Khmer Arts Ensemble in "A Bend in the River," by Sophiline Cheam Shapiro. Photo by Khvay Samnang.
Khmer Arts Ensemble in “A Bend in the River,” by Sophiline Cheam Shapiro. Photo by Khvay Samnang.

As part of the Season of Cambodia festival in New York, the Khmer Arts Ensemble performed Sophiline Cheam Shapiro’s “A Bend in the River” at the Joyce. Shapiro’s dance-drama draws upon the traditions of Cambodian Classical Dance—elegant shapes, refined hand gestures, codified positions—and combines them with a story drawn from folklore and an original score that extends the range of the pin peat orchestra. Like Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, it is a story told on many levels: through narration, music, and movement. You can read my review for DanceTabs here.

And here’s a short excerpt: “Once in a while, a real modernizer comes along and shakes things up more radically. In the realm of Cambodian dance, it is Sophiline Cheam Shapiro….In past works she has combined the vocabulary of classical Cambodian dance…to stories like The Magic Flute and music by Western composers, including the New York experimentalist, John Zorn….With A Bend in the River…she has come up with a hybrid form that needs no justification.”

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