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Long Beach dancer among winners of NEA's Heritage Fellowship

May 14, 2009 | 12:37 pm

Shapiro A Cambodian dancer and choreographer from Long Beach and two other California artists are among the 11 winners announced today of the 2009 National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Sophiline Cheam Shapiro is a critically acclaimed dancer and the only U.S.-based choreographer of Cambodian dance who also tours internationally. Since moving to the U.S. in 1991, she has created training workshops in classical dance and music for Southern California's Cambodian refugee population.

Her recent commissions include works for the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Guggenheim Museum's Works & Process Series.

Her dance for "Spiral XII" was performed in November at Walt Disney Concert Hall

The fellowships include a one-time award of $25,000 each and are intended to honor people who work in the folk and traditional arts.

The other winners of the NEA fellowship include singers, visual artists and even a "cowboy poet."

"Queen" Ida Guillory is a Zydeco musician based in Dale City, Calif., who won a Grammy Award in 1982 for her album "On Tour." Chitresh Das is a San Francisco choreographer who specializes in the Indian dance tradition known as Kathak. Joel Nelson, a cowboy poet from Alpine, Texas, writes and recites verse focusing on the frontier lifestyle of the western U.S.

Also receiving fellowships this year are the Birmingham Sunlights, an a cappella gospel group from Alabama; Dudley Laufman, a dance caller and musician from New Hampshire; Amma D. McKen, a Yoruba Orisha singer from Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Edwin Zayas, a cuatro player from Puerto Rico.

The recipients also include two artists from the field of basket weaving: LeRoy Graber from South Dakota and Teri Rofkar from Alaska.

Each year, the NEA honors an arts advocate in the field of cultural heritage, and this year, the award goes to Mike Seeger, a cultural scholar and musician from Virginia.

-- David Ng

Photo: Sophiline Cheam Shapiro (right). Credit: James Wasserman.