Watch: Cabin crew talk about what it’s like being in SIA’s lion dance interest group
For eight to 10 times a month, more than 80 cabin crew members don bright costumes and do light warm-up exercises before practising to get their moves as lion or dragon dancers in line with the resounding rhythm of drums, cymbals and gongs that accompany their actions.
The group is part of the Wushu Lion Dance (WSLD) troupe under the Martial Arts Circle (MAC), a Cabin Crew interest group at Singapore Airlines (SIA). While this might seem unconventional to most, a few cabin crew members have been participating in the extra curricular activity (ECA) for years.
Every Lunar New Year and at airline events, the group will come together and perform to bring cheer and blessings to their colleagues at SIA. And this has forged close friendships between them.
Leading Steward Jordan Ho, 42, says they catch up about anything — from interesting things that happened on flights to their personal lives – during these sessions.
Leading Steward Stanley Ma adds that the deep relationships between members have changed his life. “I made a lot of new friends. We are so much more than just colleagues now. When we train together out of uniform, we are brothers and sisters learning and sharing something we love,” says the 37-year-old, who has been flying with SIA for 12 years.
Besides the bonds formed, everyone agrees that the activity is helping them keep fit, says Leading Stewardess Vantana Phetchompu.
“This gives me the opportunity to exercise and remain healthy. The bonus is I look good in my uniform, too,” quips the 34-year-old. While she acknowledges that it is often perceived as a male-dominated sport, Van says she does not let that this deter her. In fact, she quite enjoys surprising people by revealing to them that she was the one beneath the “lion”.“I’m really very happy to be a part of this.”
Moreover, the lion dance takes strong teamwork and trust, which are also required from cabin crew to excel in their work, shares Van. “Like the lion dance, working during a flight is a lot about communication. We have to talk to each other, work fast and get things right to make it a smooth journey for the passengers.”
Stanley adds that the sport has also honed his social skills. “I was an introvert and not as confident before. After joining the airline and WSLD, I became more outgoing, and have learnt a lot from my seniors who are very attuned to people’s needs and social cues.”
Being in the troupe is special to Jordan as well because his wife, also cabin crew, is in the group. Not only do they train together, but they get to fly and work together as well. A police officer before he joined SIA, Jordan particularly enjoys lion dancing because it requires discipline, which comes naturally to him.
His other skill as a former chef-restaurateur also helps as he’s able to serve passengers better on their dietary needs, and he’s good with food temperature. “I can make a near-perfect medium-rare steak while onboard,” he laughs.
This Chinese New Year is a truly special occasion for the team — they performed the lion dance at Changi Airport on 31 January. Two special “lions” wore the Singapore Airlines sarong kebayas to represent the national carrier.
“Our passengers are used to seeing cabin crew looking our best, in uniform,” says Jordan, who has been flying for 14 years. “They will be very surprised to realise that this group of lion dancers, cymbalists and drummers, performing just like professionals, are all cabin crew!”
Just as how their job as cabin crew is about ensuring passengers are satisfied, Stanley hopes their performance brought joy to their audience. “Seeing the lions and hearing the sounds that accompany them will fill everyone with delight and excitement. I’m glad we can bring this to the people.”
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