It’s the finale of Super 24 (S24). Throngs of dancers, fans and passers-by in Tampines Hub lean over railings and push through the crowds to set their gaze on an 8m-by-8m square stage. Performers clad in blue with ‘LionCity’ printed in electric yellow letters on their jackets make their way up. Three months of blood, sweat and tears have come down to this moment. Finally, the countdown starts, cheers dwindle, and the sound of a pumping heartbeat takes over.
The LionCity performers settle into position. Aryll Azlin, the team’s Lead Choreographer cements his stance on centre stage, head faced down. The final whistle pierces the air. Anticipation is ripe. Penetrating the sound of shrill, excited screams, Aryll lip-syncs, “Nothing can stop me, I’m all the way up”, and the team bursts into dynamic movement. Then, 90 seconds later, almost as if Aryll foreshadowed it, LionCityLite delivers their winning performance.
While victory is indeed sweet, what makes it worthwhile is the journey. I was interested to learn more about what makes LionCityLite such a remarkable dance crew beyond the accolades, medals and the grand title of champions at this year’s Super 24 dance competition. I had the pleasure of chatting with Aryll Azlin, the mastermind behind LionCityLite, as well as Jacob Lau, one of the dancers part of the team, to see what they had to say about their S24 journey.
For those unfamiliar with the dance world, Super 24 is a street dance competition that made its comeback in 2022 after a two-year hiatus. A key distinguisher of the competition is its unique restrictions which include performing a 90-second routine within an 8m-by-8m square stage with a judge on each side. The limited time and space, along with the presence of a judge on each side, equates to higher stakes and the pressure of presenting perfection.
“S24 is definitely a big, influential competition because it’s a gathering of dancers from different genres in Singapore”, said Aryll. “It’s the one competition where you get to see most dance crews and the different styles and genres they represent”, he added. Furthermore, the winners of S24 over the years are what Jacob considers to be ‘all-star teams’ who have further paved the way for dance in the local scene. It is no wonder then that S24 is one of the most revered competitions.
While the competition already sets a high bar for most dance groups, Aryll wanted to pose a greater challenge for himself as a choreographer and the team lead of LionCityLite. Having been to multiple competitions and establishing himself as a choreographer in the local scene, Aryll’s main goal was no longer simply winning first place – it was challenging himself to present something novel and step out of his comfort zone.
This pushed him to delve into Litefeet – a type of street dance that emerged in Harlem, New York, in the early 2000s. The term comes from dancers dancing as though they have ‘light feet’ or are weightless. Compared to other genres, Litefeet is not as common in Singapore, which is a key reason why Aryll wanted to pursue it further and showcase it in a competition.
“Performances in S24 sometimes tend to be acrobatic and reliant on stunts. I wanted to try something different and bring back a performance that is true to the essence and style of the dance”, said Aryll when describing why he wanted to pursue litefeet as a genre for S24 this year.
With a clear goal in mind, Aryll was set on showcasing litefeet for the first time on the S24 stage. Even though most dancers in the team did not pursue litefeet as their primary genre, many were eager to be part of something new, just like Jacob.
“I was actually a student of Aryll’s and went through his litefeet course before joining the team for S24. The genre was out of my comfort zone, but I was excited to be part of a team showcasing Litefeet and that too, being the first ever pure Litefeet performance in S24. Litefeet feels like going back to the basics of dance,” said Jacob.
With only 3 months to the competition, the team jumped headfirst into rehearsals. One of the key challenges for LionCityLite was finding a common time to have practice sessions. “It was already difficult to gather 24 people for practice when I was in polytechnic and doing my first S24, so you can imagine how difficult it was now, when people are working and schooling,” Jacob reveals.
In fact, one member of the team works as a nurse, who made time to come for practice after long hours and hectic shifts. “Communication and discipline was key. We had to make sure we learnt our choreography before sessions,” said Jacob, emphasising the importance of trust and commitment.
Despite the odds stacked against them, the team made it work, coming up with a 60 seconds and 90 seconds version of their performance for the competition. While the 3-month journey to the 8 by 8m stage was taxing on its own, the 2 days of competition itself was no less of a rollercoaster for the team.
S24 has 3 main rounds – Qualifiers, Preliminaries and Finals. The top 15 teams from qualifiers make it on to preliminaries, and the top 2 teams from there then battle it out at the finals for the winning title.
After their first performance at qualifiers, LionCityLite made it to 12th place. While they qualified for the next round, being placed 12th only barely got them through. “We hid all our trump cards and secret weapons for our final performance, which is a risk we had to take,” said Jacob.
“In such competitions, the tables turn very quickly, also since there are new judges for the next round, so I assured my team that our rankings can be very different, which is exactly what happened”, Aryll elaborates.
Indeed, after their next performance, LionCityLite emerged as the top 2 crews. The scores for the teams to qualify for finals were neck to neck, and LionCityLite did not have high hopes for themselves. “I was willing to settle for top 5 or top 3. I was on my phone when they called out our name as top 2”, said Aryll, who was pleasantly surprised by the rankings. “To even qualify for top 2 was a big deal for us”, added Aryll. After qualifying for the finals, LionCityLite was more determined than ever to give it their best shot.
“Before our final performance, I told my crew that we had nothing to lose. I think saying that really helped us lose the weight off our shoulders,” commented Aryll, who mentioned that their final performance was their best yet throughout the competition and months of rehearsals. Each dancer truly gave it their all, and the judges were able to pick up on that. It was that, which according to Aryll, paved their way towards victory.
While the team indeed felt euphoric winning the coveted title, the greatest victory and most cherished moment during S24 for the team, was seeing competitions spring back to life and feeling a sense of community as dancers.
“Covid took our lives for about 2 years, and just to be able to gather back as a dance community is a win for us”, said Aryll. For Jacob, he was blown away by the sheer talent he witnessed at the competition and felt proud of the Singaporean dance scene. “It feels like the standard has gotten higher, and it’s nice to see that”, said Jacob.
Moving ahead, Aryll is excited for the future of LiteFeet. After showcasing the genre at S24, he hopes more dancers will be keen to pick it up and give it greater representation. Currently, Aryll is hosting LiteFeet classes at O-School and hopes to pass his LiteFeet chops to more budding dancers.
When asked about his hopes for the dance community, Aryll stressed the importance of collaboration. “I really want to see more collaborative work. At the end of the day, I want to see the community win and progress together. Because the fact that Singapore is very small, we cannot afford to be each doing our own thing, especially since there are so many talented dancers. So I really want to develop the local scene more and make it comparable to dance crews in LA and other parts of the world.”
Jacob echoes a similar sentiment, sharing how Litefeet especially is a great way for Singaporean dancers to explore more genres and make a mark globally. “Litefeet is on a roll right now, and I hope it grows in Singapore, and if it does, that would be a big win for Singapore,” he said.
Truly, LionCityLite have opened new possibilities and opportunities for the local scene with their glorious win at S24. The dancers came in with the goal of giving Litefeet a platform. But instead, they left the competition not only stealing the show but sowing the seed for Litefeet to blossom in the local scene and hopefully, make a global impact.
“Started from the bottom now my whole team here” was a line the crew danced to on the S24 stage – and this will be a mantra they’ll now chant as they continue to pave the path for Litefeet in Singapore.
If you’d like to get a taste of Litefeet, you can sign up for Aryll’s intro to Litefeet classes here!
Photos courtesy of Domarawda and Jprodssg.