Culture

Giant ‘Cycle of Abuse’ in New Dance Adaptation

A scene from “The Lives of Giants,” a Khmer classical dance adaptation of the Ramayana story of a giant named Akaeng Kameaso, a guardian for the Hindu god Shiva who is mocked for his ugliness.
A scene from “The Lives of Giants,” a Khmer classical dance adaptation of the Ramayana story of a giant named Akaeng Kameaso, a guardian for the Hindu god Shiva who is mocked for his ugliness.
Borei SylyvannVOA Khmer

The latest dance feature from acclaimed choreographer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro is playing in California this week.

“The Lives of Giants” is a Khmer classical dance adaptation of the Ramayana story of a giant named Akaeng Kameaso, a guardian for the Hindu god Shiva who is mocked for his ugliness. On hearing this, Shiva grants him the power to inflict pain on others with the point of a finger. The aggrieved giant exacts his revenge.

Choreographer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro during a classical dance lesson
Choreographer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro during a classical dance lesson

Shapiro, who once created an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Othello,” among other works, says this story is about the abuse of power. In that way, the show is a mythic representation of some of Cambodia’s modern woe.

“In our society, we notice that the rich, the powerful, even the educated, usually abuse the poor, the poor of wealth, education and power,” she told VOA Khmer recently. “Once the poor gain wealth, education and power, they try to take out their revenge on those who abused them earlier, thus creating what is called the cycle of abuse.”

Shapiro, who survived the Khmer Rouge and became an expert in Khmer dance after its fall, is the director and choreographer for the Khmer Arts Ensemble, a tour group based in Cambodia.

“The Lives of Giants” is showing Thursday at the University of California Santa Barbara.

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