Lastega ja lastele

Auhinnaga „Lastega ja lastele“ täname ja tunnustame inimesi ja organisatsioone, kelle uued algatused või pikemaajaline tegevus on positiivselt mõjutanud laste ja perede käekäiku.
Tunnustusauhinna taotluste voor on avatud 15. aprillini.

Esita taotlus

“Remember how they danced on their toes!”

On the first Sunday in October, 200 children from substitute homes and safe houses all over Estonia visited the Estonian National Opera to see a performance of the children’s ballet “Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs” and take a look at the world of theatre beyond the stage.

The ballet performance of “Snow White” was also understood by the smaller children, who had no prior theatre-going experience whatsoever, children with special needs, and Russian-speaking children, since there is no language barrier when it comes to enjoying ballet. The mesmerising stage decorations and lights of “Snow White”, the colourful costumes and fascinating movement to the beautiful music, engaged both bigger and smaller spectators alike.

Visiting the theatre is a major event!

For many children, visiting the ballet was a completely new experience; and for a large number of them, this was their first trip to see a dance performance. They were impressed by the songs and music, costumes and hair, and what they could see and touch backstage, as well as the busy intermission period, when some nourishment was offered to the body in addition to the mind.

Visits to the theatre are a cause for excitement, beginning with the preparations made for the trip, when festive attire is brought out, tried on, and supplemented with whatever is missing. Most of the children know the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, have read it several times from books, and even seen the animated film. The story of a beautiful princess and an evil queen, with its happy ending, is the favourite of many small children.

However, there were children who had never heard of the fairy-tale of Snow White. Some of the families watched the animated film, so that the children could follow the events on stage later. In one family, where Russian-speaking children lived, they decided to translate the title of the performance into Russian – to do so they used Google translator, and after a quick look at the computer, Roman, the eldest in the family, announced that in Russian the title of the fairy-tale is “Белоснежка и семь гномов”.

Andrei attends music school and loves all events that are related to music. He had been to the theatre last year and was looking forward to the opportunity to return. When he ended up in the safe house once again this autumn, he immediately asked the teachers that they bring him along if they are ever invited to a music related event.

On the day of the performance the children were up early and could not wait to start the trip. Enough time was set aside for arriving at the theatre to take a look around before the performance. The children were very impressed with the elegance of the Estonia theatre building. One teacher wrote that she noticed the children whispering in the hallways of the theatre – such was the effect of the atmosphere of the theatre.

Upon entering the concert hall, the children were surprised by the orchestra pit and asked why are they playing “in a hole”. Some of the smaller children were so eager to explore the edge of the “hole” that their mother became concerned about what is going to happen when the show begins and the children must sit down and remain seated. After they were already seated, however, there was more time to look around, to admire the large ceiling painting and the crowded balconies. The children had many questions: “How was it possible to paint on the ceiling?”; “How did the people get on the balcony, and won’t they fall down?” The smaller ones were excited about the cushions on their seats, which could be positioned to ensure comfortable seating while waiting for the show to start.

As the lights dimmed, even the most restless children returned to their seats from the orchestra pit, to see what was going to happen on the stage. When the curtain opened, the young spectators fixed their eyes on the stage. Even the smallest ones waited and did not make a sound...

Little Katja, the theatre, and Snow White

The importance of fascination with the theatre to the development of a small child is evidenced by a story told by one of the mothers, about how 4-year-old Katja went to the theatre; a story that also has a prologue to it. The mother said that when they were taking a walk in the city centre with Katja, at the end of September, they passed the Estonia Theatre. Katja asked, what the pretty house was for, and the mother explained what took place inside. Katja loved the idea of theatre - with all of the dancing and the songs - because she herself likes to dance, sing and perform. Whenever Katja goes for a walk in the park which has a small stage, she is always the first to jump up and put on a performance for the others. Katja said that she wanted to go to the theatre, and the mother promised to take the girl to see a performance at Estonia soon. So, the invitation to see “Snow White” could not have come at a better time.

At the theatre, Katja was so happy to be wearing a pretty dress, with the other girls around her looking just as pretty. Katja did not become tired once during the performance and watched everything with keen interest, despite it being her usual nap time. Going to see the performance was a very big event for Katja. She had never been to the theatre before and had only seen plays performed at her nursery school. The festive sparkle of the theatre amazed her.

Other girls from the same family had already been to the Estonia theatre before – they had fond memories of their visit and eagerly look forward to every new experience. All of the girls in Katja’s family love music; some of them dance, some sing. So it was that the day offered them a great deal of enjoyment and an artistic experience, inspiring the children to continue exploring their own interests. The girls loved the magnificent costumes. Each of them had their favourite character. Katja liked the evil queen; Ksenia liked Snow White; and Karina liked the smallest dwarf the best.

The children’s favourite tale came to life, both onstage and backstage

At the end of the performance, the smallest dwarf suddenly came and sat down beside Ksenia. Emotions were sky high. The children could not stop clapping; there were shouts coming from all directions. The smallest children liked the dwarfs the best, with their funny movement and awesome costumes. Many older girls were impressed by the queen, with her most beautiful outfits... During the intermission, many children wanted to have their picture taken with her. To have something to look at later, to help them remember the performance, was very important for the children.

A number of very different opinions were heard later from the children, when they were discussing what they liked or disliked about one particular character or another. Roman, who is 8, disliked the queen because she was evil; while Ruslan, who is 3, liked the dwarfs because they were hard-working. Laura, who is 5, said that the dwarfs were funny and their dancing was brilliant. Levi, who is 8, loved the prince and Snow White the most, because they were pretty and danced well. Arina, who is 5, was actually speechless after the performance and refused to express her emotions, only stating: “I’m not saying anything”.

Afina summarised the trip to the theatre as follows: “I really liked Snow White because she was pretty and nice and had a very pretty face. The dwarfs were really funny and it was fun to watch them. We also visited the blue and white hall and looked at pictures of actors. We were shown how costumes are sewn. In the make-up room, we saw how the dwarfs get their big and funny ears and nose.”

Afina’s chaperone Maria, a volunteer from Ukraine, wrote: “This was my first visit to the Estonia theatre. What amazed me was how attentive, good-natured and professional the people are who work there. The guide gave us a lot of interesting facts about the blue and white hall, costumes and decoration workshops. The performance itself was amazing! I was not able to turn my eyes away from the stage once, and I kept thinking about all the work behind the performance. The chance to meet the actors was yet another pleasant surprise on that day. Thank you!”

Quite a few of the small spectators also marvelled at the beautiful hall during the performance, adding a bit of mysticism to their theatre experience, possibly being even more memorable than the performance itself.

But your face gets tired of making faces...

The performance was quite gripping, and even those children who are unable to maintain their focus in their day-to-day lives were captivated by the action taking place on the stage. Several grown-ups who accompanied the children to the ballet noted that it had a lot to offer the children. The children saw that it was possible to tell a story without saying a word, and to dance on one’s toes. Children sitting in the first couple of rows could also see the orchestra making music.

Kenu had started to suspect at home, before the performance, that perhaps it was meant for little children. But on the morning of heading to the theatre, he put on his suit and left no room for doubt – it was going to be a fun day, and Kenu enjoyed the performance with all his heart. Later, during the walk in the Old Town, the boy said that he would like to see the “Nutcracker” next.

Jaan had seen the performance before. This gave him confidence. The boy had some time before the performance and he had learned the names of all the dwarfs from the programme, according to their costumes. Jarmo loved the dwarfs the most. But he was really waiting to see the witch; constantly asking when she was going to appear... Seeing the conductor, he asked: “Is he making the music?” Jarmo loved the performance very much.

There were moments when Andra forgot that she was at the theatre, as she started to loudly retell the fairy-tale to Jarmo. Little Viktoria now has something to remember – in the days following the performance, she would try, every now and then, “how they danced on tiptoes”...

Unlike the book, the dwarfs were involved in most of the action, and there was less focus on Snow White. Even on the way home the children kept talking about how good the dwarfs were at making funny faces. On the bus, they tried to imitate them and compared their skills. What they realised was that acting is not such an easy task after all: while practising their mimicry, one of the children suddenly announced “my face is now tired of making faces...”.

“Ladybug was the prettiest!”

One 3-year-old toddler thought that the story on stage was about Cinderella, but it was easier for the child to say “Ladybug”. So the child kept chatting away with all the others later, declaring that “Ladybug was the most beautiful”. Just like the most beautiful and the most evil characters – Snow White and the evil queen – the smallest and most ill-tempered dwarf, Grumpy, was also remembered the best.

Katja, aged 13, was looking forward to the ballet and enjoyed the whole show. For Tarko, 10, the coolest part was that he got a cushion to put on his seat. Dima, aged 13, was a bit pessimistic about the performance and complained jokingly that he cannot sleep well at the ballet. After the performance, however, the boy was quite pleased. He especially loved the part where the movement happened in flashing lights. Still, what all the boys liked the best were, naturally, all the loud bangs and the pulling of the rabbit from a hat.

For some of the children it was their second time seeing the performance, but it was interesting nevertheless. One of the teachers noted that their previous experience helps the children to better focus on watching the performance. Of course there are emotions and questions that just want to get out, but they already know that talking loudly or chatting during the performance is not permitted. There was one very talkative girl, who was specifically reminded beforehand that it is important to listen and watch quietly at the theatre. The girl understood this perfectly well and promised not to chat during the performance. And she did keep her word, instead sharing her impressions eagerly throughout the entire following day. In addition to expressing herself in words, she also stuck all the pictures of Snow White onto paper and counted all the characters she had hugged later during ballet class.

Many animated discussions took place during the trip home. Almost all the characters were discussed in detail, covering why they liked one or another. As the children learned during their excursion that the musical “Karlsson-on-the-Roof” is going to be staged next, they are now looking forward to it with great interest.

“Theatre begins in the dressing room”

After the performance, the children had the opportunity to try out basic ballet moves and get a closer look at the beautiful costumes. The children also loved everything they saw backstage, where they could be a part of the magic of bringing the performance to life. They heard interesting facts about the theatre, looked at the props with their eyes full of wonder, and were amazed by the ballet rehearsal hall where a practice was taking place. The children learned that the floor there was made especially for ballerinas. They really wanted to touch it, but were not permitted to enter the hall. One of the girls, who practices ballet, admired the ballerinas’ skills of dancing in pointe shoes. The boys said that only very beautiful women dance ballet...

The children learned that completing a single performance takes a lot of time and the hard work of many specialists – decorators, seamstresses, artists, make-up artists, stage designers, and dancers. All props and clothes are made at the theatre and not bought from stores. Diana said that she now understands what is meant with the saying “theatre begins in the dressing room”.

After the performance there was another interesting experience in store for the children, when they saw how the stage was being dismantled. This provided great added value for the children, who learned how much work goes into a performance before the curtain goes up and after it comes down. The discussion with children led to the nature of different professions and the tasks related to them, coming to the realisation that a profession involves a great deal of knowledge, skill, and actions.

The magic of theatre on-stage adds hope to life

Many little girls were very deeply impressed by the ballet. A parent who was also at the theatre said that they were glad to see how many great ideas, deeds and patterns fresh experiences bring about – everything that is new is tried out at once. A series of thumps heard coming from the girls’ room at half past nine at night led to the discovery that their daughters, 4 and 6, had taken out the programmes and tried to impersonate the different characters based on what they had seen in in the miming rooms – first the miming, then foot positions, steps, etc.

The children were ecstatic that they could sit during intermission with the characters they had seen on stage, ask them questions or just touch them. The happy ending of the fairy-tale gave hope to many of the children that there are many positive changes ahead for them. Programmes included stickers that could be torn out to make an album of the performance, to reminiscence later about what had happened or to retell the story.

Sten and Steven were on their first tour of the theatre building, and it was an exciting experience for them. Elvira said that she looks at performances differently now, after a discussion with the mother on how much hard work these people have done to get in the shape needed to become professional ballet dancers.

While the ballet impressed the children, many of them wished that they would “speak even just a little bit”... As for the magic of stage, they said that “when the queen turned into a witch, I did not understand at all how it was possible, but they are so skilled”... Backstage it appears that without the large ears and noses the dwarfs look completely different – “they are actually regular people”...

Visiting the theatre is an opportunity for socialising in a new way

Visiting the theatre together means not only watching the performance, but also provides an excellent opportunity to socialise and to feel like a family going out together. The performance provided an opportunity to discuss culture in addition to everyday matters, talk about what happened, what everyone liked, or questions that may have been raised. A teacher in one of the families wrote: “We were joking both before as well as after the performance. We spoke about theatre culture in Estonia and Russia (in the teachers’ experience), and discussed the different roles played. When we got back home, the performance provided a starting point for raising the subject of “beauty” with the older children – what it means and how important it is for each of them.”

During the snack break, a new boy, who had just joined a family, learned that it is important to be considerate to others at the table. This time, his little sister was left without a pastry, as he had been faster. The brother promised that in the future, when he wants another pastry, he will simply ask instead of quietly eating the other children’s pastries.

Attending events outside of their home has shown how important these activities are for the children: they are beginning to realise that going to see performances is not something unfamiliar, but is something they want to do, are looking forward to, and have respect for; getting something novel, exciting and useful back in return.



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