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Frontpage News 2017 Directed by toddlers

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The performer Pedro Ramos interacts with the children individually. Everything is based on improvisation. Photographer: ZYG

Directed by toddlers

  • What happens when you let toddlers loose in a theatre play? Portugal and Norway are about to find out.

    Artists from Portugal and Norway has created an innovative dance performance for children aged 0 – 36 months that are aiming to reach both infants, families and early childhood professionals.

    The project is part of the Portugese programme 'Cultural diversity and cultural exchange'. With support from Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein through the EEA Grants, the programme aims to  develop activities specifically for children and promote their access to arts.

    Communicates in “Gibberish”

    “To work with the Norwegian artists was a rich experience. We had a great dialogue and exchange of knowledge on how to communicate with children. In ZYG we use music without words and “Gibberish”- a made up language, to communicate with the audience,” says Helena Silva, artistic director for Companhia de Música Teatral.

    portugaldans The children often try to imitate and talk to the performer Sandra Rosado during the act. Photo credit: Zyg

    ZYG is a collaborative project between the Portugese Companhia de Música Teatral, Fábrica das Artes-CCB and the Norwegian ensemble Dybwikdans. The project intends to promote dialogue between Portuguese and Norwegian cultural institutions that have been important key players in the field of art and education, in particular in early childhood.

    "It was an amazing experience for us, being able to work together with the Portugese companies. Our common focus are children in early years, but while we emphasize on dance movements, they concentrate on the music. We learned a great deal from their approach, and have already discussed the possibility of doing research projects together", says Siri Dybwik, from Dybwikdans.

    Today, the 21st of May, is the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

    The day provides an opportunity to emphasize values such as cross border exchange and dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, and the necessity of making culture beneficial to all groups.

    "This is what it's really about", comments Siri.

    Six babies on stage

    There are six babies in each ZYG-performance. The performance lasts for 20 minutes, and is built around the idea of creating an educational experience with repercussions for the community.

    “This project gave us the opportunity to test new innovative approaches. The funding received through the Grants gave room to identify ways to communicate with children in smaller groups  – it was great,” says Helena.

    8297_1228974623_DSC_3150 Helena Silva is the artistic director for the Companhia de Música Teatral. Photo credit: Maria Knoph Vigsnaes/FMO

    Prepared for the unexpected

    ZYG is an open installation as well as a show. The performer improvises and tries to offer the children a joint exploration. The two alternating performers are prepared for the unexpected.

    “The meaningfulness relates to providing the child with interaction and response. Being together in experience, discovering the layers, and to lift the child's initiative up are stated objectives. To be seen, heard, and taken into an exploration of time and space can create the most beautiful moment; that is how we want the child to experience ZYG,” says Paulo Rodrigues, co-director of ZYG.

    Here you find more information about the project

    Imitates the perfomer

    Helena finds it interesting to observe the interaction between mother and child, as well as the performer and the other babies, during the performance.

    “The kids act engaged and surprised and they often try to imitate the performer's movement. There is a particular dynamic when there’s a group. Often, parents learn new things about their babies during the performance; they see their child’s enthusiastic reaction and vocal interaction,” says Helena.

    Reaches out to new groups

    ZYG has the overall objective to make contemporary art and culture reach a broader audience.

    “I think simplicity is the key to communication. Structures, such as a rhythm, create a bond between parents and children. When a mother taps the rhythm on her child’s back, for instance, that is a link to language. This project is not just for babies but for parents as well,” says Helena.

    portugaldans2 Photo credit: Zyg

    Interested in culture? Here are a few other projects:

    A travelling salesman crash-lands on a planet only inhabited by children. Read about the very special theatre play “Blue Planet”, where the audience witnesses how the children’s world comes under threat.

    Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway support programmes on diversity in culture and arts in ten beneficiary countries, Portugal is just one of them. Read about the other nine countries here.

  • Project title:


    Project number:


    Priority sector:

    Protecting Cultural Heritage


    € 23120



    Project promoter:

    Companhia de Música Teatral

    Type of Institution:


    Project duration:

    12 months

    Project cost:

    € 40,700

    Grant from:

    EEA Grants

    ZYG is a collaborative project between Companhia de Música Teatral (PT), Dybwikdans (NO) and Fábrica das Artes-CCB (PT) built around the idea of creating an original and innovative artistic experience for children aged 0-36 months with educational repercussions for the community. The project intends to promote the dialogue between portuguese and norwegian cultural institutions that have been important key players in the field of art and education, in particular in early childhood. Companhia de Música Teatral (CMT) and Dybwikdans were founded at around the same time, under the scope of an eclectic and pioneering artistic philosophy. Both groups share a common interest on infants’ and childrens’ performances and installations and have a strong identity and background on conciliating artistic creation with educational activities. There is a common ground but also complementarity: for CMT the source of inspiration starts on music; for Dybwikdans dance is the departure point for the artistic work. The artistic leaders of CMT and Dybwikdans are also academics who share an interest on the use of arts as tools for the promotion of human development. CCB has hosted and recognizes the artistic quality of both groups and is very much interested to combine their strengths aiming to reach infants, families and early childhood professionals with innovative proposals that might contribute for positive changements in society in the european context.