Dancing old Icelandic

At the department of performing arts of the Vilniaus Kolegija the novel idea of mixing old Lithuanian folk music and the even older Icelandic Edda lyrics was born in 2018. The plan was to create dances at the faculty of performing arts and creative technology, that was to be displayed with the songs at the folk music festival in Siglufjörður in northern Iceland in 2020. The college applied for funding from Nordplus Nordic Languages, in cooperation with the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, the Music school of Tröllaskagi, northern Iceland, Vilnius University and the Folk Music Festival.

By Dóra Stefánsdóttir, administrator for Nordplus, Nordic Languages.

Gunnsteinn Ólafsson, the artistic director of the music festival went to Vilnius in 2019 to work with the college in selecting the songs to be used and adapting them to the old lyrics. In 2020 he started working with the students in learning the old language of the Edda. He just managed to return to Iceland before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which made any attempts by the students of going to Iceland that year completely impossible. However, they did not give up. With their teachers, they continued working on the music and dances and created this video which was displayed at the festival. It is a mix of Lithuanian folk songs, the constitution of the Republic of Užupis, sung in Icelandic and the old Edda texts.

Emilija Grusaite, Beatrice Tylaite, Arminas Griesius and Jorige Augustinaite

When the pandemic finally allowed a visit to Iceland was planned again, this time to Reykjavík, where four dancers and three teachers visited the Hitt húsið youth center, met with other partners in the project and with members from the University Choir of Iceland. A feast of Icelandic and Lithuanian music took place on the 20th of October and it was a pure joy to experience how well the young people from the two different nationals got along.
After the concert, the students Emilija Grusaite, Beatrice Tylaite, Jorige Augustinaite and Arminas Griesius were asked why they had chosen to learn old Icelandic, of all the languages available in the world. They agreed that it has been the novelty of the project which attracted them. They were not sure that they would ever use the language again but it had opened their eyes to a new world. They were learning current Icelandic lyrics and followed Icelandic musicians on social media. Their study programme is coming to an end quite soon and they plan to let the music and dance take them to new destinations and cultures. “Who knows where the wind will take us” says Jorige.

Watch a video from the project