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Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble and Rusalka Dancers on stage together June 7, 2018 at the Club Regent Event Centre in a show that was called “Woven Threads” Keith Levit photo

In its more than 50 years of performing, our community’s widely acclaimed Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble has given performances across Canada. Chai has danced at Disney World, in Florida and Mexico City and has appeared in Israel twice, including one appearance at the prestigious Karmiel Dance Festival.



Chai’s third trip to Israel in July though will be different from any of their other international performances. For the first time, the Folk Ensemble will be appearing with Winnipeg’s equally illustrious Rusalka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble.
The two groups are well-known to each other. Their first collaboration locally was in 1999, reports Reeva Nepon, the administrative director for the Chai Folk Arts Council and the Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble. That appearance – two performances at the Centennial Concert – marked the debut of their Hora Hopak.

Four years ago, they were invited to perform Hora Hopak for the official opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The following year, they performed the dance for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ annual conference and trade show, which was held in Winnipeg that year.
“We have also danced the Hora Hopak twice with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra,” Nepon says.
She reports that it was the Rusalka group which first proposed the joint tour a couple of years ago. “We postponed the tour to this year to give us more time to raise the money for the tour,” Nepon says. “We had to raise a lot of money for the tour.”

Chai and Rusalka will first be performing their collaborative Hora Hopak – combining the hora and the traditional Hopak – at the annual Karmiel Dance Festival in Israel followed by a second performance in Ukraine.
She notes that the two dance troupes between them will be bringing 60 dancers, singers and musicians with them to Israel and Ukraine. The singers and musicians will all be from Chai.
The tour kicks off on June 30. The two groups will be returning on July 19, in time for the opening of Folklorama on August 4.
Nepon reports that the partner groups will be doing three shows together back in Winnipeg on the weekend of September 8-9.

Chai was started by the late Sarah Sommer in 1964 and has grown into an internationally-acclaimed dance troupe that comprises some 30-40 singers, dancers and musicians ranging in age from teens to adults in their early 40s. The Winnipeg-based dance company has performed across Canada and the United States, Mexico and Israel.
Two years ago, Dance Manitoba recognized Canada’s preeminent Israeli dance troupe with the dance organization’s Special Achievement Award at Dance Manitoba’s 2016 Distinction Awards for Excellence in Dance. Chai was the first dance group – as compared to individual dancers – to have received the Special Achievement Award. The award was given for “Outstanding Achievements and Exceptional Artistic Accomplishments to the Art of Dance within our Community”.

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