About the Grant

$35,000 to support the new concert-length dance drama The Lives of Giants (MAP 2009), by choreographer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro and designer Merrily Murray-Walsh. The work will explore ways in which the transformation of movement and costuming can reveal the degeneration of an epic narrative and, symbolically, the failure of a society due to the perpetuation of violence.

About the Project

Inspired by Cambodian mythology, The Lives of Giants is a dance drama to be created by choreographer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro and costume designer Merrily Murray-Walsh and set on the renowned 30-member Khmer Arts Ensemble. It tells the tale of Akheang Khamaso, a much-mistreated giant in Shiva’s heavenly temple who seeks a weapon to protect himself from the taunts of mischievous angels. But when Shiva grants him that weapon, a magic finger that can make anyone disappear, he cannot help dishing out his own abuse. Alerted to the chaos raging through the heavens, Vishnu’s consort seduces and distracts the giant through dance, while Vishnu rushes in and forces the giant to turn his magic finger on himself. Enraged and humiliated, Akheang Khamaso promises to be reborn with even more power in order to continue the cycle of abuse and violence that is his fate, in this life and the next.

As Akheang Khamaso’s “demonic nature” reveals itself, Cheam Shapiro’s and Murray-Walsh’s depiction of heaven devolves, stripping away layers of elaborate traditional costuming and the strict gestural vocabulary of Cambodian classical dance to reveal the sadness and frustration of the bully and how the perpetuation of violence leads to the erosion of the sublime. The Lives of Giants will have its premiere and tour the USA in Fall 2010.

Related Websites

Khmer Arts Academy


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