Born out of the ashes of the Civil War and Khmer Rouge era, Phare Ponleu Selpak is an extraordinary initiative that aims to provide a channel and a future for young Cambodians through the arts. One of the most visible, and exciting, outcomes of this is the Phare Circus just outside of the city and a trip to Battambang genuinely can’t be considered complete without it.
In a proper big top, the circus hosts performances several nights a week with choreographed shows highlighting different elements of Cambodian culture. With music, acrobatics, dance, live art, juggling and more, the shows are lively, noisy, funny, death-defying and above all fun, even when dealing with quite dark subjects, such as the Khmer Rouge. They are all choreographed at Phare and all of the music, which draws on influences far and wide, is also scored there. Everything within these shows is home-grown, especially the talent.
And like the art graduates, these kids are going places worldwide. Graduates from the circus school are training with circuses in Europe, and a couple have even been taken on by Cirque Du Soleil in Canada.
It’s also possible to visit the school on weekdays between 08:00 and 12:00 and 14:00 to 16:00. There is an exhibition space, music hall and you may even catch sight of the circus performers rehearsing their moves.
From November to March, there are four performances a week, on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, while in April, July, August and October there are three performances on Monday, Friday and Saturday, and two performances on Mondays and Thursday in May, June and September. You’ll see details of what is showing in schedules in most bars and guesthouse across town.