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Nemunas and Children of Brazil

By Genovaité Breichmaniené

Translated and abridged by Irena Ross

           My lifelong experience in the realm of Lithuanian folk dance has revelated what a tenacious bond to Lithuanian heritage folk dancing tends to estabilish. I am thinking in particular of my person contact with the young adult Brazilians of Lithuanian heritage and the legacy of their devoted pastor, the Rer. J. Kydikas, back in 1971 with barely six months remaining to prepare for the Sixth Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival in Chicago. Although already a septuagenarian at the time, Father Kydikas attended the dance instructors course in the USA in order to learn and pass on the dances selected for the festival to his group of young Brazilians.

           Upon returning home, Father Kydikas realized he needed more help in this initial attempt in order to get the group properly prepared. Consequently, he persuaded me to travel to Brazil to do some concentrated teaching of the scheduled dances. The dance "folk" Father Kydikas had brought together were 40 predominantly third-generation Brazilians whose grandparents had immigrated from Lithuania. These potential dancers did not speak Lithuanian. It was fortunate that one among them was a recent immigrant fluent in both Lithuanian and Portuguese. With the constant help of this translator, we worked very diligent and spent long hours together. All my students proved to be enthusiastic and committed.

           One evening I suggested to them that in addition to dancing Lithuanian folk dances they learn to speak Lithuanian. They retorted that they were "children of Brazil". To my delight, however, they began to extend our pratice evenings by singing in admirable Lithuanian the many songs they had learned so well through the tutelage of their priest.

           Towards the end of my visit to Brazil, we decided to put on a concert for the dancers' families and friends. This concert gave them a chance to show off their ability to go America and be na active ingredient in the festival. They decided to call their group "Nemunas".

           To everyone's joy, Father Kydikas' persistence paid off. The "Nemunas" dancers were able to integrace themselves seamlessly among 2000 dancers at the sixth festival. After the festival, they did some touring which include a visit to Canada. They returned to Brazil brimming with experiences and memories.

           In subsequent festival – four years apart – I had the pleasure of seeing some of the former Brazilian dancers in charge of "Nemunas" and teaching future generations, new faces. Since the sixth festival, "Nemunas" dancers, turned out in attractive Lithuanian folk costumes, have performed proudly in each one that followed. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I will when they take their designated position on the dance floor once more at the 11th Lituanian Folk Dance Festival.


Enthusiastic new folk dancers is Sao Paulo, winter of 1971-1972

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