Weekends are typically spent taking a much-needed break from work and spending some time with family and friends.
But for the past few weekends (yes, both Saturday and Sunday), Mediacorp artistes Zoe Tay and Zhang Ze Tong have been toiling away in a dance studio so that they can be at their best this Sunday (Oct. 10).
Performance with young beneficiary
On Oct. 10, Tay and Zhang will be sharing the stage for the President's Star Charity 2021 (PSC).
The two artistes will be collaborating with trained dancers and two persons with disabilities, including para-athlete Jeremiah Liauw.
Liauw, 15, was born with spina bifida and travels with a wheelchair as he has limited use of his legs.However, that has never stopped him from reaching greater heights.
Together, they will be doing a dance performance which Zhang described as a "combination of modern dance and ballet".
Speaking with Mothership, the actor elaborated that it is a beautiful and meaningful performance that incorporates various elements including chairs.
Only Liauw, however, will be performing on a wheelchair.
Impressed by young boy
Both Tay and Zhang have nothing but praise for the young boy.
Tay said: "Jeremiah is really young. He will impress you and blow your mind when you see him perform. I think even Ze Tong, who has muscles and goes to the gym can't do [what Liauw can]."
Zhang, on the other hand, assured that they weren't just paying lip service.
"What Ah Jie said is really just stating the facts. Jeremiah is really a champion. Even though he's only 15, I'm learning so much from him because he's not a full-time dancer. He's a student and at the same time training as a para-athlete."
When asked if they're looking forward to taking the stage this weekend, both Zhang and Tay concurred that they are really, really nervous.
Intense dance sessions
Zhang revealed that they only managed to get a hand of the full routine just a week before they hit the stage.
"Yes! After the full rehearsal, we clapped for ourselves," Tay quipped excitedly.
And that's totally understandable since, for one, they had very little time to practice.
Tay told us that they only put on their dancing shoes about a month ago, and only had four hours a week to learn the entire routine.
To give us a glimpse of just how hectic it is, she elaborated: "The two-hour sessions [per day] are very intense. It is such a short period, so we just have to keep going on. And when the lessons end, we have to get out of the room quickly so they can sterilise the room because there's another class coming in."
As if they didn't already have a lack of time, the Covid-19 safe management measures was an added challenge as well.
"Throughout the whole training, we have to sanitise constantly and have to put a mask on for the entire session," she explained.
"After each session, you can see I was sweating like crazy," added Zhang.
And the cherry on top for him, at least, is that it takes him longer to grasp the steps as he has no dance background.
"There were some ballet moves, I believe, and there was this triple spin that really caught me off guard. There were a lot of spinning and one-legged jumps that tripped me so badly. As someone without a dance background, I needed to spend more time learning the steps and understanding how everything works."
But sharing a stage with both trained dancers and individuals with disabilities kept them motivated every weekend.
"We work with trained dancers and the dance is not easy, but the beneficiaries did so well. It amazed us that everyone could keep up with the steps and all the difficult movements. So for Ze Tong and I to join them, we think we have to work even harder because they faced their fears to come out and dance. I think it's really a beautiful thing."
Looking out for one another
If you're wondering what it was like for them to practice with one another, both of them confessed that there was simply no time to chit chat and catch up with one another.
Nonetheless, they both still look out for one another whenever they can.
For example, Tay gave Zhang something to make the sessions more bearable.
The actor told us, "Ah Jie was very thoughtful, she gave me a mask that is very suitable for exercising and very breathable. That made my training slightly easier. But that didn't save us from panting so much after each routine."
More than just a dance
At the end of the day, he reminded us that the performance is not necessarily just to showcase the celebrities' talents but to give viewers a glimpse of what one can do on a wheelchair.
"This dance that we are trying to present is nt about Ah Ji eand I being good dancers in about six sessions of training. The bigger meaning is what we're trying to portray to the audience to empathise the rest who are physically or mentally challenged. The meaning of the dance outweighs the actual performance."
Catch the President’s Star Charity 2021 live on Mediacorp Channel 5, meWATCH and Mediacorp Entertainment YouTube on Oct. 10, 2021, 7:30pm to 9:30pm.
Top image from Zoe Tay and Zhang Ze Tong's Instagram page.
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