HBC has noted certain outfits worn for a variety of occassions or activities such as school or youth groups. We have also noted more specialized outfits worn for choirs or First Communion. We are archiving information on these activity uniform or clothes in this section. There is also specialized clothing worn for dance or dressing up for music recitals. We do not know at this time to what extent these activities and the costuming and clothing association with them varied between the French and Dutch soeaking boys in Belgium.
The Balletschool van Antwerpen (Municipal Institute for Ballet) was founded in 1951 as "The Ballet School of the Royal Flemish Opera" is well known both nationally and internationally. HBC believes that the municipality involved is Antwerp. The Institute has a Primary school (SILO 2). Boys and girls are admitted to the ballet section of the primary school from the age of eight (third schoolyear). The curriculum includes general subjects (which meet the legal requirements) and dance tuition. In the third and fourth year the pupils have 5 hours of ballet tuition a week and this increases to 10 hours in the fifth and sixth year. During these four years the pupils are tought the basics of classical ballet. The school teaches pupils also other dance disciplines, such as character dance. Boys and girls have the opportunity to learn some small choreographies. Pupils who pass their examinations at the end of this primary school period can progress to the Municipal Institute for Ballet. Pupils from other primary schools may of course audition as well. The Insitute believes that for those students intending to make up ballet as a profession, it is considered best to start ballet education at the 8 years old.
HBC has no information specifically on the choral tradition in Belgium. Choir costumes and school uniforms in Belgium appear to be quite similar to French styles. Actually Belgium being somewhat more traditional than France, traditions have persisted longer in Belgium than in France. Hopefully a HBC visitor will eventally provide more details and some
interesting insights. Most Belgian choir schools are attached to Catholic colleges. These private schools are high schools, although many also have programs for elmentary-age children. The choir school provides intensive music instruction, but the boys can take advantage of the facilities and educational opportunities of the school at large.
Children because they are just beginning to receive an education and lean about the world are limited in the contributions they can make. This is also generally true of the artistic world where training and practice as well as in the case of dance musculature are essential. There is one area in which very young children can achieve astonishing levels performance. We have all been impressed with prodigies. We know of one Belgian prodigy, Micharl Junior. This is in part because children have voices of remarakavle clarity and a pitch because of their age. But even with instruments some children are capable of remarable mastry. And we know of a Congolese/Belgian who has made an impact in popular music -- Ya Kid K.
Belgium like France is a catholic country. Belgium is also a bilingual country being divided into both French (Waloons) and Dutch (Flemish) speakers. While linguistically divided, both the Waloons and Flemish are Catholics. First Communion has thus been an important event in a Belgian boys life. We believe there may have been social divisions here. We also believe that along with the decline in the importance of religion in Belgium as in much of Western Europe that the event is less important than it used to be. We have little information at this time, but we do know that some boys in the early 20ty century wore sailor suits.
We do not yet have much information on the outings taken by boys. Many are outings taken by family groups. Other by be taken by groups of boys. We suspect that we are talking about activities similar to those in neighboring countries (France, Germany, and the Netherlands). Here we are talking about both family tripsand trips by groups of boys. Popular outings include urban parks, zoos, picnics in the country, are trips to the country's many long, sandy beaches. Biking was also popular. We are less sure about fishing and boating. Belgian does havev many rivers where boys could fish. Our Belgian readers may have more information on such outings.
Of course play is a major interest of children. It is what children like to do more than anything else. And there are many play activities, Some of the most important are toys, primarily for play in or around the home. And there are ganes. These can be games played at home or outside with friends. We do not know of any destinctive Belgian toys or games. Belgian children's play seems similar to that in neghboring countries. We have begun to collect photgraphs of both to lean more about childhood in Belgium and play clothes.
There are a variety of clothing and costumes associated with religious observation in Belgium. The country is largely Catholic thanks to Spanish victories in the Dutch Wars for independence. What is now Belgium in fact became known as the Spanish Netherlands. Both the Flemish and Waloons are predominantly Catholic, although the country has become increasingly secular in recent years. The small Jewish population was decimated by the NAZI World war II Holocaust duting the German World War II occupation. Since World War II a Muslim munority has grown in the country.
Belgian boys have not commonly worn formal school uniforms like their across the Channel English cousins. The smock became a type of uniform in several European countries, especially Belgium, France, Italy, and Spain. I believe the use of the smock in Belgium was influenced by its adoption in neighboring France. Beginning with the French Third Republic in the 1870s through much of the first half of the 20th century, elementary school boys in Belgium and France wore black, dark, blue, or grey school smocks over their clothes. As this
was a very common practice, it gave the appearance of a school uniform. Not all French schoolboys wore smocks--serving to obsure social differences. One account from 1900 describes a French boy who began the lycee wearing a sailor suit with long curls his mother dearly loved. I believe that such styles and experiences would have been quite similar in Belgium.
The primary Belgian youth group is the Scouts. The Scouts were founded in Belgian soon after they appeared in Britain. The grew steadily and their prestige was enhanced by their role in World War I. Scouts dominated the youth movement after the War. After the NAZI invasion and occupation, Scouting was banned. The authorized collaborationist group organized a group similar to the Hiltler youth. A similar group was organized in Flanders where Hitler Youth groups had bee organized for the Germans living there. Aftter liberation, the Scouts quickly reorganized. There are now several Scout associations in Belgium. The VNJ is popular among some Flemish boys and promotes independence from Belgium.
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