If anyone deserves recognition for perseverance and drive as a dance instructor for Chingay, it is 74-year-old Mrs Neila Sathyalingam. One might even confer on her Faithful Instructor of Chingay for her consistent contribution.
Since 1977, Mrs Neila has played many roles in the Parade – an instructor, a choreographer or as part of the choreography team. She has certainly played a crucial role in helping to transform the Chingay Parade from its humble beginnings to what it is today. Right from the start, Mrs Neila was unwavering and dedicated, putting in all she has into making each Parade an astounding success.
Thirty years later, Mrs Neila looks back at the Parades fondly – each one still fresh in her mind. She glows with contentment and joy as she reminisces, clearly proud of her contribution, savouring every success as a personal triumph, grateful that Chingay has given her a sense of achievement.
Mrs Neila migrated to Singapore with her husband, the late Mr S. Sathyalingam, 37 years ago. At first she was distressed as cultural activities in Singapore were limited back then. Being a traditional Indian dance instructor, she grew concerned that she would not have many opportunities to perform.
However her husband was encouraging. He suggested she apply to be a dance instructor for PA, and to give dance lessons at the various community centres. That was the start of a wondrous relationship.
She might not have been paid much for her lessons, but being there opened doors for Mrs Neila. Eventually she was asked to choreograph a dance for Chingay. Since then, the retired artistic director of the Indian dance troupe Apsaras Arts has dedicated herself to this task since 1978.
“To be honest, Chingay is not only a time and energy-guzzler, there’s also no performance fee, only some subsidy. What it has, however, is the best platform to express my creativity in the arts.”
People’s Association reinvents Chingay every year, giving it a fresh theme annually. Mrs Neila says that this is the PA spirit – one that refuses to be boxed in. It is this vibrancy that has rubbed off on her and kept her going for 30 years.
With her consistent participation in the Chingay Parade, Mrs Neila has been invited to participate in the planning of many national events. These include the National Day Parade and the opening of the Indoor Stadium. She has also led troupes overseas for performances. These experiences not only advanced her artistic career, but also brought richness into her life.
Adapted from: Tales of Chingay – Celebrating 40 Years of Chingay
Written by: Zhou Hai Li
Translated by: Huang Huimin