Colloquium with Sophiline Shapiro, Artistic Director, Khmer Arts Academy, Long Beach
During the 1980s, Cambodian classical dance - an art form born in the temples of ancient Angkor and maintained over the centuries within the royal court - became a potent symbol that helped remind a traumatized country that its culture is known for more enduring traditions than auto-genocide. At the same time, the newly formed government, which was supported by Vietnam and which was engaged in a civil war, used the dance to legitimize itself in the eyes of the people by proving that it was authentically Khmer. Dances that once celebrated divinities and royalty now celebrated the friendship between Cambodia and the Soviet Union or the glory of Marxism. After the signing of the 1991 peace accord and the return of the monarchy, these new dances disappeared. But so did the energy and resources the government committed to the dance.
Sophiline Cheam Shapiro was a member of the first generation to graduate from the [Royal] University of Fine Arts after the fall of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge and was a member of the faculty from 1988 to 1991. With the University’s ensemble, she toured India, the Soviet Union, the USA and Vietnam. She immigrated to Southern California in 1991. Shapiro studied dance ethnology at UCLA and has taught classical dance in its World Arts & Cultures Department. Among other awards, she has received a Durfee Foundation Master Musician Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Irvine Fellowship in Dance. Her essay, "Songs My Enemies Taught Me" was published in Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors, compiled by Dith Pran, edited by Kim DePaul and published in 1997 by Yale University.
In April 2000, Shapiro premiered her concert-length classical dance drama Samritechak in Phnom Penh with the RUFA ensemble. The piece has toured to the Hong Kong Arts Festival, Southern California, and the Venice Biennale. A solo work, "The Glass Box," which premiered in Los Angeles in 2002, toured to Cambodia and India in 2003. A new piece exploring the theme of culture shock, "Seasons of Migration," will make its world premiere with the RUFA ensemble at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at California State University, Long Beach in April 2005 as part of a six-city national tour. Shapiro is co-founder and Artistic Director of the Khmer Arts Academy in Long Beach, California. The Academy is a performing arts organization dedicated to fostering the vitality of Cambodian arts and culture. Its resident ensemble performs regionally and on tour.
Cost: Free and open to the public.
Sponsor(s): Center for Southeast Asian Studies