International Folk Dance Ensemble is excited to share the joy of dance as they travel in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam this summer. The group will have the opportunity to embrace the different cultures of Southeast Asia as they visit historic sites, participate in dance exchanges, raise money for local humanitarian needs, and present their show Journey.
The enthusiasm of the ensemble is tangible. “I’m excited to go,” dancer Christian Halversen says. “We so often share all the different tastes of the world with domestic residents. Sharing our dancing with the people of Southeast Asia will be thrilling.” Echoing Halversen, dancer Brandon Carter says, “Dance brings me joy, and by sharing that gift, the joy increases. I can’t wait to feel that joy by dancing for the peoples of Southeast Asia.”
The ensemble’s first stop on tour will be in Thailand, where they will work with Rotary clubs, charity foundations, and friends to fundraise for local needs. The ensemble will also perform in the Thailand Cultural Center in Bangkok. Artist manager RexBarrington says, “We will be performing for wonderful friends who are centered on carrying out meaningful projects for their communities.”
Next, Folk Dance Ensemble will visit Cambodia. The group will participate in a conference of almost 500 young single adults for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Later the group will visit many beautiful sites, including Angkor Thom, a Khmer temple built in the late 12th century. They will also raise funds for a local women’s hospital through the Tabitha Foundation. “That particular endeavor is a wonderful way to connect with the community and help with local needs,” says artistic director Jeanette Geslison.
For their final stop, the ensemble will travel to Vietnam, where they will participate in cultural exchanges with local dance schools and universities. During these exchanges, the ensemble will teach and share their heritage as well as learn from the students about Vietnamese customs, music, and dance. “Sharing a dance from your culture is like sharing a piece of yourself,” says dancer Amanda Alley. “Dance allows us to communicate with people without [speaking a] language, and it always creates a special bond.”
As they tour throughout Southeast Asia, the ensemble is eager to show their appreciation for Indonesian culture in their new number, “Saman,” in which the dancers sit in a long line and create rhythms with their hands. Originating from the Gayo people of Aceh Province and traditionally enacted at national and religious celebrations, saman unifies Indonesian villages as the people exchange renditions with one another. Dancer Heidy Comish says, “‘Saman’ is very different from anything else that we perform. I love that we get to perform this Indonesian number for the people of Southeast Asia to show them that we care about all of the [world’s customs] and are doing our very best to represent them well.”
In addition to spreading joy to the people they meet on tour, the ensemble has great power to transform the lives of its own members. “Being on International Folk Dance Ensemble has been the biggest blessing in my life,” says dancer Carissa Moser. “Here I have found a better understanding and appreciation for the world and people around me. . . . I get the opportunity to learn about and perform a wide variety of dances from multiple countries and cultures around the world. Being able to show some American dances is our way of thanking [the people of Southeast Asia] for sharing their culture with us while also proudly representing our own cultural heritage.”