Vilia Putrius has had an incredible career. For 11 seasons, she was a leading dancer for Festival Ballet Providence. At the end of last season, she retired as a dancer, but now she’s back to teach the newest crop of promising talent as the new School Director.
Born in Lithuania to air gymnasts who were part of a traveling circus, Putrius originally wanted to follow in their footsteps. They encouraged her to find a different path, one closer to the ground. While her family was traveling in Russia, dancers from the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre noticed her talent and encouraged her to take up professional ballet and audition at a school to improve her skill, so that’s exactly what she did.
She was accepted to the National M. K. Čiurlionis School of Art in Lithuania, where she met her husband, Mindaugas Bauzys, and after graduating, joined the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre where she danced for five years.
Putrius and her husband were invited to join Ballet Arlington in Texas, before moving to a Boston company, and finally settling in Rhode Island at Festival Ballet.
Most people don’t realize that ballerinas must not only be accomplished, disciplined dance experts, but actors as well. They have to convey the emotions of each character they portray, convincing the audience that they are that character. Putrius enjoys these roles the most, where she can act and be dramatic. Some of her favorites have been the titular character from Giselle and Juliet from Romeo and Juliet.
If there’s one thing people know about Rhode Island’s ballet scene, it’s that Festival Ballet puts on a production of The Nutcracker every Christmas season at Providence Performing Arts Center. The small children that play angels, mice, and soldiers are all Putrius’s students, and she’s very excited to see them perform.
“The Nutcracker is such a beautiful tradition and leading the children’s cast is a special part of this job, and also a huge responsibility,” says Putrius. “I know the children are thrilled for the experience of performing in this production at PPAC alongside the professional company. It’s a long process, but I’m looking forward to the challenge and to see these children shine on stage.”
The children themselves go through a rigorous audition process, and are cast in their roles as early as September. They adhere to a strict schedule and must be at every rehearsal. Putrius says this can be one of the most difficult things about ballet for children of such a young age – the commitment to the craft and the necessary discipline.
“Everyone has their own challenges,” she says. “But work always wins. I’ve seen very talented kids that didn’t work their hardest, and they didn’t make it. Children have to be very committed, which can be tough. Be there every class, work really hard, and dream about it, and it will happen!”
When she’s not spending countless hours practicing, rehearsing, and teaching the 150 students enrolled in the school, Putrius enjoys music and plays guitar and piano. She also has a small business selling custom knitted dancewear called Arleo Wear, where she creates both made-to-order and ready-to-wear dance garments and accessories.
Putrius has been on stage for her entire career, but now she’s behind the scenes, and things are a little different.
“For me, I think it will be interesting to see how all of this will feel from the other side,” she says. “I won’t be dancing on stage, but I will be working together with Mihailo Djuric, our Artistic Director, and I will be learning a lot, so I’m looking forward to that!”