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Almost everyone I know harbours some hope of being taller. It makes it easier to do so many things like look slimmer, perform better in sports and get spotted in a crowd. And if you dream to one day be taller than Yao Ming, perhaps you could try out stilt walking.
Sadly it won’t make you grow taller; it will however make you tower over everyone else.
In Singapore, the community of active professional stilt walkers numbers around 60. From street parades to private events, these stilt walkers are called on to entertain their guests, whether as headline acts or as part of a set. Their main advantage? Height, which makes it easy to stand out in a crowd.
“Almost anyone can stilt walk,” Gabriel said. “If you are fit and not afraid of heights, you’ll do fine.”
Gabriel is one of the trainers from Stilts Studio, a first-of-its-kind training programme in Singapore that hopes to grow the community of stilt walkers here, from people like you or me.
“Stilt walking is just like walking, only harder,” Gabriel joked.
Depending on the stilts, you could be half a metre taller. We’re told that that height difference makes walking feels slightly awkward when you first put it on. But after a few days on it, you could even dance on them.
And if how our four young Apprentices were dancing on stilts was any indication, that’s probably not a boast. The four are part of a group of nine Apprentices who are being mentored until June 16 under the Entertainment track of the aRWSome Apprenticeship programme.
“The Apprentices have been learning to stilt walk for about three days but they are already pretty good at it,” Gabriel said. “Normally, people take a few weeks to get comfortable on stilts but I guess these guys are young and they learn quick.”
So good that in fact, they were the first group of performers in Universal Studios Singapore that performed a dance sequence on stilts. The bad news is, the performance is a private one-off event so you won’t see that in the park.
With training, you’ll join a (still) small group of skilled stilt walkers in Singapore who gets offered unique jobs at grand openings and festivities. In countries like the United States, dry wall stilts are used for indoor construction and painting work – so perhaps you can use this skill to make a living too. And of course Universal Studios Singapore would welcome stilt walkers as part of their cast of meet-and-greet characters.
Picking up stilt walking is not without some risks. It is similar to walking but when you fall, you’ll be falling from almost half a metre higher.
“Being unafraid of falling is part of learning how to stilt walk,” Gabriel explained. “What’s surprising though is, the more skilful you become, the more likely you are to fall because that’s when you attempt new tricks.” He knows because he has had his fair share of falls, but he always bounces back up.
And that’s why the first lesson you receive after putting on stilts is how to fall properly. Falling naturally, the wrists, elbows, knees, bums and head are usually the first points of contact with the ground. When on stilts, these impact forces will be multiplied due to the height and velocity of the fall before impact. So stilt walkers are taught to fall differently: they spin.
“By spinning, you try to land on the backs of your shoulders or your thighs first as these are the meatiest part of your body and can absorb the fall better,” Gabriel said. But be prepared for some grazes if it’s just your skin and a rough ground.
It’s not that scary though. The Apprentices went through it and came out unscathed, performing a dance routine after just one week.
As Gabriel puts it: “It’s really 20% skill, 80% confidence.”
If you have the confidence, Stilts Studio is conducting 3-day training classes on June 18 – 20, June 25 – 27, and July 2 – 4 right here at RWS. It costs S$50 for 3X 3hr classes. Interested parties, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.