the unknown and the knowN dance in lithuania
After 5 years in the UK, while blending in with many people from different cultures, I had the priceless opportunity of also exploring the different histories that dance had to offer, through my studies and practice. In my recent year of returning to my native country of Lithuania, I am relearning about the dance identity here. Being back in Lithuania offered me a fresh take of its own dance culture, as well as the international hub that is growing.
While traveling, I met various dance artists who all knew something about the Lithuanian dance scene, but nothing concrete. The situation intrigued me, people knew of its existence, but the substance still remained ‘unknown’. I wish to somehow change or inform this situation.
The New Baltic Dance is an international contemporary festival happening in Vilnius every year in May, and just celebrated its 20th anniversary. Not only does it aim to highlight the latest work of Lithuanian choreographers, but also focuses on showing great works created by acclaimed and rising international dance artists.
The organizers have so far brought 170 companies from 25 countries. The list includes but is not limited to companies such as Batsheva Dance company, Random Dance company and Netherlands Dance Theatre.
Having such influential companies at the festival has been a huge achievement. Still what is more fascinating to me is what occurs during the festival. Lithuanian artists get a chance to show their work in alongside such companies, increasing discussion around their work and between the audiences and the professionals. It is a crucial time and space for Lithuanian choreographers to grow and strengthen their identity in the worldwide dance scene.
International Aura Dance Festival is another historical festival taking place in Kaunas, Lithuania every October for the past 27 years. It’s name is based off of the well known of Aura Dance Company, the organizer of the festival offers a number of places to international dancers. Aura is also the only official Lithuanian dance company. The festival was the first of it’s kind to build a strong connection between Lithuania and the international dance scene. Each year bringing great dance companies, free dance initiatives for the locals and professional workshops for dancers.
Another popular local in Lithuania is, Arts Printing House. As an innovative dance mecca. It is a place for various performing arts, although the main focus remains a spotlight on performance art. Every year APH takes many international and Lithuanian residents, where they have a chance to use state of the art dance studios and present their work for other artists and the local audiences.
They also arrange collaborations, platforms, projects and funding for local and international artists. Each year showing a great number of premiers, and emerging creative minds to present their work.
APH is also a home to the International Contemporary Circus festival and Dance Summer School. The later counts its 17th anniversary and is growing stronger each year. Last summer I had the pleasure of attending myself, and I was pleasantly surprised. The quality of classes and international teachers they had to offer was impressive for the growing Lithuanian dance scene. This year many choreographers who participated in New Baltic Dance festival came back to teach at the DSS.
Nida Art Colony is on the Curonian Spit, by the Baltic Sea surrounded by beautiful sand dunes - a charmingly remote, true gem for those artistic souls who want to live and create in one space. The place runs Artist-in-Residence programing, organizes educational, creative projects, and most importantly it is affordable for the artist budget.
Hearing the international dancers talking about possibilities of creation in Lithuania is fascinating, yet they are still very hesitant, they do not know what to expect. I look forward to seeing the dance culture expand and grow with new dance missions and tasks from visiting artists.
Živilė Virkutytė is a Lithuanian dance artist. For 5 years she lived and studied Theatre Practice in the UK, where she rediscovered her love for dance. She draws her focus on movement and physical theatre. At the moment she lives in Vilnius and is a dancer at the butoh and contemporary dance company Okarukas and Reunited Now-Here. Currently an artist in resident at the Arts Printing House, creating a movement and motion tracking visual design performance in a collaboration with Grim Visions (UK) founder, projection artist Ed Grimoldby. Their project Rozetta is premiering this November at the Arts Printing House (LT).