‘We could’ve made someone’s day’: Viral Orchard Road dancers on confidence, public joy
Both dancers, who met in Singapore Polytechnic’s Strictly Dance Zone club, love hip-hop and freestyle dance.
When thinking about the dance scene in Singapore, one might recall passing a dance crew at *SCAPE, or catching a fleeting snatch of music through a closed practice room door.
While it’s not every day that dancers come prancing down the street, on Sep 19 Singaporeans bore witness to exactly that. In a video that went viral on social media, Samantha Nubla Montano and Lim Jing En Phoebe were seen grooving across the pedestrian crossing at Orchard Road.
It was shot as part of a weekly special challenge with Sky Alfonso, known by his online moniker of @Orchardroadfashion, a local creator who typically features fashionably-dressed people walking across the road.
According to Sky, videos of the dance were shared via social media on the day of the shoot by curious passerby, prior to its official release on the @Orchardroadfashion account.
The video itself, which was posted on Sep 22, amassed over a million likes and 10 million plays on Instagram.
It is part of the ongoing What’s Your Jam? challenge series, which has seven instalments currently available on the page. Those featured in the videos would plug in their earphones, blast a song of their own choosing, and dance across the street.
In an interview with Youthopia, Samantha and Phoebe shared that the short video they were featured in was shot without a plan. The pair happened to be in the area while Sky was filming at Design Orchard. Samantha, who has worked with Sky before, received a text asking if they would be willing to appear in a video on the day itself.
“It wasn’t scripted or anything,” Samantha said. “It was just, ‘okay, let’s dance.’”
The video took three tries, with one failed attempt. The dancers would wait for foot traffic to pass at the green light, after which they had “a solid 30 seconds” to dance safely. They chose to groove to the very first combination of dance steps they made together, soundtracked by American rapper-singer K7’s Come Baby Come.
The decision to be part of the challenge was due to their belief that dance and art are important parts of Singaporean culture. Both Samantha and Phoebe also feel that the nation “[needs] people who are artists to remind us how to live, and how to feel things.”
Through their dance, they hoped that they had contributed to this and brightened somebody’s day.
Despite the final video receiving largely positive comments, Samantha and Phoebe had to deal with a wave of hate that affected them both. Phoebe in particular remembers “one day’s worth of weakness of… looking through the mean comments.”
While @Orchardroadfashion moderates his comments section and no negative comments regarding Samantha and Phoebe remain on the page, they look back on seeing netizens criticise their style and call them “cringe.”
Samantha also recalls feeling “vulnerable – watched – judged” in front of the crowd.
Still, when faced with hate, they both turned to focus on what was important to them. Phoebe chose to put her energy towards her family, loved ones, and supporters, while Samantha recalled something happy from the shoot day – “I did see someone smiling at us, and that was nice.”
They also agreed that having somebody there with them padded their nervousness to dance in public and gave them enough confidence to carry it out.
“I felt supported,” Phoebe said. “Someone was there with me in the awkwardness.”
Samantha felt that, alongside having company, the idea that dancers have a culture of leaning on each other helped her dance with less fear. “Naturally, dance is community, so what’s community without support?”
She also cited the fact that she felt safe around Phoebe as the reason she felt less self-conscious, despite feeling that people can be “judgemental” and “assuming”.
“It’s easier to have someone who’s there who is just as nervous, but less nervous when you’re together, in a way. So, this is living proof. Me… The one who danced across the road, I was scared.”
When asked why she felt nervous, Samantha said that it could potentially be attributed to a “bubble” attitude in Singapore.
Elaborating further, Phoebe shared that she feels that Western countries focus on individualism but Singapore has more of an emphasis on togetherness and collectivism, which can result in people being judgemental of those who stand out.
Samantha also added: “All the more should we spread love, or joy… It’s so easy to spread, because [Singapore is] so small.”
Sky, who is behind @Orchardroadfashion, hopes the series will serve as a platform for people to express themselves, as well as discover Singapore’s culture and trend ecosystem.
“It really is a dream,” he told Youthopia, “[In] the next few months and years, it can be something that we can be happy about.”
For future participants in such challenges, Samantha and Phoebe have one piece of advice – accept that people are going to stare, because “no one will remember what you think they will remember.”