Madness in the Mountains

Right now it’s the hottest ticket in the Balkans, so book soon, or lose your chance to take part in the 13th International Children’s Theatre School, in Shiroka Luka in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria.

shiroka luka

More than  a hundred children from orphanages and schools in the region come together for twenty chaotic, exuberant days of dance, song, mask-making, yoga, martial arts, mime, film-making, music, photography and drama.

‘Every year we do a different theme,’ says acclaimed theatre director, and committed vegan, Elena Panayotova. ‘We’ve done Japan, China, South America, Africa, Russia, India, even Mars. There’s nowhere we won’t go.’

theatre shool

Each year’s programme is meticulously researched, and plans are often approved in advance by the cultural sections of  the Sofia Embassies, sometimes, as last year (when Argentine tango was mixed, to great effect, with Russian flower dancing), by more than one Embassy at the same time.

‘It was truly authentic in absolutely every single detail, except perhaps just a few,’ said an Indian friend of mine of the children’s 2009 exploration of Indian culture. ‘I almost believed I was at home.’

Watch the moves and decide for yourself:

Balkan Bollywood 

(This fabulous routine went on to win the Most Authentic Non-Indian Bollywood Style Award, First Class (Balkan Section), at the Festival of Indian Music and Arts in Udaipur.)

‘Nataraja Shiva, the god of dance, sleeps in all of us,’ commented acclaimed choreographer, Veronika Petrova, enigmatically. ‘Awake him at your peril.’


Elena Panayotova, Director of the Theatre School, spent the winter in India studying the Seven Ways of the Chickpea at a food stall in Chennai, and returns refreshed for this year’s event.

‘But I’m done with India,’ she says. ‘It’s mostly about Africa this year, with just a bit of Bulgaria for good measure.’

Elena spends much of her time working at an uncompromisingly high intellectual level for prestigious theatre companies across Europe.

‘What has working with children taught you?’ I asked her.

‘I’ve learnt that the true beauty of the world lies in small things,’ she answered, with a mischievous and curiously enigmatic smile.

Even so, the Children’s Theatre School gets bigger and bigger, and you’d have to go far to find as much joy in one place as you can find in July in the Rhodope Mountains.

The children visibly gain in confidence, and many return each year. Most come from difficult situations, and through the theatre school they learn to believe in themselves. Almost nothing matters more..

LLP Group sponsors the Theatre School. Join us for the final show on Saturday 18th July.

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