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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Teacher sees dance dream come true

Teacher sees dance dream come true

D ance teacher Voan Savay realized a dream last week when her classical troupe of

former refugees inaugurated their own theater by performing before Foreign

Minister Sirivudh and his wife Princess Christine.

The British Ambassador

and his wife David and Inger Burns and leading British businessmen also attended

the performance at the troupe's village outside the capital.

Spurred on

by Mrs Burns, the British business community helped pay for the theater and

costumes.

Savay has seen the 67-strong group come a long way since she

first began teaching them in little more than rags when they were at Site 2 on

the Thai border.

Savay, a former royal dancer in her fifties said: "I

have danced since the age of 8. I wanted to carry on the tradition. In the camps

I was teaching about 200 people at one time."

During repatriation last

year the group appealed to Prince Norodom Sirivudh to keep them together and he

helped them move to Samrong Thmey, 21 km from the city.

In 1993 Prince

Sirivudh appealed to the British ambassador for support. Mrs Burns began making

appeals in October for donations from British companies such as Enterprise Oil,

Shell, Continental Indochine. "I badgered them like crazy," she

admitted.

"We were so moved the first time we went to the village. They

had nothing. Now they are transformed," she said.

She helped choose

material for their gorgeous costumes, which will cost $20,000 when

completed.

"They wore rags the first time we saw them dance," said Barry

Rogers of Enterprise Oil.

The British Embassy provided about $20,000

from the Ambassador's Fund. It includes scholarships of $20 a month each, to

cover food and board, for two years to attend the School of Fine Arts. Lessons

began in October.

Savay teaches the troupe every day, while her husband

Moeus Vanroen teaches them at the School of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh. The company

hopes to be incorporated into the National Dance Company.

Prince

Sirivudh said: "In helping them, we have given them the wings. Now it is up to

them to fly."

The group hopes tourist groups will attend performances

making them financially self-sufficient.

The troupe became so

accomplished in the border camp that they were invited to dance at the Oriental

Hotel in Bangkok for the Queen of Thailand in 1989.

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