After traveling far and wide for the last couple years, the small but energetic Cleveland-based Lithuanian folk dance group, "Svyturys" (The Beacon) will be hosting their own dance festival right here in Cleveland. This is certainly not the first time this festival has happened, but this this year the event is going above and beyond. This event has always been called "Juventus" which is a word in Latin that roughly translates into "youth" and "juvenility", which as also been reflected through the many young dancers that perform in the groups. The first time this festival happened was in 2010. This year, the they're hosting hundreds of dancers from different Lithuanian groups around the country and the world. The theme of the festival is, “Uzdekime Aukura Tevyne“ which translates into “Lighting an Alter for the Homeland”. This event is also meant to honor Lithuania's 100th birthday, so they're making sure it's a huge celebration.
If you've never experienced folk dancing of any kind, the best way Lithuanian folk dancing can be defined is energizing and full of spirit--it’s a type of movement and steps that will make you want to jump from your seat. The Cleveland group has been deeply involved with different festivals, concerts and events since their birth in 2003. The group has traveled far and wide for concerts in Boston, Baltimore, Sweden and of of course--Lithuania.
"Personally I am happiest about the friendships that are being created among the dancers and their desire to be together. That encourages us to stride for the more beautiful and better. There is great love between the dancers, and I have a great love for each and every one,” says group director, Ausrine Sirvinskiene.
“Juventus” will not only feature the Cleveland-based group, Svyturys but also four other groups from around the country and the world. The four groups, Toronto, Chicago and Lemont, Illinois and even, Beriso, Argentina will all be dancing their own dances as well as a finale together with everyone.
“Our group rehearses every week together so we've grown very close. Then, we travel to perform or other groups come to Cleveland and I meet more Lithuanians from all around the USA and worldwide! In a tight-knit community like ours, the people are the heritage,” says Rita Kizys, a recent graduate from Cleveland State University. She’s participated in the group heavily while still in college, and it’s helped her create deeper relationships with other Lithuanians from all over. “The people are what keep you from ever letting go,” Kizys says.
Keeping a community close can be difficult sometimes, but concerts involving a presentation of culture and energy like this, is a good reminder that heritage can never be lost.
Not many people realize the ranges of cultures that Cleveland has to offer, as well as the little enclaves of communities that are right inside our city. Cleveland and there will be a banquet afterward that people can attend afterwards. The concert will take place on May 20th, along with a banquet the next day that people can attend as well.
“Festivals like Juventus are essential to a cultural community not only because it brings people together but also because they create excitement and pride in our heritage,” says Kizys. This year, due to the large number of performers, the concert will be held at the Shore Cultural Centre on E 222nd St. Euclid in Cleveland and there will be a banquet afterward that people can attend afterwards. The concert will take place on May 20th, along with a banquet the next day that people can attend as well.
“The dance festivals are also chances to bring non-Lithuanians into the culture too. Half of the fun of being Lithuanian is being able to share it with others,” says Kizys.
More information can be found on the Juventus website at www.juventus2017.com