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A visit to the theatre: Ballet – not just girl stuff!

On the second Sunday of the theatre month, the children living in Estonian substitute homes and shelters watched the family ballet “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” – a play that has been in the programme for more than a decade.

The exciting spectacle was enjoyed by “old” as well as new theatregoers, who gained new insight and experience from what they saw on stage as well as during the tour backstage and a brief ballet lesson. You can read what the families and children thought about the play from the article put together based on their feedback.

Ballet enchanted also fresh theatregoers

The idea to see a ballet was welcomed with great excitement in the family of Denis and Nikita. For homework, the boys together with the teacher read the fair-tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” by the Grimm brothers – just to understand better what’s happening on stage.

Most of the children like going to the theatre, but the experience of watching a ballet is quite different from a drama. It was the first time for Denis to be at the theatre with his family and it was interesting to see how the boy responded to the experience. Although, at first, the teacher was a bit afraid that the kids lack patience for watching the ballet to the end, it appeared that beautiful music, graceful dancers, fancy costumes and frequently changing stage sets did not allow them to get bored. The children observed everything with great compassion.

After the play there were discussions about theatre culture in Estonia and the roles seen on stage. Denis remained under the influence of the play for the entire evening.

What was the language they spoke in?

It is good about a ballet that language skills play no role in gaining the experience. A proof to that is an example that after the play the Russian-speaking boys could not identify the language that was spoken on stage.

Vitali said: “This play was in Russian. I understood everything perfectly. Viktor argued: “No, it was not in Russian. It was in Estonian. Otherwise I would have understood more.” The boys never noticed that no one was speaking on stage. The fairy-tale itself was well known of course, and also the synopsis was went through beforehand.

In particular, the children loved the scene where the stepmother became a witch – the stage set of seemed as a real magic trick for them!

Vitali had a prejudice against ballet. Surely the boys at school had said that it’s girl stuff. So, the boy took his seat at the theatre and told that he will fall asleep if it’s boring. But he never got bored. Vitali said that he will tell also the boys that the play was no girl’s stuff. Instead, it was awesome!

“Can’t you turn the music down?”

For Tairi, it was the first visit to theatre Estonia. Before that, they did some “homework” about where they were going and why. Her family had their seats in the front row, where they could see and hear everything wonderfully, without distraction. When the orchestra started playing, Tairi asked whether it was possible to turn the music down... The little girl sat bravely in her seat throughout the play, which otherwise is quite difficult for her, but she really liked that play. In the meantime, the foster mom explained what was happening on stage and answered the questions she had.

With every theatre experience also new insight is gained – the kids discuss what they have seen and can associate it with the knowledge they already have. Some like one, the others something else, but there are also things they like in common and favourites, which add also a greater dimension to the theatre experience - joint experience.

One teenager liked the joyful dance, music and choreography. The other was impressed about the orchestral music accompanying the ballet. As one man they were all thrilled about the act where the witch made the poisonous apple.

There was lively discussion around the play when going to eat. Everyone knew well the fairy-tale of the Grimm brothers and understood all the events happening in the play.

Birthday of Alexis: no words necessary!

For Alexis, the “Snow White” play was also a part of his birthday celebrations. Together with the teacher a trip to Tallinn was undertaken, to watch the ballet, eat a nice birthday lunch and choose a cool present from the department store. Beforehand, the boy only knew that the play is called “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and nothing more.

Before the lights dimmed out, they read the programme together. After the play had been going for a while, the boy wondered whether the actors couldn’t talk. The teacher explained that nobody talks in this play. Alexis kept wondering how the actors could lift each other and whether it was difficult for them. He admired the front and back flips made on stage and explained to the teacher their definitions in English.

During the intermission, the boy admitted that it was kind of weird that it is possible to understand the content of play also without talking. Together they looked at the costumes displayed in the corridors. Some of the costumes had price tags and Alexis could not understand who could want to have such expensive things and what to do with them at home.

The teacher thought that if she had told Alexis in advance that this is a ballet, she would have not managed to bring the boy to the theatre. Now, however, the boy has gained an experience and perhaps even motivation to work out, to lift the girls up in that way! They boy talked eagerly about how strong the actors seemed even while on the train.

When entering the big store, Alexis asked to pinch him, to make sure that it was not a dream. This store seemed huge to him and the selection of toys even bigger. He chose a gift he liked and announced that this was the best day in the world.

A play resembles the person watching it

When generally, a book is read out loud before a play, then this time, one family did it differently. The story of the Snow White and the seven dwarfs is so well known that the foster parents instead let the kids tell the story to themselves and only corrected and added to the story, where necessary. There were children who had been to a ballet before, but also those, for whom this was a first-time experience.

After the kids had found their seats, they began examining the programme. The children were delighted about the stickers inside the programme – their particular favourite was the sticker of stepmother.

The play started and a fabulous world opened up on stage. The stage sets and solutions were magic and made the children constantly wonder how all of this had been accomplished. They watched with minds blown and great compassion.

Everybody just loved the first act and the kids shared their impressions rapturously during the intermission. A 5-year-old boy liked the mine of the dwarfs with sparks shooting out. The girls admired the magic mirror and beautiful dresses. Everybody loved the funny dwarfs.
An almost dumb girl was eager to see the place where the Snow White was going to eat the apple.

Already during the intermission, she showed the image of an apple in the programme and by sticking her tongue out, mimicked the face of fainting and being poisoned, which is so well known from animated films. In a little while, however, the girl blew a kiss and was happy again. As soon as this place in the act came, she immediately tapped the teacher on the arm and shared her excitement and recognition.

The door to the magic theatrical world opened

The theatre experience of some families is not extensive yet and they are only stepping into the wondrous world of culture. Which is why there were discussions on the bus, on the road to the theatre, about what a theatre looks like. Children wondered whether something dangerous could happen or whether it will be exciting, what kind of activities can be seen and who are those people, who will be performing.

The play captured them with excitement from the moment the curtain went up until it came down again. And the intermission was spent examining the theatre house. Also, the tour backstage gave a thrill – even the boys tried on the pointed shoes. The eyes of the kids shined, there was plenty on their plates – everything had to be touched, examined and inquired, and shared with other kids.
On their journey home they were still completely grasped by the theatrical world, only now they had specific questions and answers. And after arriving home, they once again read the book of “Snow White”, to embed the memories of the fairy-tale they had seen.

Lots of moustaches, noses and ears, not to mention the dresses!

The tour backstage was so exciting! Sass was really keen about the makeup room, filled with moustaches, noses and ears. Andrei was more interested in the stage construction and the set lift. Darina was fond of the pretty costumes and dresses. The children also recognised the costumes they had just seen in the performance.

After the play, the kids attended a ballet class, where they could try on the headdresses and pointed shoes of the ballerinas, examine the props and stand on the toes.

The impressions shared during the lunch were overwhelming. A 5-year-old boy liked the magic of the witch and the magic book shooting sparks. Bigger girls thought that the entire play had been fantastic and they would like to visit the theatre also in the future. They also talked about their dreams and future professions. The kids realised that ballet is not boring at all, but can be really exciting and enchanting.

Experience grows along with the child

In some families, the “Snow White” play was familiar already from previous times. When some years ago, it was difficult for the children to focus when watching the same ballet, then now they are already used to going to the theatre and really look forward to each play.

The emotions they got were shared at home. The girls loved the costumes and dances. Music impressed everyone deeply. Jarmo, however, showed the girls on the train how the witch used to throw her big legs. A million laughs!

In families who are frequent theatregoers, every play is really looked forward to and each experience brings excitement and joy to the house. The children have respect towards every performance – and they always get something new, exciting and useful in return.

In many families, a picture was drawn in the evening of the play they had seen that day.

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