CULTURAL DANCE Dancers with Rescue Cambodia perform a traditional dance during a performance in Summerland. The dancers are on tour throughout Canada and parts of the United State until the end of October. (John Arendt/Summerland Review)

Cambodian dancers perform on Canadian tour

Young dancers from Rescue Cambodia visiting communities throughout North America this fall

Young dancers from an orphanage in Cambodia performed traditional and modern dances in Summerland during a North American tour.

The team of dancers from Rescue Cambodia were at Summerland Alliance Church on Sept. 12 as a part of their tour.

The show is titled The Jouney: A Tale of Hope. There are 16 dancers and four support people on tour.

In 2003, Marie Ens, a retired Canadian missionary to Cambodia founded Rescue Cambodia to help those affected by the AIDS crisis.

At that time, up to three per cent of the population of Cambodia was affected. To provide help, 10 orphan homes were built, housing 100 children.

This year, Rescue Cambodia has 544 children, adults coping with AIDS and grandparents in its care.

“In principle, we don’t receive the children just because they’re poor,” Ens said. “We receive them because their mothers have died.”

Ens, now 84, continues to operate Rescue Cambodia. She is the only non-Cambodian with the organization.

Many of the dances are traditional or cultural dances from Cambodia. These include a traditional blessing dance and dances featuring themes of fishing, the praying mantis, coconut shells and the traditional krama scarf.

Also included is a country line dance, with the dancers wearing plaid shirts and cowboy hats, and dancing to a song by Canadian country musician Paul Brandt.

The line dance was first performed several years ago as a one-time experiment, but it was so well received that the dancers now include a line dance number every year.

But Ens said the orphanage works to keep a Cambodian cultural focus.

“We want our children to be proud that they’re Cambodian,” she said. “We don’t want them to wish they were western.”

The dancers are performing at communities throughout Canada and parts of the United States until the end of October.

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