sky and the sea.
When Z refuses to finish the painting due to a perfectionist streak,
Teacher JJ creatively encourages him by making the work more fun.
Choosing which sea creature to draw.
Teacher JJ engages Z on the different choices he can make. Z finally decides
on a whale and draws it with help from his teacher.
After four classes we are finally seeing some progress with our son; from the first session in a new place where he totally refused to cooperate with the teachers, to the last class when he made his own choices as to what colours to use and what animal to draw. 

Learning is a journey for our children; and as parents we always want them to achieve the best. However we often forget that our expectations of them embody the end product of the journey, and we are all too anxious for them to achieve this result in the fastest possible manner. But we must remember that our children are not identical little versions of us. They possess their own unique qualities and characteristics, and while we want the best for them, our best wishes may not necessarily be the best for them. 

For children need to develop their best; in a way that they are comfortable with; at a pace that they are prepared to journey at. As parents we can do our best by simply standing just a few steps ahead of them, cheering them onwards with our encouragement and our love. And when we sense that the journey seems to be too difficult for them, we extend a guiding hand, in order that they will know we are on their side every time all the time.

Note: This is part of a series of reviews arranged between heART Studio and Parenting on Purpose. Z attended complimentary art lessons for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed here are our own.

You can read Part 1 of our heART Studio review here.
Part 3 of the review can be found here.
For more on our post regarding the work of Hundertwasser, click here

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Quote of the Day:
Before I got married I never dreamt that things would change so much the day I exchanged my wedding vows and began a new journey with the love of my life. Those initial few months and years were a process of growth for me as I learnt how to live with another person. It was a wonderful time, and I enjoyed many precious moments with my wife. But it was also a difficult time; when I learnt that some of the things I had been used to all my life were very different from the experiences encountered by my wife during her childhood. Looking back, I can say it was a time when I grew in maturity, and developed another dimension of my manhood.

There was another major change in my life - the day I became a father. Looking back, I never knew that I would again have to deal with such an upheaval in my day-to-day routines. Life as a couple had then become the norm, and having an additional person in the house made so much difference; for starters the child cried far more than my wife ever did! 

Fathering (and parenting) is still a road that I am learning to walk on. During these past four years I have grown so much; and I cannot imagine that the person I am now is so different from the person I used to be. I'm still the same person intrinsically; but with additional perspectives infused into my being.

I know I am a better person because of my wife; I believe I can say the same about my children. For that's what I aspire - to become a better husband and father.

Sentosa: A New State of Fun for Young Families

This is a review of Sentosa's media branding campaign "A State of Fun", written for Little Day Out, a local family portal. We waltz into Sentosa’s VIP Party for the launch of its new media branding campaign.

Young families can expect more fun in Sentosa. On 7 June 2014, the island launched a new branding campaign, and is now establishing itself as a “State of Fun”, a land “without rules, strangers or stereotypes”. 
The launch of the new Sentosa corporate video.
Sentosa Development Corporation CEO Mike Barclay told Little Day Out there’s going to be lots more on the island for families with children. For instance, plans are underway to expand the Palawan Beach swimming lagoon. Mr Barclay said the area is ideal for swimming, and that Sentosa is seeking the necessary permits so that families will be able to have more fun there. 
Sentosa is not only an island for romance, but also one for families.
In addition, the children theme park Kidzania is expected to open next year, and children will then have the opportunity to roleplay different jobs. This will then add an indoor playground component to the existing outdoor adventure land - the Port of Lost Wonder. 
Walking on stilts? Sounds like a lot of fun!
To kick off the new “State of Fun”, Sentosa organised a whole host of activities. From delivering pizzas on a trapeze to a transformation of the island’s iconic beach tram into a DJ music station, there seemed to be no end to the fun that the island was spinning. 
The iconic beach tram transformed into a music station.
And although there was an unexpected downpour just before the start of the VIP party, everyone seemed to remain in good spirits. 
Our little son has fun even in the rain, using
the beach ball from the media pack as a cap!
All were waiting for the spectacular finale of lights and sound – a symphonic laser fireworks display in the skies, performed on a floating stage by renowned local entertainer Kiki Tay and twenty musicians.
The sensational laser firework display.
A feast for the senses!
If the launch party was any indication, we can certainly expect lots of fun on the lovely island just south of the Singapore mainland.

You can read the Little Day Out article here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Happily Ever After

Quote of the Day:

Traditional fairy tales always narrate the story of the charming hero winning the heart of the princess and getting married, with the couple living "happily ever after". But the end of the fairy tale is the beginning of "the rest of life" - what every married couple goes through. One can either choose to stay happily married, or to opt to remain miserably married; and in today's world, many choose to leave the marriage altogether.

What's even more complicated is when the children come along. Issues that seem to be trivial become magnified. The needs of the kids surpass the needs of the spouse. The roles in the household change; and the husband is often seen more as the "father", and the wife seen more as the "mother". These changes in family dynamics are natural, and should be celebrated. But at the end of the day the person we love most should be our spouse and not our children. We need to identify felt needs and attend to them.

Happily ever after can be a reality. But we need to constantly choose this reality. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Five in a Row: A Review of the ACE! 2014 Festival by I Theatre

From singing cats and operatic ogres to magical creatures whose wings dazzle in a shimmering burst of light. From scared baby dragons taking their maiden flight to graceful dragons well-versed in the ancient art of storytelling. And then there are those who consider their home to be "curvy and swervy and (somewhat) topsy-turvy", while others believe that "straight lines guide you along a straight path".

The ACE! Festival 2014 was an enjoyable experience for us. Reviewing the plays on behalf of local family portal Little Day Out, our little son Z got the opportunity to watch all five of the plays. And he enjoyed every single one of them!

I Theatre, which produced three of the plays and brought in two UK-based productions, stated that the festival theme was "Long Ago and Far Away", and it promised to explore not only stories and music and performance, but also "experiences, environments, cultures, sights and sounds". And the festival delivered all these and more!
Little Z taking a shot with the cast from "Puss in Boots".
What was particularly strong about the plays was the characterisation. For instance, the Ogre Queen Arigula Funghi was particularly convincing in the play Puss in Boots. Her comments on morality were delivered in a crisp French accent, almost as if they were the voice of conscience spoken by the scriptwriter Brian Seward himself. And in "Spot the Difference", children were overheard making comments even after the play that they preferred the bubbly and vivacious character of Soo more than that of straight-laced Vik. Fervyn Tan's Soo had apparently stolen the hearts of the audience by her convincingly charming performance.

The background sets and costumes were also delightful and enthralling. For instance, one would be swept into the ethereal world of the Starbird almost immediately. The textured feel of the props, and the outlandishly opulent costumes dazzled all in the audience, children and parents alike. As for Dotty the Dragon, the charming village scenescape, with its jigsaw-like feel and lovely puppetry, instantly drew the audience to believe it had been invited for tea in an English country village. 
Z's special moment with Andrew Alan Kent from the cast of "Dotty the Dragon".
Music and dance were key components in the ACE! Festival. Under the Dragon Moon was hypnotically charming in how different dance traditions were amalgamated into one stunning performance. We particularly enjoyed how colour and movement were of immense significance in the dances, and how these conveyed the symbolism and emotional imagery of the stories. As for "Puss in Boots", master songwriter and composer Bang Wenfu infused a whole array of musical genres into the songs. We particularly enjoyed his re-make of the Katy Perry number "Roar", and that tune is still humming in my head today.

But the raison d'etre for all good productions is the storytelling itself. Mara Menzies spun a hypnotic tale as the Storyteller in Starbird. The production was high in audience engagement and very quickly drew in the children to participate in the numerous adventures experienced by the Starchicks. Likewise, the three-men cast of Simon James Sanchez, Chris Yesdi Jefferies and Andrew Alan Kent were enthralling in their telling of the story Dotty the Dragon. You could almost hear feel the helplessness of the Night Watchman as he shared how he was supposed to be the village's guard, but yet without the ability to defend the village should a fierce dragon invade. And the washerwoman's plight was almost sad as it was humerous. As for Under the Dragon Moon, its ensemble of storytellers (also known as Jewels) performed magnificently in their rendition of the five Asian tales. The stories were indeed funny, happy and sad; and the seamless transition from one story to the next often left the audience hungry for more, even as one story ended and another began.
The lovely Starbird displays her dazzling wings.
As parents, perhaps the greatest impact that ACE! Festival 2014 has had on our son is that it has made him a fan of the theatre. We are sometimes amazed that we can discuss the merits of different performances with him even though he will only be turning 4 in July. Our little boy has also learnt the art of creating stories. This morning for instance, he was so eager to tell his Daddy the story of an "Egg in the Jungle". Daddy asked if the story was like that of the Starbird. To that the little boy answered to the contrary, and proceeded to tell his own version of the "Egg in the Jungle", a story that sounded suspiciously similar yet refreshingly different. Perhaps little Z will one day be his own storyteller, and create the magic that dreams are made up of!

This is the fifth year that the ACE! Festival has been brought in by local theatre house I Theatre. The 2014 season features five excellent plays. You can read more on the ACE! Festival 2014 website here.

ACE! Festival 2014 Reviews

Sparkle in the Sky - Starbird by Toto Tales (UK)
Do You Believe in Dragons? - Dotty the Dragon by Blunderbus Theatre Company (UK)
The Jewel in the Tale - Under the Dragon Moon by I Theatre Creative Edge (Singapore)
Spotting Differences and Celebrating Commonalities - Spot the Difference by I Theatre (Singapore)
Of Singing Cats & Operatic Ogres - Puss in Boots by I Theatre (Singapore)

ACE! Festival 2014 Behind the Scene Stories

The Actor-Character Dynamic - Learning from Spot the Difference Director Isabella Chiam how actors develop their character for the stage.
Music from the Heart - Listening to the music of Puss in Boots and learning from master composer Bang Wenfu how to make a musical sing.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sparkles in the Sky: A Review of "Starbird" by Toto Tales

A review of “Starbird”, a production by the UK-based Toto Tales. Written for local family portal Little Day Out.

Enter the ethereal forest of the Starbird, a magical creature whose wings dazzle in a shimmering burst of light. Sundown in this enchanted land always delights the senses; that’s as the Starbird performs a mystical ritual when it ascends to the skies and magically brings light to the stars, causing them to glow and to sing. And the dance of the Starbird bring solace to all around, providing the land with much peace and tranquility.

But one day, a disgusting and destructive Hunter enters the forest. The Starbird trusts him intrinsically, even showing him the places where she lays her eggs. He betrays this trust, and even seeks to profit from what is closest to her heart - her eggs. Will the Starbird see through his plot, and will she escape from the greatest danger she has ever faced?
Little Z has developed a love for theatre. Here he is excited to watch the "Starbird"!
Toto Tales’ Starbird is based on a story by Nigerian-born writer Ben Okri. The play is premised on themes such as caring for nature and protecting one’s young. It also attempts to tackles a number of other issues such as oppression and injustice, but these themes are not resolved conclusively. The musical however makes up for this with the enchanted feel of the set and the outlandishly dazzling costumes. The magical dances are steeped in African-inspired music, filling the senses and transporting the audience into the fantasy forest of the Starbird.
A dazzling performance by Starbird & the Storyteller
Starbird's two-member cast demonstrated much flexibility in the way they portrayed their different roles. While the Storyteller used her voice as a powerful instrument to connect powerfully with the children, the Starbird entertained with her cooing bird gestures and graceful dances.
The post-production interactive time for children to unleash their artistic talent.
The production was also strong in the way the two actors interacted with the audience. In addition, there was much spontaneity through how the performers utilised the answers provided by the audience and incorporated these elements into the play. The children then became highly involved in the adventure, either hiking up a mountain or travelling around the stage in a plane or train.

Click here for the Little Day Out article.

Starbird is part of the ACE! Festival 2014, and runs from now to 8 June.  It is recommend for children aged 3 to 10.

Do You Believe in Dragons?

A review of “Dotty the Dragon”, a production by the UK-based Blunderbus Theatre Company. This review was written for local family portal Little Day Out.

“Come to the Village,” said the man. “It’s a charming little place where everyone lives a comfortable life and the children are happy everyday.” A little frown escapes his otherwise cheerful face. “Now don’t you worry about the Dragon in the castle over yonder. We’ve got a Night Watchman who guards the Village and keeps it safe.”

With that kind invitation, we are drawn into a charming Village; one whose inhabitants are happy everyday (apart from the usual neighbourly grouses). And although there are rumours of a great green creature which casts its shadow when it flies over the skies, no one has actually seen it face to face.
Z enjoying his fourth ACE! Festival 2014 play - "Dotty the Dragon"
That’s where Little Dotty comes in. Barely 10 days-old, Dotty yearns to make her maiden flight down to the little village below her castle. She can see the children playing happily everyday, and she desires to join them. And so she does; despite the gruff resistance from her father, a strict old creature simple known as Mr Dragon.

Dotty the Dragon is a charming little tale, and its story plays itself out naturally, winning the hearts of its audience both young and old. The key story themes of independence versus over-protectiveness, fear versus acceptance, and loneliness versus friendship, draws a healthy tension as the story pans out. The 3-men cast is spectacular as they weave the story together, in the manner of good old-fashioned storytellers. And the light touches of British humour make for an enjoyable outing at the theatre.

What was extraordinary about Dotty the Dragon was the intricate sets, pieced together painstakingly and convincingly, to create a lovely village scenescape; almost like parts of a jigsaw puzzle. Then there are the dazzling costumes and puppets, which complete the imagery of a simple village teeming with people, each larger than life. It is also magical to watch the seamless interplay of puppetry and costume. Dotty, for instance, is first seen in a delightful dragon costume. She then transforms into a puppet when she flies down from her castle, only to change back again to her original form when she reaches the village.
"Villager" Andrew Alan Kent smiles for the camera with our happy family.
The strength of the production is in the way the cast relates to the audience. There is strong audience interaction at the start, where the actors learn the names of the children and use these names as part of the story. There are also times when members of the audience are dragged up on stage. This reviewer, for instance, was cajoled to play the part of an imaginary dragon, flying through the village with a loud roar. much to his own enjoyment and (hopefully) also for the  entertainment of the rest of the audience. 

Click here for the Little Day Out article.

Dotty the Dragon is part of the ACE! Festival 2014, and runs from now to 8 June.  It is recommend for children aged 3 to 12.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Jewel in the Tale: A Review of I Theatre's "Under the Dragon Moon"

The review was written for local family portal Little Day Out, a Singapore-based website that provides information and updates on the best of Singapore for families with young children.
A fun-filled Daddy-Son outing for little Z.
Legend spins the tale of two kindly and graceful dragons, which cared for all creatures on the earth by guiding and healing them. The Dragon of the Seven Seas and the Dragon of the Four Winds also gathered people under the silvery moon to tell stories that would either make them laugh, make them puzzled, or make them cry. And each story always had a “Jewel in the Tale”, a treasured value or precious lesson for the people to learn. But the Emperor of the Mountains was jealous of the dragons, and he transformed them into stars that glittered in the night sky. The only hope was for people to continue gathering every time the dragon stars were highest in the sky - the night of the Dragon Moon. It was said that stories told under the Dragon Moon would never be forgotten; and if people were able to gather enough jewels, that they would be able to save the dragons from their starry fate.

Thus begins the premise of Under the Dragon Moon, a re-telling of five Asian stories each with a “Jewel in the Tale”. I Theatre’s choice of the five Asian tales reflects its emphasis on how each story should have a moral, and the five tales depict values such as kindness and compassion, humility, care for the environment and even the ability to laugh at oneself. For instance the Indian story The List of Fools narrates how Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great instructs his wise man Birbal to gather ten fools for his amusement. He however learns at the end of the day that he himself was the greatest fool for coming up with the idea in the first place. This reviewer was however most moved by the Japanese tale The Crane Maiden, which tells the story of how an old man’s kindness in saving a crane ends up with the crane maiden weaving bolts of cloth to help the old man and his wife out of poverty.
A "Jewelled" Cast
Under the Dragon Moon stole the hearts of its audience largely because of the strength of its stellar cast. The acting ensemble of storytellers (aka Jewels) pranced their way round the audience and into their imagination. The vocal narration was crisp with believable Indian and Filipino accents. Costumes were lavish; and the use of colour and fabric as theatrical elements added to the visual and emotional imagery that made the stories believable. However, it is this reviewer’s opinion that the spectacular dances were the raison d’etre of the show. These incorporated elements as diverse as Chinese opera, Japanese traditional Mai dance, and Filipino percussion music.

The production is recommended for audiences from 5 to 18; although this reviewer’s almost 4-year-old son thoroughly enjoyed it too. Z commented that he liked the show very much, especially the lighting effects. What is certain is that the pre-production playful antics by the actors definitely contributed to audience enjoyment, with the characters running in-between the seats, tapping individuals on their shoulders, and even dragging people to play “tag” with them.

Under the Dragon Moon is part of the ACE! Festival 2014, and runs from 30 May to 1 June.

Click here to read the Little Day Out article.