Performing for Babies

Why work for Early Years is so important.

During the Focus Day on Theatre for the Early Years, Paweł Gałkowski presented a paper, that was co-authored with Alicja Morawska-Rubczak, entitled “Baby and contemporary dance. Feedback of creativity between adults and children”.

Paweł Gałkowski is a Producer, Philosopher and Manager of the Polish Early Years Theatre Festival, Sztuka Szuka Malucha [trans. Art Seeks the Toddler]. Together with her colleague, Barbara Małecka, she was representing the Centrum Sztuki Dziecka w Poznaniu [tans. the Children’s Art Centre in Poznan] at the Cradle of Creativity.

After the session, I caught up with both Paweł and Barbara to hear their thoughts on producing work for this age group.


Myrto Papoulia (MP) [Dialogue]: What inspires you to do this work, to work with kids under three years old?

Paweł Gałkowski (PG): I love this field because it’s mainly abstract, it’s very experimental somehow. This is the thing that I like the most. […] The vision of the child and ‘childness’ is changing now. Children from zero to three, especially, are now not only the object of care. […] This is really important because there are two ways to see a child which is small like this. One is [as] an object, […] and we want to create a different dimension of being a child in that age [where they are seen] as a subject. This is our point. Art is the tool to make a little child not only an object […] but also a human being. This is the point. This is the idea.

I love this field because it’s mainly abstract, it’s very experimental – Paweł Gałkowski

MP: That is very interesting. Have you seen some outcomes? What are the first reactions, for example, after your shows or when you are discussing with the parents afterwards?

PG: Yes, […] the main idea of this Theatre is to think about the audience. Not [just] about the child next to them: the child next to parents or the child next to an adult. […Thinking about] the full audience means [thinking about] the child and the caretaker. […] So, there is always a huge matter when, after the show, you look around and see how people change. Children and also adults.

[…]

Barbara Małecka (BM): This is a very important part of our work. We try to talk to the parents as much as possible and, obviously, we are watching the children during the shows to know their reactions and so on. But the feedback from parents is also very important and what we found out, what is obvious for everybody working with the babies – but you have to actually experience this on your own, is that every single show is different and there is always a surprise in there.

every single show is different and there is always a surprise in there – Barbara Małecka

BM: So parents [….are] surprised with the reaction of the children very often. Like Paweł said before, they would say “Oh, I didn’t know that my child will be so energetic because he’s usually really calm, he’s really kind of withdrawn during these more public situations and now he felt so comfortable that he got on stage and he was so into the show”. And, on the other hand, […sometimes it is] totally the opposite. Sometimes parents are a little bit afraid before coming to the show because they say, “My child is really active and I don’t know how she or he is going to behave as a spectator”. And then, suddenly, this child is so enchanted that he just feels the energy of the show. Despite the fact that the parent might be a little bit scared, it seems like a child is responding to whatever happens on stage so perfectly that the parents are surprised by that. […] There are a lot of surprises when it comes to the relationship between parents and children.

There are a lot of surprises when it comes to the relationship between parents and children – Barbara Małecka

BM: Parents so often discover new things about their babies and I think this is really something totally beautiful that those unexpected moments of being close, parents with children, […can bring] which will never happen again. So, every single show is important for […each] baby because it happens for him or her in this particular moment. So, yes, I think this is something that we aim for in a way. There is a lot of talking about this transformative art here. […] When it comes to babies, you see it right here and now how the Art can transform children and transform parents. That’s why we always say, come together, bring the family, bring the mother and the father and be with your child. […] It’s about emotions not only going from the stage to the audiences but [also] the emotions that are going among the audiences. […] In Poland it’s often that babies would stay at home, not going to the creche but they are staying with their parents. […] So they don’t have that many experiences with other children, especially with a group of children. So this is, again, something new for them like, “Oh, so many little people, just like me. And they are behaving just like me or maybe totally different.” […] It is again so super important for them and so interesting that there is another human being so similar to me. Children are also responsive to that, I think.

When it comes to babies, you see it right here and now how the Art can transform children and transform parents – Barbara Małecka

MP: What was your favourite moment here in the Cradle of Creativity? Have you seen a performance or talked to a parent or seen a reaction of a kid, something that you want to share?

BM: All of the beautiful moments [were] actually in watching the audiences. […] It’s wonderful to watch how children respond to what is going on onstage in different countries and how their cultural identity is being revealed here. Like all those beautiful moments of singing, of this spontaneous singing of the audiences. Generally, those wonderful, spontaneous reactions of the audience here is amazing. I mean, European people are much more withdrawn and it’s beautiful to see all those emotions in front. This is something we are definitely learning here, that when you appreciate what is going on you can express it so beautifully.

It’s wonderful to watch how children respond to what is going on onstage in different countries and how their cultural identity is being revealed here – Barbara Małecka

[…]

PG: Definitely, the spontaneous reactions and the bonds that it creates. […] This is the main idea that I have in my head when I will go back to Poland.

BM: We met a lot of wonderful people, old friends, that’s one, but new friends also – so it’s very precious.

MP: What are the challenges in this field of starting a company and programming performances for kids under three years old?

PG: That’s a huge question.

BM: As Paweł said in his presentation, I think that the first thing is you have to know your audience. That’s one thing. And, on the other hand, you have to be open to all the things that you don’t know about your audience, that they’re going to surprise you with, their wisdom that you don’t expect. […] Babies’ reactions are surprising because sometimes you just don’t know that this particular detail can affect them that much. And they’re going to surprise you anyhow, no matter how much you are going to be prepared for what you are doing, they are going to surprise you all the time. And this is the most beautiful and the most challenging thing because I think that at any moment when you presume that you know [how it all works], this is the moment when something is over. […] Being open to the new challenges is I think very, very crucial.

you have to be open to all the things that you don’t know about your audience – Barbara Małecka

Myrto Papoulia (Facilitator & Documenter)
Myrto has experience of working both as a Primary School Teacher and as a Theatre Artist. Bringing these two interests together, she now works as an Applied Theatre Practitioner within Drama Education contexts. As a founding member of theatre group, PAZL, she designs and facilitates process drama projects for children and young people. A member of the Hellenic Theatre/Drama and Education Network, she has worked on several Applied Theatre projects, including performance making projects with community groups and projects with Roma children in Educational settings.