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Hopkins Center for the Arts
6041 Lower Level Wilson Hall             Contact: Becky Bailey
Dartmouth College                        Voice: 603.646.3991
Hanover, NH 03755                        Email:

For Immediate Release: August 19, 2010

                    ANCIENT ART, TIMELY ISSUES:
                     BRINGS NEW SHOW TO HOP

The Lives of Giants, by the Khmer Arts Ensemble
Twenty dancers and musicians of the internationally acclaimed “mesmerizing”
(The Los Angeles Times) Cambodian classical dance ensemble perform new work
based on Hindu creation myth and reflecting on the abuse of power.
Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 28 & 29
The Moore Theater, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Hanover NH
$25-37, $10 for Dartmouth students, $14-16 for 18 & under
Information: 603.646.2422 or

Classical Cambodian Dance Workshop
Join dancers of the Khmer Arts Ensemble for an introduction to the movement
vocabulary, body placement and practice of this centuries-old classical art form.
Fitted rehearsal clothes best; bare feet. Limited to 25 participants.
Sunday, Sept. 26, 4-5:30 pm
Straus Dance Studio, Berry Sports Complex, Dartmouth College, Hanover NH
Information: Hop Outreach at 603.646.2010

Arts in Crisis: Healing a Nation’s Wounds
Khmer Arts Ensemble Artistic Director Sophiline Cheam Shapiro and Dartmouth
faculty Edward Miller, history, and Laura Edmondson, theater, discuss how
artists across the globe make meaning from history and address abuses of power
within society.
Monday, Sept. 27, 4:30-6 pm
041 Haldeman, Dartmouth College, Hanover NH
Free admission
Information: Hop Outreach at 603.646.2010


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Khmer Arts web site

HANOVER, NH—The visual pageantry, sinuous movement and hypnotic music of
Cambodian classical dance come to The Moore Theater of the Hopkins Center for
the Arts with performances Tuesday and Wednesday, September 28 and 29, by
the internationally acclaimed Khmer Arts Ensemble (KAE).

Nearly 20 dancers and musicians perform KAE’s powerful new show, The Lives of
Giants, which draws on a story from Reamker—the Cambodian version of the
ancient Hindu epic The Ramayana—involving imperfect gods, mischievous angels
and a giant who abuses his god-given powers. The work is the creation of
choreographer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, KAE’s artistic director and a 2009
National Heritage Fellow (a lifetime award made by the National Endowment for
the Arts in recognition of exceptional artistic excellence).

The performances are part of a three-day residency that includes a workshop on
classical Cambodian dance and a panel discussion on artists across the globe who
address contemporary issues thro ugh their work. Both events are open to the


Painstakingly reconstructed after its near-decimation by the Khmer Rouge in the
1970s, Cambodian classical dance brings together sculptural movement,
shimmering costumes and ancient stories. It is always performed to live
accompaniment—usually, the cascading rhythms and scales of the pin peat, the
gamelan-like ensemble that accompanies Cambodian classical dance. The art
form dates back to the Angkor Empire of the 8th-13th centuries, a society that
also left the treasured Angkor Wat temple complex, whose bas reliefs depict
dancers in poses still seen in classical dance.

Eight years old when the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975, Cheam Shapiro spent
four years in a forced-labor camp. During that time, Pol Pot’s brutal regime
almost managed to wipe out centuries of Cambodian arts. From 1975 to 1979, he
led a genocide that nearly obliterated the intelligentsia, with the Khmer Rouge
killing off an estimated 90 percent of the country’s artists, classical dancers

After the regime was overthrown by the Vietnamese in 1979, surviving dancers
gathered to try to rebuild what had been an oral tradition, passed from teacher
to student, over hundreds of years. When the Royal University of Fine Arts
reopened in the 1980s, Cheam Shapiro became a member of its first graduating
class. She was a member of the dance faculty there from 1988 to 1991, when she
immigrated to the US. Settling in Long Beach, Calif.—home to the largest
Cambodian community outside of Southeast Asia—she began teaching dance and

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established what in 2002 became the KAE, now based in both Long Beach and
Takhmao, Cambodia, just outside Phnom Penh. The ensemble is part of a larger
organization, Khmer Arts, devoted to training a new generation in the ancient
art form.

Since then she has emerged as an internationally recognized choreographer,
fusing Cambodian classical dance with other traditions while remaining true to
the idiom’s fine technique and transcendent beauty. These projects include Shir
Ha Shirim, a 2008 collaboration with American avant-garde composer John Zorn
based on the Old Testament’s Song of Songs (“a gorgeous spectacle of
contradictory sensations”—The New York Times); Pamina Devi: A Cambodian
Magic Flute, commissioned by opera director and international impresario Peter
Sellars for Mozart's 250th birthday celebration in 2006 in Vienna (“something of a
quiet spectacle, and its message is freedom”—The New York Times); and the
2005 Seasons of Migrations (“a stunning program of Cambodian dance and music.
… unfolds like a moving painting. Exquisite.”—The New York Times).

Lives is an allegorical look at cycles of violence within societies, writes Cheam
Shapiro in program notes for the performance. “Violence begets violence. The
abused become the abusers. Within Cambodian society, state-led terror and
genocide of the recent past has fed contemporary epidemics of domestic
violence and human trafficking. …Nevertheless, I believe compassion is an
antidote. When we acknowledge our own and our enemies’ humanity, we create
room to step away from inhumane behavior.”

True to the tradition of Cambodian classical dance, the show is performed with
live music, in this case provided by two singers and four instrumentalists on
xylophone, gong, drums and a four-reed oboe-like instrument called the sralai.

Neither sound nor visuals take a back seat, says Hop Programming Director
Margaret Lawrence. “The musicians and dancers follow each other. It’s
impossible to say who’s following whom. The musicians are both giving fresh
impulses to the dancers and are following them closely. When you see
Cambodian classical dance, you’re entering a space where the musicians are
playing as much for you as for the dancers.”

                                     *   *   *

Founded in 1962, the Hopkins Center for the Arts is a multi-disciplinary
academic, visual and performing arts center dedicated to uncovering insights,
igniting passions, and nurturing talents to help the Dartmouth community engage
imaginatively and contribute creatively to our world. Each year the Hop presents
more than 300 live events and films by visiting artists as well as Dartmouth
students and the Dartmouth community, and reaches more than 22,000 Upper
Valley residents and students with outreach and arts education programs.

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