The ballet world in Australia, Lithuania and elsewhere overseas was saddened by the death of Janina Drazdauskaitė -
Čiunovienė (Cunova) on August 1, 2007, aged 93. Janina was an internationally recognised ballet teacher, who
continued teaching until a few weeks before her passing. She has been cited as among the ten best ballet teachers in
the world (Gretchen Ward-Warren, "The Art of Teaching Ballet. Ten Twentieth - Century Masters", University of
Florida Press 1996). One of her strengths was that she was expert in both the Russian and the Royal Academy of Dancing,
London, (RAD) methods.
A portrait of Janina Drazdauskaitė - Čiunovas
painted in Kaunas in the early 1940s
Madame Janina Cunova (as she was often called) was born in Kaunas, Lithuania. After training at the Kaunas National
Ballet School, she joined the Lithuanian Ballet Company in 1934 and took part in the companys first overseas tour to
London and Monte Carlo in 1935. In 1934 Janina married Boris Čiunovas, an original 1925 foundation member-dancer of the
Lithuanian Ballet. Towards the end of World War II the family left Lithuania and joined the Vienna State Opera Ballet
Company and, at the end of the war, joined the entertainment unit of the USA Occupation Forces. Later in Augsburg, West
Germany, with her husband Boris and sister Regina and many original Lithuanian Ballet dancers, formed a Lithuanian Dance
Company. They performed in cities throughout West Germany.
Janina with husband Boris Čiunovas in Monte Carlo
in 1935, during the Lithuanian Ballets overseas tour.
In 1949 her family came to Perth in Australia, later moving to Melbourne. She taught widely in Australia, including at
Janina teaching at the M.K Čiurlionis National Ballet School
in Vilnius in 1997
the Edouard Borovansky Academy, Ballet Victoria, the Australian Ballet School and the Victorian College of the Arts.
From 1978 the American Ballet Theatres ballet master, Jurgen Schneider, invited Janina to participate in Russian Method
University Summer Ballet Programs and Teacher- student Workshops (TE-WO) in the USA. Here she joined many internationally
acclaimed faculty and taught for many years. A sentimental journey to Lithuania in 1997 gave Janina an opportunity to
give guest classes to the M.K.Čiurlionis National Ballet School and the Lithuanian Ballet Company in Vilnius. She last
taught overseas in 1998 in Puerto Rico and as recently as 2005 she was invited to teach in Brazil, but was unable to take
up the invitation.
During Janinas 90th birthday celebrations.
The funeral service for Janina was held on August 4 at Tobin Brothers Funerals in East Burwood (Melbourne). Janina is
survived by her daughter Inga, granddaughter Ingrid and her family and her niece Ramona. It seems just when most people
in retirement took life easier, Janina continued teaching, expecting nothing less than perfection. Her contribution to
ballet was immense and a lifetime effort. She will be fondly remembered by all whose life she touched - her family, friends,
colleagues and her very many students.