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Groundbreaking Ballet Comes to Cambodian Stage


Sophiline Art Ensemble performers are rehearsing the scene in Pamina Devi on May 12th 2015. (Nov Povleakhena/VOA Khmer)

Sophiline Art Ensemble performers are rehearsing the scene in Pamina Devi on May 12th 2015. (Nov Povleakhena/VOA Khmer)

Choreographer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro is bringing her acclaimed ballet, “Pamina Devi,” to a Cambodian stage this month.

“Pamina Devi,” inspired by Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” is the story of feuding between a queen and a king, and the princess caught between them.

Shapiro is known for groundbreaking choreography, and her Cambodia-based arts ensemble performs on major stages internationally.

In this ballet, 32 female dancers tell the story of the feuding sides, which fall to war after over the princess.

At her dance studio in Kandal province, Shapiro told VOA Khmer Pamina Devi is derived from Mozart’s Princess Pamina, who finds herself caught between her mother, the Queen of Night, and her father, the ruler of the Realm of the Sun. The story was much like Cambodia, caught up in wars and the Khmer Rouge, Shapiro said.

“I discerned that her life was in the middle of conflicts in her society,” she said. The princess had tenacity, and sought to seek her own solutions between her disputing parents.

“Pamina had her own idea, that humankind can’t do everything in favor of one side,” Shapiro said. “From her point of view, her own thought was to do anything in the middle stance.

The ballet can also offer advice on ending family disputes and helping men and women respect each other, she said.

“Some people just know how to lead and how to follow, but they should know how to lead and follow at the same time,” she said. “On the other hand, they should explain and advise each other, and listen to each other. They shouldn’t just argue and not listen to each other. This won’t make them understand each other.”

Sophiline Art Ensemble performers are rehearsing the scene in Pamina Devi on May 12th 2015. (Nov Povleakhena/VOA Khmer)

Sophiline Art Ensemble performers are rehearsing the scene in Pamina Devi on May 12th 2015. (Nov Povleakhena/VOA Khmer)

The performance was originally commission in 2006, by world-renowned director Peter Sellars, for a performance in Vienna, Austria, to celebrate what would have been Mozart’s 250th birthday. It toured in the US in 2007 and in the Netherlands in 2008.

It will have four public performances May 21 through May 24 at Phnom Penh’s Department of Performing Arts Theater, with tickets ranging from $3 to $15.

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