Writer: Yap Juin Shiong
Cheerleading, having been officially inaugurated as one of the new cultural societies in King Edward Hall in 2009, is an up and coming group under the name of the KE TITANS, and which is continuing to turn heads as their performances increase in number. To enlighten us all on the little-known facts of what cheerleading is about, I approached Alvin Tan, the captain of the KE TITANS, to tell me more about training and what being a KE TITAN means to him!
Tell me a bit about cheerleading in general, and the truthfulness of the pom-pons-waving stereotype that so many people have in their minds!
Well, where should I begin? Cheerleading simplified, is teamwork- teamwork to overcome all odds and to present the best. Traditionally, cheerleading performance are associated with half-time performances and pom-pons. However, cheerleading today takes on a very different role- its emphasis is on neatness of stunts and the creative use of dance and gymnastics to create an interesting visual artwork. The function of such performances has far surpassed just “half-time performances” and the horizon is limitless as we progress further.
Why did you choose the name, ‘KE TITANS’? Is there any significance or symbolism behind the name?
By calling ourselves TITANS, we see ourselves as “tiny GIANTS”. We may be small in many ways, but one thing that is for sure is that we have big hearts – The heart to learn, the will to excel and the spirit to persevere on. On a more personal note, the name “KE TITANS” actually means a lot more to me than just the symbolism explained above. The camaraderie built up amongst its members, the nightmare rehearsals, the hurried meals in between rehearsal timing, the encouragement from one another, the caring for one another when we fall… all of these little things had, in their own way, contributed to the team name being more than just a name– it symbolises FRIENDSHIP.
Yeah, and that’s what being in a team is about! What inspired you to start cheerleading as a hall activity?
The people were the main motivation. Cheerleading wasn’t official when I first entered hall; it was merely a few seniors who have had some experience, coaching the freshman (yes, I was one of them) in presenting the Rag item for 2009. Almost everyone was new to this, but everyone’s receptivity and positive attitude made the performance successful within an amazingly short span of time. Post – rag, when we started missing the trainings and fun we had, we thought maybe our batch could step up and make it official.
Oh, so it was from previous performances that inspired you to take such a step! Do you perhaps have any background or previous experience in cheerleading, maybe, in school or something?
To make the long story short, I started in my Junior College days and made the extremely radical change in CCA from sports to cheerleading after being dared to by a very close friend. I used to denounce male cheerleaders as “queer-leaders” and “sissies”, and I guess one of my “brothers” who was in it got fed up one day and challenged me to survive one cheerleading practice with them. The one session totally changed my mind; I was more than physically and mentally drained after that. The reasons may seem shallow, but it was a choice I have never regretted.
Ah, so have these training sessions taught you lessons then which you apply to trainings held in KE7?
A lot of the earlier routines have stunts that were similar to those back in my JC days. However as we progressed beyond the basics, innovation kicked in and the invaluable input by the current team is quickly shaping the style of KE TITANS.
Tell me, what would a typical training day/session be like?
Well, there are 3 components to trainings – Physical Training, Flexibility Training and Lifting Techniques.
Usually we warm up by stretching the core muscle groups which we use, and then we head off for a run, which ranges from 2 to 5km. This is because much stamina is needed to survive the 2-3 minutes routine – the smiles on stage are usually plastered on to make it look simple when it isn’t, in reality.
After that, physical training begins where guys focus on strength and balance while girls work on their core group of muscles to enhance balance and ability to hold their weight when performing higher ground stunts. Gym work and physical training is necessary; however it’s fun when you do it with friends.
I shall save the excruciating details for flexibility training; in essence we do stretching and other exercises to increase our muscle endurance and flexibility. If you are as stiff as a rock, like me, then you just have to take deep breaths and try very hard not to scream when you find your fingers inching towards your toes.
Technique training is where I would say we spend most of our time on. We will figure the mechanics of each stunt and human pyramids and attempt them under the safety supervision of spotters, who ensure that if anyone falls, they are suitably protected. This is where the fun and sense of accomplishment often comes in.
I’m sure it must be very rewarding in the end! What is the most important thing to you, as a cheerleader?
I guess it is the spirit to persevere on. Trainings are often tiring and will push your limits to the max, but the final product can only be as impressive as the amount of toil and sweat we put in, not to mention how “insane” you are in training.
Now, a bit more about the team- What have KE TITANS accomplished since its inception?
Well most of us started with a pretty well-received performance at International Cultural Night (ICN). We want to thank the hall for the opportunity to perform and for believing in us. We went on to scale greater heights (quite literally) in our next outdoor performance at the KE Bazaar, by performing even more death-defying stunts. All this would not be possible if not for the other hall leaders having faith in us and giving us the opportunity to showcase our talents. A heartfelt thank you to all of you from the cheerleading team! Also, overcoming the uncharted pioneer year is a feat whose importance, I believe, is often overlooked. This would have never been possible without the dedicated TITANS. You know who you are, the list runs long, but you know I owe you guys a big one. Thank you for everything.
Lastly, tell me about your upcoming plans for the KE TITANS!
Well, we definitely hope to be a more established CCA and if possible, to expand our capabilities to better support hall activities. In terms of achievement, we certainly hope to keep up the good showing at Rag 2009. The service to hall will continue while KE TITANS looks to become a household name and a place where bonds are forged and whom KE residents are proud to be associated with.
And your hopes and dreams for KE Titans in the future? What will you want to see being passed down to the next generation of cheerleaders?
Service to hall will definitely take the forefront of the TITANS’ objectives. I hope that the future generation will be willing and able to keep up the drive, and establish our own identity amongst the many cheerleading teams in NUS. But ambitions are empty without people who enjoy the process of doing so. While we fight for tangible achievements, I want the TITANS to never forget to enjoy the process of doing so. On the parting note, I hope TITANS is and will always be more than just a CCA and that Friendships, Fun and Family will always be synonymous with TITANS. TITANS is an experience that you do not want to forget. I want to thank everyone who were part of the making of this wonderful memory, it has been a wonderful journey with all of you.
Thank you for the interview, I can really see how tightly knit the team must be! On behalf of KE, GO TITANS!