You might be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at the suggestion that the country of Lithuania is a hotbed of contemporary street dance styles and hip hop culture. The southernmost Baltic state isn’t well-known for it’s dance culture, but times are changing.
Dancers Kamilė Davidonytė and Greta Lukošiūtė are at the forefront of Lithuania’s changing cultural landscape and are helping shape the future of dance in cities such as the capital Vilnius, alongside the country’s first urban dance company Low Air Urban Dance.
Both Greta and Kamilė also teach and were themselves students at the well established Roots dance studio in Vilnius, where students practise a variety of disciplines and styles through regular workshops, and go on to compete in battles and dance events hosted by the studio.
We found out about the two dancers – who are also best friends – through a post on Facebook which linked to video clips of them dancing in urban areas around Vilnius. Now living in London we met with Kamile in August and were super-excited when she agreed to work with Galaxians and BBC director Clare Tavernor on the video for our new single ‘How Do U Feel?’ We spoke to her ahead of the release of the video and single this month.
I’d like to ask you about where you’re from. What was life like growing up in Lithuania? What’s the dance culture like there, in general?
Lithuania was definitely a nice place to be brought up in as it is very family orientated. We are all very close because I’ve always had my relatives around me starting from very young age. I would say I was kind of living like a gypsy and was the first baby in my generation. Everyone just couldn’t get enough of me.
As the country is very small, the dance culture is pretty narrow. We have some world-known dance collectives but dancing is not very popular field to be in.
What was the spark that fuelled your interest in dance?
Music first. Reggae then hip hop mostly. Music that I was listening by the time that I started dancing was the music that had the rhythmical base line which moves you in that hip hop way.
I was one of the first wave of teenagers who got really into hip hop, electro, and breaking. I think that was a really exciting time for young kids in the UK. Do you get a sense of the same excitement from young people you work with and teach?
Kids that I teach are always extremely passionate about what they are doing, which is really exciting for me. Seeing the excitement and fire in their eyes helps drive my passion for teaching.
Do you have any singular dance influences – particular dancers or people who you take inspiration from?
I get influenced by many dancers and non-dancers. Definitely couldn’t name them all as there are a lot. I do have few favourites who always leaves me with my mouth open. Jaygee and Batalla in particular.
Like other art forms, it seems that modern dance incorporates many styles that crossover? Do you think that benefits the art form itself, and encourages greater freedom?
It’s always good to be versatile and being able to achieve that gives you tools to build up your confidence as a dancer. I think it’s important to make make sure that you’re not a jack of all trades though. Dancers are informed by a lot of styles and there is a greater level of style crossover now. But we also incorporate things that aren’t necessarily or specifically dance movements, like a certain attitude or approach.
“Low Air is Lithuania’s first urban dance company, combining contemporary and street dance forms such as popping and locking and breakdancing, and challenging the notion of what “belongs on stage.” The founders and choreographers are Laurynas Žakevičius and Airida Gudaitė, artistic collaborators and real-life couple. Gudaitė is a professionally trained dancer with a background ranging from classical ballet to jazz, gaga, and hip-hop, making her the ultimate threat in a dance battle. Her partner Žakevičius worked in the juvenile system using urban dance with children in foster care.”
Sarah Holcman TIME OUT
How do you create a balance between technique and good ideas? Do you think they are equally important?
Oh that’s a very hard question. They are both equally important so if you manage to balance them both, I guess that would be the perfect combination.
You and your friend / fellow dancer Greta teach people to dance? Tell me a little about that?
Oh yes! We both love to teach. I just love seeing people getting better or being able to do things that were extremely hard for them. I recently moved to London and am really excited about teaching in the UK.
In your video clips for Roots you look like you’re both having a lot of fun dancing together? How long have you been friends?
We have been best friends for over six years. I guess the best part of it is being able to travel with my best friend and dance with her. Not many people get to share their passion with their beloved ones.
You both have different styles, which is one of the things I really like about watching your clips. Do you learn from each other and share ideas regularly?
Definitely yes, because we spend so much time together. It would be very difficult not to get influenced by each other.
Your performances are really fluid-looking. How do you choreograph your ideas?
Most of the time it’s freestyle. We barely choreograph anything. Unless it is a special showcase then our teacher does the choreography.
What are your plans and hopes for the future?
Just to be as happy as possible with myself and always remind myself that I am enough and everything else will come if I work hard.