Lithuania in the news
23rd December, 2005
Lithuanian Ballet Celebrates 80 Years!
2004 Lithuanian Ballet’s "Swan Lake" - with Miki Hamanaka, Aurimas Paulauskas
and Corps de Ballet. Photo courtesy Michail Raškovskij
In December 2005 Lithuanian Ballet celebrated 80 years since its foundation in 1925. In these 80 years it has established for itself a solid international reputation. Many international ballet stars have danced with Lithuanian Ballet, including members of Diaghilev’s famed Ballet Russe of Paris. In its turn, Lithuanian Ballet dancers have made and are making careers with international ballet companies. The first international tour of Lithuanian Ballet was before the war in 1935 to Monte Carlo and London. Since Lithuania regained its independence in 1990, Lithuanian Ballet has toured France, Greece, Egypt, Italy, USA, England, Japan, Holland, Poland, Spain. Lithuania is justifiably proud of its national ballet.
The week long celebrations culminated in a gala performance on Sunday, December 4, with present and former stars of Lithuanian Ballet and many international guest stars. The week saw a new Lithuanian production of "Anna Karenina", with
Borisas Čiunovas (front row) with Lithuanian Ballet
dancers in 1930. Photo courtesy Lithuanian Theatre,
Music and Cinema Museum
Eglė Špokaitė in the leading role and one of the world’s most famous ballerinas, Maya Plisetskaya, in attendance and receiving the Barbora Radvilaitė medal from the mayor of Vilnius, Artūras Zuokas. Maya Plisetkaya herself this year celebrated her 80th birthday and she herself had premiered in the first production of "Anna Karenina" in 1972, the music for which was composed by her husband, Rodion Shchedrin. She and her husband are Lithuanian citizens and she is the patron of the Lithuanian annual summer Trakai Festival.
There has been a strong connection between Lithuanian Ballet and Australia, both in the number of Australian ballet dancers who have danced with Lithuanian Ballet in Vilnius and the number of former Lithuanian Ballet dancers who had settled in Australia. The present Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet, David McAllister AM, and the current Director of the Australian Ballet School, Marilyn Rowe OBE, both have danced in Vilnius, as did the Australian Ballet dancers, Kelvin Coe and Elizabeth Toohey. Also the former Australian prima ballerina, Marilyn Jones OBE, is one of the patrons of the Friends of Lithuanian Ballet in Australia.
Janina Čiunovas (centre) at her 90th birthday in Melbourne in 2004, with former Lithuanian
Ballet dancers Janina Giedraitytė and Jadvyga Šadzevičiūtė (front row left and right)
Lithuanian Ballet dancers who settled in Australia after World War II included husband and wife Borisas and Janina Čiunovas, who had taken part in the first Lithuanian Ballet tour to Monte Carlo and London. Borisas (d. Melbourne 1993) had been a foundation member of Lithuanian Ballet in 1925 (and interestingly his niece Ramona Ratas became a foundation member of Australian Ballet in 1962). Janina went on to become a distinguished ballet teacher, sought internationally, and has been cited as one of the ten best ballet teachers in the world*. Other dancers were Regina Drazdauskaitė-Ratas (d. Sydney 1986), Janina Giedraitytė-Falkowski, Jadvyda Šadzevičiūtė and Tamara Pagodinaitė-Skrinska (d. Sydney 1999).
The Friends of Lithuanian Ballet (FLB) in Australia have over the years supported Lithuanian Ballet and were officially listed as sponsors of the 80th anniversary celebrations. The president of FLB, Jurgis Žalkauskas, was in attendance during the celebrations and presented his personal award to the Lithuanian dancers Inga Cibulskytė and Igoris Zaripovas. The current issue of the "Krantai" magazine in Lithuania is a special issue devoted to Lithuanian Ballet’s 80 years. It includes articles on Janina Čiunovas and FLB.

* Gretchen Ward Warren, "The Art of Teaching Ballet. Ten Twentieth - Century Masters", University of Florida Press 1996

"Krantai" 2005 (4),
Lithuanian Opera and Ballet website ,
Lithuanian Opera and Ballet monthly magazine, "Bravissimo" November 2005, 7/12/05 and "Lietuvos Rytas" 2/12/05