Lithuanian Culture Institute
Dance, Lithuanian Culture Guide

Birutė Letukaitė

“Kaunas Zoo”. Photo by Dmitrijus Matvejevas

The dancer, choreographer and dance teacher Birutė Letukaitė (b. 1953) is the founder and leader of the first Lithuanian contemporary dance theatre, the Kaunas City Dance Theatre Aura, which has been going strong for over three decades. Aura have put on numerous performances in Lithuania and toured in over 30 other countries. Some of the best contemporary dance performers in Lithuania have been trained at the dance studio that is part of the theatre.

Letukaitė came to dance from artistic gymnastics and danced for ten years as part of the expressionist dance collective Sonata. Although she graduated from Vilnius University evening studies faculty in Kaunas in 1978 with a degree in librarianship and worked in that field for ten years, she was continuously improving her dance technique and art knowledge at international seminars in Germany, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Belarus, Poland and the UK.

Her productions for the Aura dance theatre, Extremum Mobile (2001) and Aseptic Zone or Lithuanian Songs (Aseptinė zona arba lietuviškos sutartinės, 2003), have been performed in over 20 countries and won the main prizes at international festivals in Vitebsk (Belarus) and Kalisz (Poland). Letukaitė’s production Aseptic Zone… won a Golden Cross of the Stage award. In 2008, the choreographer received the Lithuanian Government’s Award for Culture and Arts, and in 2013, a second Golden Cross of the Stage, this time for her long-term contribution to contemporary dance in Lithuania. That same year, Letukaitė received the Culture and Art Prize of Kaunas City. The creative work of the Aura dance theatre has been recognised by over 50 municipal, national and international awards.

Letukaitė actively explores various aspects and problematic issues of dance, drives an intense creative practice, not only vigorously creates dance performances for the Kaunas dance theatre Aura, but also enthusiastically contributing to other creative initiatives and joint projects with Lithuanian and foreign artists. She has also been running the annual international dance festival Aura in Kaunas that she established in 1989.

The latest performance created for Letukaitė’s dance theatre Aura, Kaunas Zoo (2019), glows with luxury. It examines the themes of beauty, the cult of fashion, the pursuit of luxury, and sharply ridicules vanity. The golden floor covering of the stage turns into a shimmering mirror and a swamp swaying with gold. Through grotesque solos, duets and mass scenes, the multinational, technical troupe of Aura, each wearing extravagant gold-coloured costumes created by Kristina Čyžiūtė, convey the caricature of the so-called elite chasing party culture and luxury, which is accentuated by the improvisational music group Kaunas Zoo, who energetically create the musical background for the vanity fair on the stage.