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October 05, 2007

Hunger And Dance

Hunger And Dance

Cambodian classical dance dates back more than 1000 years, but it almost became extinct in five. 

During the reign of the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979), nearly 90 percent of Cambodian dancers and musicians perished. Sophiline Cheam was only eight years old when her family was driven from Phnom Penh along with the entire population of the city to a life of extreme labor, starvation and disease working as peasants in the fields. All religion, money, and contact with the outside world were banned. Sophiline recalls being allowed to sing only revolutionary songs, extolling the virtues of their oppressors. 

Her life was transformed when the Khmer Rouge was overthrown. Sophiline became one of the first classical dancers trained by those who had survived to pass on the ancient art form. Now she devotes her life to the dance, working to remind people that Cambodian history is about beauty, not just tragedy.

  • Learn more about the school where Sophiline teaches    

Brush With Fame - Elise Guyette And Kathleen Shiman

We’ve had a number of stories of “encounters” with well-known characters. What distinguishes these stories is that they always have a twist. The encounter Elise Guyette wrote in to tell us about happened in South Africa.

It was an interesting time - Nelson Mandela had been released from prison, and the country was slowly headed toward its first fully democratic election. Elise was traveling with her husband and their 6 year old daughter, Kathleen. The went to an event where a statue was being dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. Bishop Desmond Tutu was there. So was Mandela. And mother and daughter's encounter with the two men has become the story of a lifetime.

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