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April 4, 2013: Sophiline Cheam Shapiro in conversation with Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy

Thursday, April 4 4:00 p.m., 125 Nolte Center

A public conversation between Sophiline Cheam Shapiro and Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy on the eve of the world premiere of the Khmer Art Ensemble’s A Bend in the River.

A Bend in the River is a reflection on the choices we make in the heat of passion, weaving a Cambodian village tale of love, heartbreak, magic, vengeance, consequence, and redemption. Created by National Heritage Fellow Sophiline Cheam Shapiro in collaboration with two of Cambodia’s most renowned artists, this dance drama intertwines fifteen dancers, one unreliable narrator, two oversized crocodile puppets by sculptor Sopheap Pich, and eight instrumentalists and singers performing Him Sophy’s new score for a pin peat ensemble that includes an original two-level circle gong and xylophone. Like all good stories transmitted from generation to generation, the meanings are multiple. The world is ever-changing, nature a great leveler, and human choices, often made in haste, are sure to be tested. We resort to vengeance in place of justice at our peril. Crocodiles have been known to eat their young, after all.


Available for download as audio (.mp3, 53.5MB) or video (.m4v, 295.5MB).

Question and Answer Session

Available for download as audio (.mp3, 27.7MB) or video (.m4v, 151.3MB).

Sophiline Cheam Shapiro is a choreographer, dancer, vocalist, and educator whose dances have infused the venerable Cambodian classical form with new ideas and energy. Her work has toured to three continents hosted by such notable venues as New York’s Joyce Theater, Cal Performances, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Venice Biennale, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Carolina Performing Arts, University Musical Society/Ann Arbor, Vienna’s New Crowned Hope Festival, and Amsterdam’s Het Muziektheater. Her works include Samritechak (2000), The Glass Box (2002), Seasons of Migration (2005), Pamina Devi: A Cambodian Magic Flute (2006), Spiral XI (2008) and Shir-Ha-Shirim (2008), a collaboration with John Zorn. She is a 2009 recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship, a lifetime honor awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, and the 2006 Nikkei Asia Prize for Culture, as well as numerous other awards and fellowships. Born in Phnom Penh, Sophiline was a member of the first generation to graduate from the School of Fine Arts after the fall of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime and was a member of the dance faculty there from 1988 to 1991. She immigrated to Southern California in 1991. She is co-founder and Artistic Director of Khmer Arts, based in Long Beach, California and Takhmao, Cambodia.  Her many essays have been published in Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors (1997, Yale University Press), Dance, Human Rights and Social Justice: Dignity in Motion (2008, Scarecrow Press); Cultural Identities: Tokyo to Bombay (2008, Centre national de la danse), Beyond the Apsara: Celebrating Dance in Cambodia (2009, Routledge), and elsewhere.

Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy are Artistic Directors, Choreographers, and Principal Dancers of Ragamala Dance, acclaimed as one of the Indian Diaspora’s leading dance ensembles. They are disciples of legendary Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer Alarmél Valli. Inspired by the philosophy, spirituality, mysticism, and myth of their South Indian heritage, Ranee and Aparna’s work retains roots in this collective history while carrying the classical dance form of Bharatanatyam into the 21st century. They see the classical form as a dynamic, living tradition with vast potential to convey timeless themes and contemporary ideas. Their work has been supported by the NEA, National Dance Project, Japan Foundation, USArtists International, and a Joyce Award; commissioned by the Walker Art Center and American Composers Forum; and toured extensively, highlighted by the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., American Dance Festival in Durham, NC, Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, and National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai, India. In 2011, they were jointly named “Artist of the Year” by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Northrop Dance presents the world premiere of A Bend in the River on Friday, April 5, 8 p.m., State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis.  More information and tickets.

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