A Cambodian Circus
To finish up the Siem Reap leg, let me tell you about a circus we saw. It’s called Phare, and describes itself thusly.
Uniquely Cambodian. Daringly Modern. More than just a circus, Phare, the Cambodian Circus performers use theater, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories; historical, folk and modern.
The artists are all graduates of an NGO school, which is where the proceeds from the performances go.
Phare artists are graduates of Phare Ponleu Selpak, an NGO school and professional arts training center in Battambang, Cambodia.
Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPSA)
PPSA was founded in 1994 by nine young Cambodian men returning home from a refugee camp after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. At the camp they took drawing classes and found art to be a powerful tool for healing. When they returned home they began offering free drawing classes to street children. Soon they opened a school, eventually offering formal K-12 education and professional arts training in the areas of visual arts (illustration, painting, graphic design, and animation), theater, music, dance, and circus. Today more than 1,200 pupils attend the public school daily and 500 attend the vocational arts training programs. All programs are offered for free.
It was a circus in the Cirque du Soleil style, I guess, though it feels like there’s got to be a better term for that since Cirque didn’t invent it. But I digress. The performers acted out the story of a young girl whose family (and homeland) was brutalized by the Khmer Rouge and later took solace in the healing power of art and the joy of teaching others. It was a bit tricky to photograph, but that didn’t stop me from trying! Continue reading