Sophiline Cheam Shapiro’s groundbreaking choreography is distinguished by its impeccable technique, its collaborations across disciplines, and its capacity to expand the Cambodian classical vocabulary and realize new works. She has set her original dances, which often wrestle with social justice as it relates to a turbulent modern history, on Cambodia’s finest performing artists and toured them to major stages on four continents. Notable venues include Amsterdam’s Muziektheater, Cambodia’s Les Nuits d’Angkor Festival, Beijing’s China Conservatory, Los Angeles’s Disney Concert Hall, the Hong Kong Arts Festival, New York’s Joyce Theater, Vienna’s Schonbrunn Palace Theater and the Venice Biennale. Her commissions include those from the Guggenheim Museum’s Works & Process Series, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Vienna’s New Crowned Hope Festival. Recent works include Pka Sla (2017), an official reparations project of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, and A Bend in the River (2013), a collaboration with sculptor Pich Sopheap and composer Him Sophy. Sophiline’s lifetime achievement awards include National Heritage and USA Knight Fellowships (USA) as well as the Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture (Japan). Other recognition includes Creative Capital, Durfee, Guggenheim, Irvine Dance and McKnight International Artist Fellowships. Her essays have been published in Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors (Yale, 1997), Dance, Human Rights and Social Justice: Dignity in Motion (Scarecrow, 2008), Cultural Identities: Bombay to Tokyo (Centre national de la danse, 2009), Beyond the Apsara: Celebrating Dance in Cambodia (Routledge, 2009) and elsewhere. She has also designed exhibitions of traditional dance costumes. Born in Phnom Penh three years before the onset of civil war, Sophiline was a member of the first generation to enroll in and to graduate from the capital’s School of Fine Arts after the fall of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime and was a member of the faculty there from 1988 to 1991. She moved to Southern Califor- nia in 1991 where she studied dance ethnology at UCLA’s Department of World Arts & Cultures. She now teaches and lectures internationally. She is Co- Founder and Artistic Director of Khmer Arts, a transnational performing arts organization dual-based in Long Beach, California, and Takhmao, Cambodia, and the parent organization of Sophiline Arts Ensemble, a 20-member professional dance and music troupe. In 2014, she was appointed Advisor to Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. She also serves as foundation year coordinator at the University of Puthisastra.
Photos courtesy of Nobuyuki Arai