Image courtesy of the organization.

Cambodian American Resource Agency

Khmer arts and culture

About the Organization

The Cambodian American Resource Agency (CARA) was founded in 1998 by a group of Cambodian-American professionals and community members who had a deep interest in the uniting the local Khmer community.  The mission of CARA is to help initiate and support community-based events involving the Khmer community in order to increase recognition and raise awareness of the Khmer culture.  Among other programs, CARA supports the Cambodian Cultural Dance Troupe and the Cambodian Language School.

The Cambodian Cultural Dance Troupe is under the direction of Savary Dean who has been teaching classical and regional folk dances for two decades. These classes have been taught to the community for free, in memory of Ms. Dean’s teachers and artist colleagues who perished in the Cambodian genocide.

Living Cultures Grant Program


The Cambodian Cultural Dance Troupe is reprising Sovan Macha, a classic Cambodian dance. Sovan Macha tells a story of mischievous monkeys building a wall in Cambodia, with the beautiful mermaids tearing it down. After exquisite dances, Hanuman the monkey king and Sovan Macha the mermaid queen fall in love, and the monkeys and the mermaids become friends. Performing artists from other communities will be invited to collaborate in a contemporary production of Sovan Macha.


ACTA funds supported the Cambodian Cultural Dance Troupe’s production of The Judge Rabbit.  Seeing the stage for the first time in the United States, this interpretation of an ancient Cambodian folk tale will be led by artistic director Savary Dean and guest master artist Charya Burt, who will develop the choreography, music, and song.


CARA received funding from ACTA’s Living Cultures Grant Program to support Hidden Treasures, a capstone event for five high school seniors who have trained for years as Cambodian classical dancers through CARA’s free weekly dance lessons.  The performance was produced by dancers themselves, with the support of CARA’s staff, and will be presented at a local high school.


CARA received funding to underwrite costs to provide free weekly dance lessons through the Cambodian Cultural Dance Troupe.  Students performed at the community’s New Year Festibal, learn the folk dance, Fish Tales, and a core of male dancers will continue to perfect their monkey dance repertoire.


CARA received a grant to support advanced students’ travel to Long Beach to study, dance, and live with musicians of the Ho Chan Ensemble.  The ensemble also traveled to San Jose in order to perform for the San Jose-based community and will feature local dancers in the concert slated for fall of 2012.


The youngest students of the Cambodian Cultural Dance Troupe demonstrate exercises that they do each class for flexibility and grace.

Ryan Boun performs the basic movements of the ogre masked dance. He has studied dance for six years and mentors the younger students each week.

Chheng Sim Bun is Chinese-Cambodian. She writes in the program, " All the hard work and pain is worth it in the end because when I finally perform the dance for others to see, I feel like I am the heavenly being that I am portraying. Khmer dance is a part of me."

The teaching of the monkey character is a favorite among the boys in the dance academy.   Monkeys figure into the story of the Khmer Ramayana, the great epic tale of Asia.

The performers take a bow.

Senior dancers honor their teachers and mentors. From l to r: Raline Von-Buelow (back to camera) assists artistic director, Savary Dean in the middle. Mrs. Dean studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Cambodia and has taught youth in San Jose for 25 years without pay as a tribute to her perished artist-colleagues. To her left, Mrs. Leslie Kim has been a volunteer whose contributions to the community continue long after her own daughter has left the dance academy for college.

Charya Burt who lives in Sonoma County is a master dance artist who has assisted the San Jose dancers over the years as a lead mentor. She has watched the students progress in their studies. For this concert production, she sang with the live music and assisted with the preparations of costuming and make-up. She appears here with her mother back stage.

Master musician Ho Chan has assembled the only pin-peat orchestra in California.   The opportunity for the students to perform with live music has deepened their appreciation for the complexity of the dances.

Next slide

Invest in California’s cultural wealth.

Every gift is a commitment to a culture bearer, and the people of California.