Sophiline Cheam Shapiro

2013

Sophiline Cheam Shapiro is a choreographer, dancer, vocalist, and educator whose dances have infused the venerable Cambodian classical form with new ideas and energy. Her work has toured to three continents hosted by such venues as New York’s Joyce Theater, Cal Performances, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Venice Biennale, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Carolina Performing Arts, University Musical Society/Ann Arbor, Vienna’s New Crowned Hope Festival and Amsterdam’s Het Muziektheater. Works include Samritechak (2000), The Glass Box (2002), Seasons of Migration (2005), Pamina Devi: A Cambodian Magic Flute (2006), Spiral XI (2008), and Shir-Ha-Shirim (2008), a collaboration with John Zorn. The Lives of Giants premiered in the Fall 2010. 
 
Shapiro is a 2009 recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship, a lifetime honor awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, and a USA Knight Fellowship.  She was awarded the Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture in 2006 and has received Creative Capital, Durfee, Guggenheim, and Irvine Dance Fellowships, among many other honors.
 
Born in Phnom Penh, Shapiro was a member of the first generation to graduate from the School of Fine Arts after the fall of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime and was a member of the dance faculty there from 1988 to 1991. She studied all three major roles for women (neang, nearong, and yeak), which is rare. With the school’s ensemble, she toured India, the Soviet Union, the USA, and Vietnam. She immigrated to Southern California in 1991, where she studied dance ethnology at UCLA on undergraduate and graduate levels. She is co-founder and Artistic Director of Khmer Arts, a transnational organization dedicated to fostering the vitality of Cambodian dance across borders.
 
Shapiro lectures and teaches at conferences and universities around the world.  Her many essays have been published in Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors (1997, Yale University Press), Dance, Human Rights and Social Justice: Dignity in Motion (2008, Scarecrow Press); Cultural Identities: Tokyo to Bombay (2008, Centre national de la danse), Beyond the Apsara: Celebrating Dance in Cambodia (2009, Routledge), and elsewhere.