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Killing Fields Survivor Brings Cambodian Classical Dance to America

New America Media, Video, Mike Siv Posted: Oct 10, 2009

Dancer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro survived the killing fields of Cambodia. Under Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime artists and intellectuals were killed or packed off for re-education. Sophiline never gave up on dance. After the fall of Pol Pot's regime she left Cambodia and settled in Long Beach, California. There she established the Khmer Arts Academy. As she teaches young Cambodian Americans the thousand year-old tradition of Khmer dance, Sophiline Cheam Shapiro tries to dance her way back from the horrors of the Killing Fields. In 2009 she received the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Sophiline Cheam Shapiro is artistic director and co-founder of Khmer Arts Academy (Long Beach, CA/Phnom Penh, Cambodia). She has choreographed some of Cambodias finest performing artists, and teaches, lectures and tours internationally, from the Venice Biennale to New Yorks Joyce Theater to the Hong Kong Arts Festival. She was commissioned by director Peter Sellars to premiere her original work Pamina Devi at Viennas New Crowned Hope Festival in 2006. As one of the first generation to graduate from Phnom Penhs Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA) after the fall of Pol Pots Khmer Rouge regime, she became a member of RUFAs faculty until she immigrated to Southern California in 1991 where she studied dance ethnology at UCLA and established Khmer Arts Academy in Long Beach, expanding her organization to Phnom Penh in 2006.

"Profile of Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, Cambodian Classical Dancer" from New America Media on Vimeo.

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