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For the leader of Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) folk dance group (RSU) Ačkups this is a year rich in significant events  - Elita Treilone has celebrated a notable personal anniversary and this year she also celebrates 35 years of working at RSU. Together with her dance group Elita was also a participant at the Centenary Song and Dance Celebration. "We are like a big family – we share our joys and sorrows,” Elita emphasises, stating that she has not had a single free weekend this year.  

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How did you become the leader of Ačkups?

Years ago when I was studying dance at Jāzeps Vītols Latvian National Conservatory (now Latvian Music Academy) I was approached by the leader of the dance group Ačkups, Juris Bērziņš, who invited me to come and work as a tutor. Ačkups is my first and only workplace – from 1984 I worked as assistant and after the death of Juris Bērziņš in 1995 I became the artistic director of the ensemble. Ačkups is also the workplace of our long term accompanist Sarmīte Plaude and tutor Sanita Misika – this constitutes my team which creates the success of the dance group.

Ačkups celebrated its 65th anniversary in 2016, while 2018 is my 35th year with Ačkups,

We see Ačkups at festive occasions on the stage of the RSU Great Hall and other stages. What is the daily life of a dance group like?  

The daily life of Ačkups is difficult – we rehearse twice a week at our home base – the RSU student hostel located at Mārupes iela where we have our rehearsal room and keep our costumes. Other dance groups look at us with envy as the infrastructure there is really good and we can rehearse in a comfortable environment.  

The rehearsal starts at 19:00 and officially should end at 22:00 but in most cases we stay longer. Usually we understand that it is time to end the rehearsal only when the dancers start to worry about catching the last public transport home!

Who are the Ačkups dancers?

Currently almost 70% of Ačkups dancers are RSU students, the rest come from other universities. Usually the dancers start with Ačkups when they have reached the age of 18 – 19 and stay with us for around 10 years. Ačkups is one big family – we share our joys and sorrows, celebrate weddings and the birth of our dancers’ children. The dancers spend practically all their free time in rehearsals and concerts, this is where they make friends, fall in love, start a family. I see young people develop their personalities. The life of a dance group is a fine-tuned mechanism where each individual is unique and it is a huge challenge to join these personalities into a single ensemble. Dancing a dance, they have to feel and read each other and express the meaning of the dance in a unified breath. This is a complicated task, as it is not that difficult to teach the dance moves.

I have lived through almost three generations of dancers at Ačkups. As the majority of the dancers are medical students, only a couple of them continue dancing after graduation as work in medicine is hard and time consuming.

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How have the dancers changed over the years?

The world has changed a lot in general. Previously students had their studies and dancing, now they have to work and participate in numerous other activities. The study load of medical students is immense and the most time poor students are those who also work. I have experienced rehearsals where the dancer has come to the rehearsal after 24 hours on duty and has fallen asleep in the chair. My colleagues frequently ask, “How can you find a common language with students from RSU, as the smartest and most erudite study here?” When a student comes to rehearsals, he is no longer a medical practitioner or a lawyer but a dancer who must join in with the others.  

How does Ačkups feel at RSU? Do you like working here? 

I am a patriot of our university. I appreciate the support we have – both for the purchase of costumes, to organise trips, as we have a very active concert life in Latvia and abroad. We try to participate in at least one international festival every year and frequently we come home with prizes and awards. The furthest destinations have been Canada and South Korea and we have danced all over Europe.  

How did you prepare for the Song and Dance Festival? 

Preparations for the Centenary Song and Dance Celebrations have been very rigorous. We are proud to be among the best dance groups – we gained 4th place in the folk dance competition. For the dancers it was a competition, for the spectators a beautiful performance with 18 of the best folk dance groups in Latvia participating.

From 22 to 24 June we also took part in the Baltic Student Song and Dance Festival Gaudeamus in Tartu (Estonia).

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What have been the most interesting Ačkups projects?

Each festival is interesting and significant in some way. The performance Lec, saulīte! on the open-air stage at Mežaparks with music by Raimonds Tiguls and very unusual choreography was an unforgettable experience! At the beginning of November this year we will stage a special project for Latvia’s Centenary.

We will hold a concert in the RSU Great Hall together with the RSU mixed choir Rīga, an instrumental band and soloists, featuring music from outstanding Latvian movies, accompanied by the performance by Ačkups.

Why did you choose to link your life with dance? 

All of my life is a dance! I come from a family of musicians – my mother and grandfather were music teachers. As a child I attended music classes, was involved in gymnastics, I sang and played an instrument, I was very active. At some point I realised that above all I like movement. I went to Zvejniekciems elementary school. After graduation I studied at Riga Technical School of Culture and Education Employees and then enrolled in the Latvian State Conservatory. During my study years I danced in the folk dance group Līgo with excellent teachers  –  Māra Bajāre and Bazils Bajārs. They expressed their soul, music, mind and feelings through dance and this truly inspired me. I understood that this is something I want to achieve and I hope that I will succeed in conveying this spark of creativity given to me by Māra and Bazils on to my dancers.

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You spend practically every evening at rehearsals, weekends – at concerts! Do you have a life outside Ačkups?

I am a happy person because my work is also my hobby. I am also the leader of the dance ensemble Austris at Riga Building College and I would also be keen to lead a middle-aged dance group, however, I have no free evenings for that. Nevertheless I still have an idea to form a dance group for ex-Ačkups dancers.

My birth town – Saulkrasti  –  is important to me, I cannot think of myself without the sea and the sun. I have a wonderful family – my son, daughter, granddaughter. I spend a lot of time with them. I also try to have some free time for mushroom picking – that is how I relax and what I enjoy.