Aug 5-13, 15-20 12.00am
How does the world look to a small child? Is it round or angular, yellow or blue? Or maybe oblong, green, hollow and soft? Renowned Lithuanian choreographer Birute Baneviciute pieces together a puzzle from these coloured shapes in an absorbing performance exploring a child’s developmental stages. Dancers crawl, bounce, walk and run as they traverse a delightful world filled with vibrant costumes and gorgeous scenery which is assembled into an array of familiar forms, from geometric shapes to fruit and flowers. Accompanied by music composed especially for little ones, this is a gentle and joyous dance performance for babies.
What was the inspiration for Puzzle?
Shapes and colours, and a desire to create a dance piece for babies under 3 years.
How did you go about gathering the team for it?
I already had the team – dancers (Giedre Subotinaite, Agne Ramanauskaite, Mantas Stabacinskas, Marius Pinigis) and composer (Rasa Dikciene). I have worked with them all before - we have done three previous shows for older children from 3 years and up. I am very glad and lucky that the dancers who work with me are the best in Lithuania, winners and nominees for Ministry of Culture Awards. First I started with three dancers, now we have five, so we expanded our repertoire and now we can show and tour two performances for babies of 0-3 years “Puzzle” and “Colourful Games”, and two for older children – “Miracles” for 3-6 years and “Creation of the World” for 5-11 years.
How did you first become interested in making performance?
For over ten years I worked as a dance teacher with children and youths aged from 2 to 20 years as well as working as a choreographer with professional dancers, creating performances for adult audiences. I also undertook doctorate research for a thesis on dance education. So I was used to working with children as dancers, but not as an audience. In 2006 the cultural attache of Sweden in Lithuania Torsten Schenlaer introduced me to the idea of dance performances for young audiences. I was fascinated by this idea and challenged myself to create a show where adult dancers perform for children. For this I could combine and use my creative and pedagogical experience in a new way.
Was your process for this show typical of the way that you make a performance?
No, it was very different. In order to keep the attention of children from 0-3 years I had undertake research on the psychology and physiology of early childhood. Also during the creative process I invited parents with babies – my potential audience - so I could try out things and see whether they work. I was very sensitive about the audience, thinking about what interests and attracts them rather than thinking of my artistic ambitions as a choreographer. It doesn’t mean that I was trying to please an audience in a primitive sense, but more that I needed to communicate with a different audience – babies – in a way that they understand.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope and I expect that the audience of babies will experience the joy of cognition and discovery of shapes, colours, sounds and movements which are recognisable for them, and at the same time stimulate their imagination and creativity. I expect that their parents will enjoy watching their children’s reaction to the performance and finding out new things about their kids. I hope that families will get closer and happier being together in an artistic environment and experiencing dance.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
As I mentioned before, while creating this performance I was thinking about communicating with this audience and especially about their perceptions. So I thought about my artistic ambitions for young audiences and how to introduce them to the joy of realisation and a early dance experience. Also I watched children and parents reactions during early performances and slightly adapted the show to make communication with such a young audience more effective.
Do you see your work falling within any particular tradition?
As I see it, our work – dance performances for children, especially for babies – are more about creating a tradition than falling within one. We were the first in Lithuanian (in 2007) to start to create dance shows for young audiences and we are the only one making shows for babies. We have had to bring up our audience and a community of parents who bring their children from being babies and as they grow into the different shows. We have also inspired another company in Lithuania to start making dance performances for children.
I think our performances, especially the ones for babies, are quite exceptional as we combine set choreography, improvisation and moments of audience interaction and games. We maintain an equal balance between these, so children get the opportunity to watch and to react to dance at the same time.