Previously, Lithuanian Folk dancing had been present in Baltimore since the second wave of Lithuanians began arriving as refugees and Displaced Persons (DP's) after World War 2. Usually performances were arranged with high school and college age students performing in various local venues, the most notable one being the Gwynn Oaks Amusement Park's annual summer International Festival. In 1966 the Lithuanian Dancers won the Best in Show trophy at that festival and gained notiriety for their dancing acumen. In 1967 the Lithuanian Community decided to form a permanent folk dance group named Kalvelis (the Blacksmith) based at the Lithuanian Hall in the Little Lithuania community. Over 40 dancers arrived for the first practice, and the dancers were split in half by age/size, forming a student group and a children's group.
But in 1968 discord arose among the older dancers at being managed by parents, especially by parents of the younger children. It was at this time that these older, college age students decided to break away from the Kalvelis group and form Malunas (the Windmill) in 1968, consisting of dancers of high school and college age from the Baltimore and Washington areas. With their new found freedom, Malunas changed their focus from a local community dance group to one that travelled all over the Middle Atlantic states, and created independant productions and performances, highlighted by the production of a special program of song and dance with which they toured several East Coast cities, from New York to St. Petersburg, FL.
Malunas co-existed in Baltimore with the Kalvelis group for many years, many times the groups borrowing dancers from each other or performing at events together. After the 1980 performance at the 6th Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival in Chicago, Malunas stopped active participation and existed more as an informal group of friends who were former dancers, while the Kalvelis group took the forefront in representing Baltimore at most events.
In 1985, after the Kalvelis group, now renamed Svajone, disbanded, and seeing a void in the Baltimore Lithuanian community for Lithuanian Dance groups, Danute Drazdyte-Balciuniene, one of the original founders of Malunas, invited several members of both former groups, and the Aras Veterans group, plus some new faces, into reviving Malunas as a performing group. This revival allowed Baltimore to continue having a representative group at the next six Lithuanian Folk Dance festivals in 1988 through 2008.
The group is currently taught by Rytis Grybauskas, a former dancer and instructor with both Kalvelis and Malunas, who is now teaching in the 26th year, and this year is preparing the group again for the IXth Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival in 2012 to be held in Boston.
Malunas practices at the Lithuanian Hall at Hollins and Parkin Sts. Sundays from 1:00 - 3:00, and their season is from September to June. Malunas has performed from Florida to Canada, and has concentrated mostly in the Middle Atlantic area. The group has danced at prestigious events such as Presidential Inaugurals, representing the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania at cultural events in the Washington area, and at ethnic festivals both large and small, including the yearly two day Baltimore Lithuanian Festival, currently held in Catonsville, MD in May. They have been invited as the premier group at the Richmond Internation festival, performed at Wolf Trap Farm for the Performing Arts, have been televised, including an appearance on PBS as part of a nationwide New Years eve program, and photographed for newspapers, evening TV news programs, and danced in many venues large and small including Nursing Homes, schools, weddings, etc.
If you are interested in joining Malunas, the practices are held Sunday afternoons from 1:00 to 3:00 or Friday nights from 7:30 to 9:30 (when the Hall is unavailable) at the Lithuanian Hall in Baltimore at 851 Hollins St. Call the instructor Rytis Grybauskas at 410-795-0553 for more information, or send email to email@example.com before coming. Also, come to the International Dance Festival in April!