Making a BIG BANG at the NAC

Big-bang 4565486od0f credit-dries-segers
© Dries Segers
© Dries Segers
Pneumaphone © Kristof Lauwers
© Dries Segers

The BIG BANG is one of the most successful children’s festivals in Europe. Presented in many European cities, BIG BANG explores the fascinating world of music, sound and the arts through a variety of activities and performances. And on February 17–18, it will be presented for the first time in North America, right here at the NAC.

The festival builds on the legacy of Wouter Van Looy, who founded the OORSMEER children’s music festival in 1995 as a platform for artistic, modern music programming specifically for children.

Bringing BIG BANG to the NAC grew out of the NAC’s relationship with Zonzo Compagnie, a Belgian music/theatre company for young audiences founded by Van Looy. Over the past few years, the NAC has presented some of its shows, including Listen to the Silence about the music of John Cage, and Slumberland, which explores the world of dreams and the night.

In 2015, Mélanie Dumont, who leads French Theatre’s Enfance/Jeunesse programming, and Geneviève Cimon, Director of Music Education and Community Engagement, attended BIG BANG at the Opéra de Lille in France, to see if the concept could work at the NAC. “We were absolutely knocked out by it,” Dumont said. “The presentations were incredibly creative. And they were absolutely everywhere – not just on the stages, but in the halls, in the corridors, backstage, in every little corner. It was an atmosphere of total celebration and discovery.”

In developing the concept for the NAC, Dumont said she spoke frequently with Van Looy to ensure that the NAC festival would be true to his vision. That means making sure the emphasis is not on “teaching” children about music. Instead, it’s about turning the venue over to the artists and the children to experience music for themselves.

In that same vein, the festival’s ambassadors are always young people. At the NAC, they will be between the ages of 10 and 14, and they will welcome the public, interview artists, and become the public face of the festival. With the NAC’s commitment to young audiences, and beautiful new spaces for the artists and audiences to inhabit, it’s truly the perfect location for BIG BANG, Dumont said.

“Come to the BIG BANG. You will see things you’ve never seen before. It’s audacious!”

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