A few weeks ago, Ruta Leltye from Joimove in Lithuania, popped over to Glasgow to spend some time with our founder, Selen Yilmaz. She got the chance to interview Ruta and find out all about her and what makes her tick.
What’s your relationship to dancing?
I think I have dancing in the blood. From as young as 5 years old I was expressing myself through dance and movement, anywhere and everywhere. Not only was I dancing, but I would put on shows with people and props. I just loved it. My parents took it as a sign and I started ballet.
And was dance an important part of your life before you joined Joimove?
I graduated with a degree in psychology from university but dance was always an important part of my life, even during my studies.
Even aside from teaching dance, which I continued to do, I believe my educational trajectory was always guided by my love of dance. Not only did I go into psychology because I was fascinated by the human mind, the physical body and the soul, which are of course important to dance, but my Masters thesis focused on the need to understand the characteristics of successful professional dancers. Even after my Masters, with another change in direction, my focus was led, once again, by my love of psychology and dance, to the field of dance therapy.
Now that you’re a mom, how do you feel about dancing with your baby?
I just naturally do it! As a dancer, I guess the MAGIC of DANCE (as I like to call it) naturally overflowed in me when my baby was born, and I connected with my son in the language of my soul. And of course I still do it.
So you started running babywearing dance classes because you were dancing with your own baby?
Yes, I started classes, but the first thing I did was to research about babywearing, mothers, health and safety. Since moms and babies are a group with very particular needs, I wanted to make sure that whatever class I gave was beautiful, enjoyable and extraordinary, not dangerous and difficult. So, I looked for training courses since I didn’t want to re-invent the wheel. Luckily I found Joimove. It had exactly what I was looking for, and had the same outlook on dance as I had.
So you found Joimove. What did you think of the training? Was it what you were looking for?
To be honest I wanted to use more complex choreography routines, like the ones I was doing with my own baby. But, I know that not all mothers, fathers or carers have the same level of control over their body, or their baby, as I do as a dancer. So it was, of course, right that I learned the basics and was reminded to keep things a bit simpler and safe for everyone.
What was the biggest bit of knowledge you gained from the course?
The main benefit of the training for me was figuring out how to use my experience as a professional dancer for my new group of students – mothers and babies. They are certainly not like the students, children, professional dancers, schools and nurseries I’ve taught before, as they have very definite and varying needs. So, I had quite a learning curve. I had to figure everything out – from how to communicate through babywearing dance and how gentle I should be, to what I should focus on in my classes, through to what types of moves I should avoid.
But overall, no matter the dancer or their needs, I was reminded that the biggest thing to focus on in any class has to be on the need to build relationships and bonding through dance. I kept Joimove’s manifesto that dance is a tool for communication, not focus to get fit!
What about the difficulties of using baby carriers during dance?
Yes, that too was something I was unfamiliar with. I had to learn about carrier safety in dance, and that not all movements are suitable for babywearing dance even with ergonomically correct carriers.
I remember you were asking during your training about using different moves and approaches for self expression. Do you have a chance to use this practice in your classes?
I certainly do! I focus my classes on creating a two-way communication channel between parent and child, with baby as a partner, not subordinate. Using specific routines and movements that help parents raise specific emotions, we create powerful connections between dancer, babies and the other participants.
Yes, not just between dancer and partner, but with everyone around as well. We are all sharing this powerful tool together! It’s important to see that dance is more than just ourselves, it’s a way to elicit emotions, and a communication tool for babies who cannot yet speak. But, it’s a communication method that stay with them for the rest of their lives, not just that moment.
So in my classes we create a positive atmosphere where we enjoy movements and create a practice that can be done throughout our own, and our babies’ lives.
What are your plans for the next year in Joimove Lithuania?
What I’d really like to do is to connect with more babywearing and Attachment Parenting communities in Lithuania so I can share the benefits of babywearing dance. I want to spread the message about babywearing dance far and wide, to help people connect and communicate with their babies and children. I want to help create sustainable happiness in our family units by the help of Joimove International.
And I’m so excited for the upcoming International Babywearing Dance Day on 21st September 2016. It’s the perfect vehicle to do this. I don’t see Joimove as a way to make a difference only now, I see it as a way to affect change for future generations. I don’t believe what I’m doing is about making our babies into dancers, I believe it’s about building self-confidence and raising our children to be positive individuals. And that’s what I’m wanting to focus on for the coming year.
I’m so proud to represent Joimove in Lithuania and am very excited and happy to be part of this amazing International community and JISBD! Thank you so much!