Lietuvių Tautinių Šokių Šventė
Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival
Bridges – November issue, 2011


One in a series of articles introducing folk dance groups that will be participating in the festival. 

Meet Zaibas (Madison, Wisconsin)

A little fish in a little pond. That’s Zaibas Lithuanian Dancers in Madison, Wisconsin, a city that counts probably no more than 100 Lithuanians. And yet, Zaibas has managed to survive for 20 years, and is looking forward to participating in its 6th Sokiu Svente, in Boston, 2012. 

Zaibas (Lightning) was founded in 1991 by Vida Kazlauskaite Stark, and premiered at the 1992 Sokiu Svente in Chicago. That was a heady moment for many of us. Some of our members had danced in their youth, but for most of us it was the first time that we had participated in a Sokiu Svente as more than spectators. It was the impetus to keep going for years after, performing annually in Madison’s International Festival and other local events. 

Under the leadership of Asta Sepetyte, our vadove (director) for 11 years, we danced in Chicago, Toronto, and even Chiba, Japan. A few of us marched in Dainu Svente parades in Vilnius, and after Asta’s retirement, under my directorship, we danced in the 2008 Sokiu Svente in Los Angeles, and the 2009 South American Sokiu Svente in Berisso, Argentina. 

Most of our dancers are Lithuanian in one way or another. Many of us are dipukai (Displaced Persons) or children of dipukus. Some are grandchildren of the first wave of Lithuanians in the early 1900’s, and several are recent, third-wave immigrants. The few non-Lithuanians in our group have been spouses or significant others. Among our dancers we count the grandson of a president of Lithuania and the granddaughter of the U.S. consul to Lithuania. Our audiences, on the other hand, are mostly American, so our programs serve as an introduction to our rich Lithuanian culture. 

Through the years we have incorporated our children into our programs, but it wasn’t until 2009 that we created Zaibutis (Little Lightning) a separate dance group of children ages 6-10. Most of them come from Baraboo, Wisconsin, pop. 11,000, which numbers 2 Lithuanian families, and so more than half of them are non-Lithuanian but they enjoy the dancing and the opportunity to perform on a stage. One of their performances has had over 10,000 hits on youtube , and two of the girls appeared on the posters and brochures advertising the 2010 Madison International Festival. 

Unlike Lithuanian dance groups in larger cities, we have no center, parish, camp or club in which to meet or practice, and funding is scarce, but we have assistance from Madison Vilnius Sister Cities, Inc. and the support of the small but enthusiastic Lithuanian community in Madison. For this we are exceedingly grateful.

To learn more about Zaibas, please see our website at
Or catch us on ; just type in “zaibas dancers” or “zaibas madison” and you’ll see several of our dances. And be sure to look for us in Boston in 2012. Iki pasimatymo!

Nijole Semenaite Etzwiler


Bridges – December issue, 2011


Preparations for the XIV Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival, which will be held in Boston, MA on July 1, 2012, are well underway. The venue at the Agganis Arena at Boston University has been secured, hotel accommodations at the Sheraton Boston Hotel and the Marriott Copley Square have been arranged and most importantly dance groups across the United States and Canada are gathering to learn the dance program repertoire. 

Every four years, the Lithuanian Folk Dance Institute (Lietuviu Tautiniu Sokiu Institutas-LTSI), organizes a week long folk dance seminar at Camp Dainava in Manchester, Michigan for the purpose of teaching dance teachers all the dances that will be performed in the following dance festival. This year, dance teachers from Boston, Hartford, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Toronto, Hamilton, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Wisconsin, Kansas City, Seattle and Los Angeles gathered for a week in early August and danced from morning till night learning the dances chosen by the Festival’s artistic directors, Vida Brazaityte and Romas Jonusonis. Although the schedule was demanding and dance teachers lamented about aching feet and perspiring brows, the enthusiasm among the group was infectious.

The 2012 Dance Festival’s repertoire consists of twenty-six dances that were taught by various teachers during the week. Vidmantas Maciulskis, from Klaipeda University in Lithuania, was guest choreographer. Five of his original choreographed dances will be performed at the XIV Dance Festival in Boston. Upon completion of this one week vigorous training camp, teachers returned to their home towns to begin forming groups and teaching the dances. From early September, 2011 to show time in July, 2012, the dance teachers and their assembled groups will have spent hundreds of hours learning, practicing and perfecting the dance routines. More than 1000 dancers in all age groups are expected to perform and dazzle the audience.

The very first group to have registered to participate at the Dance Festival is Marguva from Pagegiai, Lithuania. This is a young veteran group of 20 dancers ages 30 to 49. Groups from Panevezys, Lithuania, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Argentina, Stockholm, Sweden, London, England as well as two newly formed groups from Florida are expected to join the ranks of groups that regularly participate.

The excitement is building far and wide! Make plans to be part of this joyous celebration of Lithuanian heritage and culture. Come to Boston! Make it a vacation or a family reunion. Don’t miss being a part of this wonderful spectacle, held for the very first time on the east coast of the United States. For more information, please check the website at or call 781-784-8491.

Article submitted by Gloria R. Adomkaitis, Member
XIV Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival Organizing Committee

Vida Brazaitis - Artistic Director

Vida has been involved with the Chicago Lithuanian Folk Dance Ensemble, Grandis, as dancer and/or ensemble teacher since 1985 and has participated in the VI - XIII Folk Dance Festivals in North America and the folk dance festivals in Lithuania in 1994, 2003 and 2007. She is also a member of the Board of the Lithuanian Folk Dance Institute.

Lithuanian folk dancing is Vida’s greatest passion in life. For “Grandis’” 40th anniversary program she wrote: “Dance is a celebration of the human spirit, an art that transcends the boundaries of language, age, and culture. Folk dancing is a form of social dancing that has become part of the customs and traditions of a people… In this great nation that we call a melting pot – where people from many lands have come together and formed a unified culture – the Lithuanian community has preserved old traditions and the Lithuanian language of its heritage.” Preserving and promoting the rich history and heritage of the Lithuanian people through the medium of dance has become Vida’s mission. She takes tremendous pride in seeing a simple dance write-up become a folk art masterpiece of extraordinary beauty.

Although Vida’s passion is folk dancing, she also devotes time to the Lithuanian Scout Association, the Lithuanian-American Community, Lemont, IL chapter, Lithuanian language school, and Vydunas Youth Fund.

As artistic director, Vida is responsible for preparing the festival’s program, dance descriptions, music recordings and the training of dance teachers.



Planning the XIV Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival is a job of monumental proportions undertaken by a group of dedicated individuals committed to fostering the love and appreciation of Lithuanian folk dancing in young and old alike. If you have had the privilege of witnessing a festival in the past, you already know what a splendid demonstration of Lithuanian pride the festival really is. If you are planning to attend your first festival in Boston next year, you will be treated to a superbly executed festival with every detail perfected.

Perhaps the most daunting job in planning the festival is that of artistic director. The XIV Folk Dance Festival is astoundingly fortunate to have two creative and dynamic artistic directors in the persons of Vida Brazaityte from Chicago, Illinois and Romas Jonusonis from Toronto, Canada. These two talented individuals have already been meeting for over a year and have designed a dance program that will enthrall each of us. Their vision will produce a spectacle of music and dance that will be long remembered. Start making plans to come to the XIV Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival in Boston next July. More information is available at the festival website: or You may email any questions to or call 781-784-8491.

In the meantime, please read further to get acquainted with the festival’s artistic directors.