We chat with former Disney performer and creator of Baumhaus, Crisel!
Play, improvise and perform is the motto of former Disneyland Hong Kong cast member, Crisel. With a background in music and performing arts, Crisel shares about what inspired her to start the popular play centre, Baumhaus, as well as what motivates her to instil a love of music and performance in her students. Having a passion to help kids grow in confidence as well as hone in musical skills, she has created a unique program called Dramalab to draw out the imagination and creativity that is innate in every child!
A little birdie told us you were once a Disney performer! Can you tell us more about that and your background as a performer?
I grew up in Manila’s musical theatre scene, having started performing professionally at the age of 10. I learned by being part of Repertory Philippines, one of the oldest and most well established theatre groups, where I literally learned by “doing”, training alongside professional actors twice my age, and learning the rigorous discipline and stamina that the craft entails. Eventually, in 2008 I was tapped by the Walt Disney Company to open High School Musical in Hong Kong Disneyland, after which I took over the role of “Bebe,” the reporter-turned-princess in “The Golden Mickeys” stage show.
You’ve built a great team for yourself at Baumhaus. Tell us more about your team and what they do.
Thank you! We’ve selected the team based on their power to connect with a wide range of people, from children to the parents and guardians, as well as their ability to communicate both academic and experiential learning in the field. We’re a very well-rounded team that learns from each other’s multidisciplinary experiences, and many of our teachers are those I’ve personally worked with in educational media, theatre and even family entertainment. I really want each team member to have a balance of creative experiences and developmental knowledge, so that they become an embodiment of the wholistic learning which we so want to inspire in families.
Baumhaus is a great choice for parents of toddlers who want to give their little ones an introduction to music. What are some classes available for older children?
Prior to teaching infants and toddlers, most of the teachers (myself included) were actually theatre teachers for older children. Now that our Kindermusik “babies” are growing, we are going back to our roots in Drama and Musical Theatre. Our new original program, Dramalab, aims to equip a new generation of children with foundational performance skills that will actually be useful in developing skills in life. The theatre has taught us Baumhaus teachers about communicating effectively, understanding with empathy, confidence in our identity and thinking creatively. Experiencing Drama and Theatre opened up doors for us to connect with our calling, and we hope that we can reach out and share this with both the children as well as the adults who want to learn how to support the creative abilities their children possess.
Tell us more about Dramalab and the changes you’ve seen in your students after they’ve attended the classes.
I think the best change I’ve seen is in both the students and their parents! For the children, having been given a chance to “be” in different shoes and explore a wide range of elements. From vocal dynamics, speech and communication, expressive movement… we see how they are more comfortable in their skin, and not afraid to try being creative.
In Dramalab’s creativity exercises, there are no right or wrong answers, just personal choices and standing by those creative decisions. That way, we’ve seen children who are not afraid to make mistakes or share ideas, because they know that this is their own laboratory. However, the changes go beyond the children as we see it in the parents too. Quite often, parents tend to be tentative asking themselves if they’re doing the right things to encourage creative passions. They ask, “Am I doing too much, or too little?”
At Dramalab, one of our thrusts is to connect with parents about what we experience with their children. After the classes at Dramalab, we see parents more relaxed, because they work with us in understanding where their children are inclined, and are assured that the children have different learning processes in the arts, all of which are valid. The best part is seeing them so proud of their children, understanding that each child has a unique personality and talent that they help bring to life and that these children don’t have to follow expected “norms” in the performing arts.
As for the children, the best part is when we see them practicing core skills (i.e. Breathing and singing properly, body positions on stage, etc) because these are foundational and that gives us confidence that, wherever they go next (be it in a school play or another Drama school), we’ve given them foundational performing skills. One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing children perform without them understanding the process or the concepts behind their performances. Actors are not mimicking parrots, they are original creators. This is why most of our classes focus on engaging in the process, versus preparing a final stage show.
For older children who are a bit shy or need a confidence boost, how does drama help them in their communication and relational skills?
Drama teaches everyone that you are accepted for who you are. By providing an environment where children feel safe to explore feelings and express themselves, we are letting them lead their own path in learning and development.
On select days in August, 2016, Baumhaus will be running special workshops for children aged 4 to 8 years old taught by their experienced musical theatre teachers. For more information on this unique creative arts experience click here or email [email protected]
Baumhaus, 1F Kar Yau Building, 36 – 44 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, 2321 5898
Brought to you in partnership with DramaLab.