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A Friday night in Dendermonde

During our tours, we always try to visit two or three belfries in one weekend. A lot of planning goes into that. Of course, an overnight stay in a special place and visiting the local hospitality industry is a regular feature. Bert takes charge of this piece of preparation and manages to surprise us again and again.

Now again he guides us through Dendermonde via the cafes Barolo, Art Deco and ‘t Peirt to café ‘In de Poepekas’. We certainly would never have found this last one ourselves. Bert did! A more than unusual pub where animated conversations soon develop, one of which gives the course of the visit to Dendermonde a surprising twist.

Cafe Taverne 't PEIRT
In the poop greenhouse
In the Poopekast

In the Poepekas

Three steps inside café “In de Poepekas” you immediately feel like Jan Klaassen in person. Everywhere you look, in fact, there are “antagonists” and, furthermore, every imaginable attribute you might find in a puppet show. That this is no accident becomes clear when we meet the manager Joost Dierickx.

Café In de Poepekas owes its name and existence to the Dierickx family’s passion: puppet theater. It is very pleasant and when we tell other guests what brings us to Dendermonde it then rains good tips on places to visit in conjunction with our trips to the belfries. Joost invited us to visit his theater Kalleke Step the next day.

Marionette Theatre Kalleke Step
Marionette Theatre Kalleke Step
Marionette Theatre Kalleke Step

Theater Kalleke Step

Right after our visit to the Belfry of Dendermonde, we meet with Joost in town and then drive after him to Grembergen where the theater Kalleke Step is located. It is Saturday morning and the theater is closed but for us the doors open wide. Joost takes us into the enchanting world behind the scenes of theater Kalleke Step.

Between sets, Joost tells us in detail about the history of the theater. Both about the period from 1976-2002 under his father and about his own relaunch in 2011. Kalleke Step is the name of the jester who leads the Ros Beiaard through Dendermond’s streets; the puppet theater is named after him. The theater was a household name in the 1970s and 1980s and attracted thousands of visitors.

All of Europe seen by Reynout and Kalleke Step

Joost’s father was also the founder of folk art group Reynout (folk dance, folk music, flag waving and drum corps). Joost shares wonderful stories about how puppet theater was an inexpensive way for his father, himself and many dancers, flag wavers and puppeteers to travel around Europe in those days. It was a time when they explored the world, perfected their theater skills and gained unforgettable experiences and friendships along the way. We see the spark of adventure in Joost’s eyes as he talks about that exciting time.

Traveling with puppet theater at the time was why the theater was never shy of new recruits. These days it is more difficult but he proudly reports that, after the fresh start in 2011, he has managed to gather a nice and steady group of people again.

Marionette Theatre Kalleke Step
Marionette Theatre Kalleke Step
Marionette Theatre Kalleke Step

Marionette theater is a team sport

Between the scenes, it soon becomes clear to us: puppet theater is a team sport. The execution of an average production involves 20 people. Puppeteers, voice actors, technicians, writers and directors must be well matched for a great performance. In addition, all puppets and set pieces are also manufactured in the theater by Joost and his team.

After Joost shows us everything behind the scenes, Bert and Rein are surprised with the chance to play with the puppets themselves backstage. Naturally, they seized this unique opportunity with enthusiasm and created their own magical moments. Joost patiently guides them and shares his expertise as they bring the puppets to life and lose themselves in the enchantment of puppetry.

Be sure to check it out sometime!

The history of theater Kalleke Step and Joost’s passion make our visit to Dendermonde even more special. It feels like we are getting a glimpse of the past and the legacy this theater carries with it. It was an honor to listen to Joost’s stories and see his dedication to keeping this unique art form alive.

So if you are in Dendermonde, in addition to the Belfry, visit the Theater Kalleke Step! Performance announcements are on the website: www.kallekestep.be. Of course, you can also follow Kalleke Step on Social media (see website).

Marionette theater Kalleke Step Sint-Elooistraat 15 Grembergen

Thanks Joost!
Good time at Kalleke Step
Eric Cornelissen

Eric Cornelissen

Wanneer het was is niet meer bekend maar tijdens een editie van de Gentse Feesten ontstond de interesse in de geschiedenis en de betekenis van Belforts. Met een vette knipoog naar Reinhold Messner die als eerste de veertien hoogste toppen van de wereld beklom moest iemand maar eens de eerste zijn die alle belforten van de Lage Landen gaat beklimmen! Pas later werd duidelijk dat het er geen 14 maar 56 zijn. Die Messner had het maar makkelijk.