Thoughts From A Young Artist: Grėtė Šmitaitė

By Ira Seidenstein

March 24, 2022


Followed by Grėtė Šmitaitė’s reply to two questions



“According to Kandinsky, every artist has a threefold responsibility, which is (1) to exercise the talent he has—to express the inner necessity (italics mine) within him, (2) like every person, by actions, feelings, and thoughts to create a spiritual atmosphere, and (3) to use his artistic-ability specifically to shape that spiritual atmosphere: “Painting is an art, and art is not vague production, transitory and isolated, but a power which must be directed to the improvement and refinement of the human soul.” (Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Wassilli Kandinsky, 1910) Sourav Roy – Second Semester Term Paper Post Graduate Diploma Course in Modern and Contemporary Indian Art History: 1850-2011 Origin Analyses of Wassily Kandinsky’s Abstraction: Thoughtforms, Synesthesia and Psycho-Aesthetic Theorie  

Kandinsky’s art and ideas are primary inspirations for my work.



It is an exception that I would ask anyone in the middle of a project to contribute a private conversation into a public format. On the other hand for my website I asked those who wanted to become an ‘official’ I.S.A.A.C. Associate to contribute a statement about our work together.

Additionally, after I directed the play Antony & Cleopatra in 2013, I asked if any of the actors would like to contribute a statement about our project for my blog. That blog then became a chapter in Clown Secret.  

The artist whose text follows is Grėtė Šmitaitė. She is from Lithuania and has worked in theatre and dance in other European countries. Grėtė is 27, a graduate of a contemporary dance education. She contacted me less than one year ago to apply for the online I.S.A.A.C. Creative Mentorship. She came to find out about my work via the work and website of dancer /director Oona Doherty (an I.S.A.A.C. Associate). Finally, Grete started the 12 month part-time, long distance Creative Mentorship mid-2021.  

As many people, including Oona, and Grėtė, have found with my work, soon after starting; ‘something happens’ that was unforeseen by either the Participant or myself. As my books explain, I work consistently in a precarious unfolding balancing of logic and intuition. Kandinsky’s thoughts about the art of creation ring true in my experience.

The Creative Mentorship is unique to each Participant. Like my workshops, and when I direct; ‘something unplanned begins’. This is a norm in creative work just as it is in sailing on an ocean voyage. Even if the waters have been travelled before, the journey will be unique. It must proceed according to the surrounding conditions which meet with one’s internal abilities.  

In her most recent scheduled report Grėtė also submitted a short video based on; our dialogue, and her various projects thus far. In the video I saw clear signs of a breakthrough, I asked Grėtė to please describe her process that had led to her work-in-process video. Additionally, I asked a separate question as I often do to check-in to see how the Participant is doing generally because life and art meld in most cases. In the current situation as Grėtė lives in one of the Baltic Nations I also asked how are things for her with regards to the unfolding crisis.


Grėtė Šmitaitė’s reply to two questions: Process; and, Crisis

__________ PROCESS

Dear Ira, Thanks.   On the process: When I could access the studio: I trained and tried doing short explorations of characters. Since autumn. They did not connect. It was hard to really do it. I changed the characters or tasks many times. I was not patient. But there were things that were coming back and that felt strong.   When I could not go to studio/traveled: I was writing. I doubted a lot. But things were also getting clear.   It was important in the last months to watch through works of other artists (I did presentations of some artists’ whole life’s of work). I was inspired to do this by you and the way you write the blog and made the path of honor exercises.  

Watching through works of other artists helped me to see where they started – even if now their works are huge productions, they also started from small things, dancing on songs, speaking their need. I saw that. What I felt is that for example Doris’ work at start was simple, yet, very clear what she does, what she wants to say. I got inspired to be clear and loosen fear to be too simple. A phrase of Doris helped me from our conversation: “I look for things in each person, where the person rides one’s pleasure. WHere there is no question”. Also another choreographer DD Dorvilier in conversation said “I also doubt. I also fear. I also feel the work is shit. Yet, I really encourage you to dance and find something in there that really makes you curious and, then, do it again and again and again. When it loses sense, look again, do it again.” She also said “get to know the dance as good as you can.” I really got FULL DESIRE to know what I do precisely.  

It gave support that now I meet this group of people (6 other young artists) for the “unending research” platform. I prepare tasks for them. Watch what they do. Mainly I feel more useful for others than myself, while creating. Because being with others, helping them i dont doubt, I am courageous. Once I realize that – I try to consciously be courageous also when alone.

Yet, I feel, to be part of the group and share motivations and fears and needs for creating dances, performances HELPS CRAZY MUCH. With this group I can also dare to challenge myself. Like, starting working together, I gave myself a challenge and shared with them I give myself this challenge – to speak clearly and speak thinking about the listener so that the person can really understand what I say. Sometimes I make what I say not clear for this reason: I lack courage to say what I mean. So I make it unclear. But I am realizing I have to just dare to be clear. And, then, only, then, can I see what it is and, then, when needed, I will change. Otherwise, I also can’t change. It is always just swimming around ideas. And also I am motivated not to own ideas. But really share and try to work honestly.

So, meeting a group of artists once a week for some sharings, really works as a support for me.   As well as to write to you.   It also helped that I went to meet artists and producers with whom I will show the solo in August. I felt I had to concentrate and speak clearly to explain to them what I want to do. They listened with respect and so I felt a lot motivated to work. I was afraid to be the youngest artist showing work. And that they respected me, gave me a lot of wish of like “okay, if you trust me, I also want to trust and do it as best as I can”.  

The next day after this meeting the war started. And so I felt: there is no doubt. If I dance, I must really go for it. So I wrote the script with 7 scenes and started working the same day.   I started from accessing the need to dance and the wish to dance to “break the walls of the theater”, to create a transformation in myself, in the room, in the audience.  

I was in some next days in the studio. Somehow then I already had a list of the characters of the first scene. It became clear through time that the monster in scene 1 is not some rough man. The monster are the characters that violate that reside in me. So I was going one by one through them. It took very little time to know who they are – to write this list. It was automatic. In studio I was seeing what also makes sense in space – how can I enter a character and also create the change in the room. I was doing it, filming, watching the video. Doing it again.  

A week later in another studio I came back to the same characters. I did them one by one. At the end I wanted to film what I do. I did what I know that I do, then, came some people and I wanted to show off in front of them and thought I am doing “cool stuff”. I was ashamed to do what I needed to do because I thought it is not cool. Then, I watched the record and realized really this thing you were telling me. Where I knew what I do and WHO I AM it was interesting to watch. When I did not know what I do and tried being cool – was boring. The next day I came to the studio. I was very lazy. Yet, I went through each character and filmed the record I sent you.  

I got desire to know WHO I AM; WHAT AFFECT I DO TO THE ROOM; KNOW HOW I USE MY BODY for delivering each part of the choreography. And this makes it super interesting.   PREPARATION IN STUDIO I did your training. I did some impros from the 7 solos. I realized it is better to do less but with real engagement. EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT, WHEN I DO IT FOR REAL. I don’t know how to explain what I need to do so that it is real. But it is about really doing it, not fooling myself and noeone else, not pretending that I am doing. It is what you say with “add a detail, add another detail, make it more real”.

I did MB (body and mind / muscle and bone training) from Body Weather I did 15 shapes exercise from Body Weather I did an exercise from Mary Overlie: one on close-far-infinite space, one on shape. I seeked to find this zone where there is no question to dance When I feel the motivation to dance floods me, go with it and stay aware of what I am doing, remember it, repeat it.   FIXING WORK My goal was to make 1 minute/day.

Only on day 1 I managed. I never managed but I seeked for it everyday I would come to the studio. I was fixing on red hot chilly peppers song “cant stop” Only at the very end I realized if I fixit my action on the song, I need to adapt to its length and I need to extend what I do just because of the song is longer than the choreography.

Then, I thought about doing it A in silence B work with my voice C make a soundtrack with help of a musician, explain him the mood I need. Yet, probably, do it at a later stage of working not yet. I want to start from silence and my voice.   SIMULTANEOUSLY as studio I was writing the description. Last week. I would work in studio 2 hours. And then 2 hours write. I agreed with myself that I will look through all my notes, extract what makes sense and write on that base. Somehow to take time like this was interesting.

I wrote the description really from what I want to see on stage. And that was a helpful process. One day I came to studio but had crazy amount of thoughts on description, started writing. Later looked at it – it was not very new.. So, I realized mainly I have to say what I do and do exactly that. And be safe that for another task there will be a separate time. I also understood it is very important to not try to “be a good student”, formally. But give myself the basic need – food, sleep, walk. Not to plan the whole day but 1 task at the same time. Max 3 things to do /day. Otherwise, I always think future and get very nervous. So to be simple, to relax and let myself be curious to really do the work feeling I want to do it. It mainly helps for me to come to the studio and start with your exercises. That to start I dont need to think too much and I can just connect to the joy of moving. And it helps to not do exercises for more than an hour. Later I get vague. Hour 2 is better to explore and keep on getting more precise/repeat/fix.

Although, sometimes I cant get to this point and I spend the whole studio time “training” doing your or other tasks. And, it might be that sometimes that is what I need to do.  TEXTS I was reading some things while preparing this, like Judith Butler, and how defining oneself and aiming to stick to this definition can become violence. It is something I felt through life before starting to read. And how fear gives birth to violence. I was not using it directly. Rather some texts became part of my thinking (mostly now the texts I read in September and earlier).

Also, I realized some things through living last year. I think this show I am preparing is on the fear to love. And I got to know my fear to love during the last month, when I met my current partner. I know I am always dealing with this fear and I am getting to know it. To work with it on stage is not the same kind of work. But I feel not afraid to think about it. I really desire to understand more about the fear to love and the fear that gives birth to violence. And I start from myself. Or I imagine myself in different situations. I imagine myself being someone that kills others because of one’s own fear or someone that is super rude trying to protect one’s fragility. These people are part of me. Even if I before do not know that they are there, they are there.

And I am getting to know them. And I am very curious about how “the self” transforms, how one faces oneself – what does it mean. And I am really curious about mimicking. I really feel like watching animals and birds and different people and plants and mimicking them. I do that at times just from desire. And, then, I select those that connect to the scene of the script that I wrote / that can help to say what I want to say / that help the material that was before to get richer. Sometimes I mimic other performers. And only realize the source that it is from (where I saw it) later.  

I realize, when you gave the exercise of “growing as a tree” I thought it is too direct. But. Nah. Doing things like this helps. And I have no clue why I fear to be direct.   Okay, that’s it for now. Ira, shall I try to make this text small and really extract things into working strategies? For now I keep it in the shape of thoughts coming.



VOLUNTEERING I offered to work with people of Ukraine that come to Lithuania and Switzerland to give movement classes that could help to connect with oneself and other people and new environment. I really want to do this. But this is too early. Switzerland, though, said that in around 3 months we could start. Lets see. And, then, I just wrote that I can also do other things, just anything needed but I have not received their answer yet. In parents house Lithuania we host a Ukrainian mother and daughter. Daughter is 6 years old. She goes to shool with my small sister (8 years old). That I am happy about and want to help them, once I am back in LT (middle april). My room in Lithuania I offered for program for Ukrainian artists. But they did not launch this yet. Also artists that I know from there – stay. I felt good in Lithuania during the war because it felt like everyone care. They dont want the war to come to Lithuania so people get brave and do what they can to support Ukraine and it s the main topic. Last weeks I am in Switzerland. It is hard here. Because some people ask me, if my parents want to be part of Russia. I explain them clearly about the deportations and tortures and destroyed culture and history of my ancestors and try to do it calmly and with empathy also to them. Some don’t want to hear it, I feel. I feel they want to be comfortable here and just speak in abstractions. Which I also understand and know i just need to stay clear and face them and not become insensitive and uncaring. But it s hard to be with such persons. I get home and cry. But it goes away. To speak with people from home helps. And I try to listen to those that know the history of war and that look at it practically. I am thinking to be part of some organization in Lituania that prepares the country for war and work with informational war and work with all things that threaten the country. I also understood I need to be physically fit and ready to feel okay in this situation. So I do that. And also go for walks to relax. And, I am collecting interviews from people that say important/encouraging information about the current situation so that to share it in my environment. I am at the start of this. Everyday I want to give some time for it.  

So, yes, locally, in Lithuania – mainly people are helping: donating to Ukraine, welcoming refugees, finding things they need, places to sleep, picking them up from the wall. Some people go to take part in the war directly in Ukraine or ones with a lot of experience go to teach civilians of Ukraine that want to now defend their country.   Crisis – basically fuel is getting more expensive. It is not important now and people of my environment are not concerned about it. The important thing is not to let that become the priority, I also feel. Because Russian propaganda is trying to write articles that Lithuanians are living hard because of the sanctions for Russia and they shall let the sanctions go. But this is no at all what my environment in Lithuania thinks.

My grandparents lived through really hard times. Current situation is incomparable. We can get more in a saving mode and live with the change in economy. It is now important to remain living in a free democratic country. To fight the informational war. And, yes, sure to learn to prepare ourselves for possible physical attacks, learn to be stable, learn to protect our families and do what we can to keep the country free.

Warmly, Grėtė  

Regards from Ira Seidenstein, PhD. If you know others who may relate to my Blogs and work please Share. for blog, Creative Mentorship. The pair of books: Clown Secret; and, Quantum Theatre: Slapstick to Shakespeare are available as Print-On-Demand via any independent bookseller; and via all major online booksellers. Also both books are available in minutes via Kindle.

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Ira Seidenstein