BVilnius gets new ballet school led by prima ballerina

  • 2002-02-07
  • Ausrine Bagdonaite, VILNIUS
Leokadija Askeloviciute is one of Lithuania's most famous ballet dancers. She devoted nearly 30 years of her life to the stage and several generations of Lithuanians have admired her talent and grace.

After graduating from A. Vaganova's Academic Choreography School in St. Petersburg in 1959, Askeloviciute became a soloist at the Lithuanian Opera and Ballet Theater. But the young ballerina wasn't content to remain in the background while the most famous Lithuanian ballet dancers dominated the stage.

Askeloviciute made her impressive debut as Aurora in Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty" in February 1960.

"It was a difficult part, but I passed the test," she says.

After the debut, she remained the lead ballerina for the rest of her career.

The prima ballerina bid farewell to the stage with the same ballet in 1987. Instead of retiring, she continued her work as a tutor and led many young ballet dancers to the stage.

In the summer of 2001 she founded a ballet institute, which developed into the school of children's esthetic education, intending to popularize the art of ballet and give professional dancers the chance to improve themselves in classical ballet.

The school is oriented to giving the necessary background in ballet, music, art and drama.

"I spent 28 years as prima ballerina. Ballet is the art of youth. Long after I retired, people in the streets would ask me why I stopped dancing. It was wonderful to hear such words," said Askeloviciute.

Askeloviciute said the idea to open the school came first from her husband and son because they saw she was going mad without work.

"I left (tutoring) on Jan. 1, 2001. A year later, the ballet school was founded. I felt I had too much energy and knowledge to be wasted. Without work I was walking around like I was crazy," says the ballerina.

"During my career I danced all the leading roles. This school is the best place where I can give others my knowledge and experience."

There were and are several ballet schools in Vilnius, which are focused only on preparing professional dancers for stage careers. The couple stress that their intention was to found something different, to unite all the fields of art.

But for now, the ballet school remains Askeloviciute's primary concern.

She encourages children of all ages to attend.

"We made a mistake by saying that only 4-year-old kids and older are welcome to get this esthetic education," Askeloviciute said. "Even 20-year-olds are also welcome. Those who are in their 20s won't become ballerinas, but they will at least will gain elegance, grace and feel what classical ballet is like."

Askeloviciute is enthusiastic.

"Naturally, every child can't become a number one ballet dancer, an artist or a musician, but they will have better composure, they will behave differently. Also, if I see a star in a child, I can prepare him or her for their future career."