As published in EDGE on April 10, 2013.

“A Bend in the River” is based on traditional Cambodian folklore, exploring issues of morality, specifically, as put by the performance’s choreographer, Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, “At what cost do we seek revenge?”

The Khmer Arts Ensemble  (Source: Khvay Smanang)
The Khmer Arts Ensemble (Source: Khvay Smanang)

The story is about Kaley, a young girl who is eaten (along with her father, mother and three brothers) by a giant crocodile, Moha, at a bend in a river near a Cambodian village called Kompong Vongkiri. Although Kaley is the main character, the story is told through the narration and point of view of her mother. Prior to her demise, Kaley promises to return in her next life as a larger and stronger crocodile to avenge the death of her mother.

Next, Vichek Moni, the local healer, finds a large egg in the reeds. The egg hatches into a crocodile, which Moni names, in honor of the original, Kaley, not knowing it is actually Kaley reborn. Moni teaches the creature how to transform into a human and swallow ‘him’ temporarily in order to easily transport the healer across the river to aid injured villagers. Once older, Kaley reveals her true identity to Moni, explaining her purpose of revenge. But Moni encourages Kaley to move on and enjoy her new life.

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Khmer Arts Ensemble