Home Culture The XV Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival will kick off in Baltimore

The XV Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival will kick off in Baltimore

The US-Lithuanian Folk dance Festival is coming to Baltimore, Maryland on, Sunday, July 3. Get ready for the Baltic song and dance celebrations.

What’s happening in the way of Lithuanian Folk Dance Festivals this summer? The 2016 Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival (Šokių Šventė 2016) will kick off on Sunday, July 3, 2016 in the Royal Farms Arena, Baltimore, Maryland.

The Baltic Review is planning to cover this important cultural event in the United States during the summer of 2016. Find out more about Baltic Song and Dance Festivals in the article that follows.

Here’s a quick review of what will be happening in Baltimore, Maryland during the festival: As the organizers of Šokių Šventė stated “a spectacular of dancers from at least six different countries, will participate in this event.”

“Performances will feature national costumes and traditional folk dances with up to 1600 performers dancing in unison in the historic Royal Farms Arena located at 201 West Baltimore Street. The Baltimore and Washington, D. C. Lithuanian communities are thrilled to co-host the Šokių Šventė for the first time ever.”

Shown here is Lithuanian Birutė Mockienė at the 2015 Lithuanian Song Festival in Chicago. Birutė was the Director of “Varpelis” or Little Bell in New Jersey for many years, and was enthusiastically acclaimed by GoBalticEurope for her cultural performances from 2005-2010, in particular, at The New York Times Travel Show. “Varpelis” or Little Bell from New Jersey is expected to participate in Šokių Šventė 2016 in Baltimore, Md. on July 3, 2016. Photo by Algis Norvila.
Shown here is Lithuanian Birutė Mockienė at the 2015 Lithuanian Song Festival in Chicago. Birutė was the Director of “Varpelis” or Little Bell in New Jersey for many years, and was enthusiastically acclaimed by GoBalticEurope for her cultural performances from 2005-2010, in particular, at The New York Times Travel Show. “Varpelis” or Little Bell from New Jersey is expected to participate in Šokių Šventė 2016 in Baltimore, Md. on July 3, 2016. Photo by Algis Norvila.

According to the show organizers, “activities are planned for Friday and Saturday evenings in Baltimore. The traditional Sventė Festival Banquet and dance will take place at the Hilton Baltimore on Sunday evening, after Sunday afternoon’s performance.

There will also be a crafts fair at the Hilton Baltimore featuring Lithuanian artisans.” (For more information, write to: info@sokiusvente2016.org)

In tracing the history of Lithuanian song and dance celebrations, it is interesting to note that in promoting the 2014 Lietuvos Dainų Šventė, it was explained that “the Lithuanian Song celebration is an overall national cultural phenomenon and a continued purposeful creative process spiritually equal to ancient Greek Olympic Games.

Lithuanian song and dance celebrations are considered a national cultural phenomenon and a source of great national pride. Shown here is the Open-air Amphitheatre in Vilnius, Lithuania. Photo: Algis Norvila
Lithuanian song and dance celebrations are considered a national cultural phenomenon and a source of great national pride. Shown here is the Open-air Amphitheatre in Vilnius, Lithuania. Photo: Algis Norvila

Lithuania, known for its enduring traditions, participates in the Baltic Song and Dance Celebrations along with Latvia and Estonia, and was inscribed in 2008 on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity originally proclaimed in 2003. “Sharing Lithuania’s enduring cultural traditions with the rest of the world through song and dance has global significance”, according to UNESCO.

Based on the brochure, “LITHUANIA cultural highlights” published by the Lithuanian State Department of Tourism under the Ministry of Economy, “a modern song festival consists of the three parts as follows: a Dance day, an Ensemble evening (including performances by ethnographic and folklore groups) and a Song day being the most magnificent of the three. “

Thousands of spectators and participants show up for Baltic Song and Dance Celebrations. The Lithuanian Song and Dance Celebration dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the restoration of the Lithuanian State will be held in 2018. Get ready world! Photo: Algis Norvila

Thousands of spectators and participants show up for Baltic Song and Dance Celebrations. The Lithuanian Song and Dance Celebration dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the restoration of the Lithuanian State will be held in 2018. Get ready world! Photo: Algis Norvila

In looking back at the North American Lithuanian Song Festival which took place in Chicago during 2015, Lithuanian-American photographer Algis Norvila explains what went on at this festival through his own words and photographic images. In addition, he presented images from Lietuvos Dainu Svente as part of this report, as well.

“At the Song Festival in Chicago which was held at the University of Illinois arena. the singers were grouped by their vocal characteristics, sopranos with sopranos, altos with altos, etc. There could not be the usual parade of performers. Instead, there was a photo of the choir leader and the choir projected on a Jumbotron screen in the back of the auditorium, introduced verbally in Lithuanian and English by off stage announcers, with the orchestra going through a Lithuanian (martial) march. On the screen, a graphic cleverly showed where in the world the performers were from.” (Algis give that entire effort an A plus.)

Pictured is a striking panoramic image taken by Lithuanian-American photographer Algis Norvila at the 2015 Lithuanian Song Festival in Chicago. Photo: Algis Norvila
Pictured is a striking panoramic image taken by Lithuanian-American photographer Algis Norvila at the 2015 Lithuanian Song Festival in Chicago. Photo: Algis Norvila

According to Algis Norvila, the introductions were relatively few, mostly taped (for example, the President of Lithuania) and quite short. Again, an A plus for style and brevity…a lesson that had not yet reached all parts of the realm. The program began with folk songs, accompanied (musically) by the orchestra and appropriate visuals on the big screen.”
He stated that:

“The accompaniment of folk songs by symphony orchestras sometimes doesn’t seem so natural, but the mix was good, and there were some complicated new compositions that were played later. All in all, apart from the length, the song selections were good. At one point, Seselė Ignė was brought on to make a few comments about singing in camp which ended up with a whole lot of accordionists walking on stage and providing music for the next song.”

“There was a vocal soloist and an instrumentalist from Lithuania who seemed to do a very good job,” says Algis.

“They were controlled and modest, despite being obviously professional. There was an acted out performance of Lithuania’s history, including the events at the TV Tower. It was entirely appropriate to memorialize those who perished. Introductions of all the songs were done before each speech and shown on the Jumbotron in Lithuanian and English, and included the composer, arranger, and conductor, all in a smart, graphic style. “

As Algis explained, “Each song was conducted by a different conductor. Birutė Mockienė did three and Gintarė Buskausas did one. It took a little while to get them to the podium, end the speeches, almost all recorded, were quite good. “However, “the best”, according to Algis “was by Darius Polikartis, the head of the organizing committee. “

“During the final celebrations is when we finally realized that although this event is organized with a great deal of work by the conductors, it really is about the conductors”, and they deserve the recognition.” All in all, “the Lithuanian Song Festival in Chicago was highly successful” stated Algis Norvila.

 

Ann Charles
Ann Charles is UN Bureau Chief of "Baltic Review" based in New York City. She covers diplomatic activities at United Nations Headquarters in New York and the world body's work in human rights, education, culture, the environment, and tourism, among other global concerns.