Neris dance group
Neris is back!
If you like to dance and want to learn something about traditional Lithuanian folk dances, then Pittsburgh’s Neris Lithuanian Dance Group encourages you to join them for some fun and exercise. Keeping with the image of Pittsburgh as the city of three rivers, the group is named after the river Neris, a major tributary in Lithuania. The dancers are a mix of younger and older members of Pittsburgh’s Lithuanian community. Neris also include members of other nationalities who enjoy the camaraderie of the group and the beauty of the Lithuanian dances.
We will be participating in the rescheduled Sokiu Svente in Philadelphia on August 8, 2021. We welcome anyone who wishes to join our Pagyvenusiu (Old Timers) group to come to one of the upcoming practices once they resume in early 2021.
The group Neris was formed in December 1965 and first performed at the Lithuanian Independence Day Celebration on February 16, 1966. The group was comprised of 18 dancers from the Pittsburgh area. Mrs. Aldona Grina taught the group and Mr. Vito Yucius was the accordion accompanist.
Within the first 2 years, the group’s performances included an appearance on KDKA TV, the Pittsburgh Folk Festival, Lithuanian Club Banquet, Lithuanian Catholic Alliance Convention at the Hilton Hotel, John Kane Hospital, Echoes of Lithuania Radio Program Picnic, several performances at the University of Pittsburgh, and the South Park Allegheny County Fair. The tradition has continued throughout the years with numerous local performances as well as performances in Chicago, Toronto, Cleveland, and Baltimore.
The group performed annually up until 2011 at the Pittsburgh Folk Festival, one of the oldest and largest festivals of its kind. Neris has participated in 6 Sokiu Svente Festivals, a Lithuanian festival held every 4 years uniting approximately 2,000 dancers from around the world celebrating Lithuanian heritage. Former teachers also include Dana Miselis and Marlene Aglinskaite-Bridson. Janet Zusinaite-Ruperto, who joined the group as a child, had the longest tenure as director, having taught from 1982 to 2006. A children’s group was added in 1995 and was comprised of 13 dancers age 6-12. Many were the children of current or former Neris dancers. Connie Miskyte-Zatek lead the children’s group.
From 1995 to 2006, public performances included appearances by both groups. In its later years, there were about 24 dancers in the combined groups. Although membership changed through the years, it was not uncommon for dancers to stay with the group for 10, 20, or more years. In May of 2006, Neris celebrated its 40th anniversary. A grand performance took place at the Pittsburgh Folk Festival in addition to a special reunion celebration following the performance. The folk music group Saule from Lithuania provided the music for both the Folk Festival performance and the reunion. Following the retirement of longtime instructor, Janet Zusinas Ruperto after the 2006 performance, the group was then led by John Baltrus for 3 years and then Connie Zatek for 2 years. After a long hiatus, the group is being reorganized with mostly senior dancers to participate in the 2021 Sokiu Svente in Philadelphia.