Phare Cambodian Circus sends PEPY into a spin!
Phare The Cambodian Circus is unquestionably one of the top tourist attractions in Siem Reap, if not in the whole of Cambodia, but it’s not something that the PEPY Empowering Youth students and staff have had the chance to see for themselves, that is until this weekend! As Phare see the importance of local people seeing the show, understanding their work, and having fun they very generously offered the staff and students tickets to join the audience and meet the performers.
This unique circus is part of Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) – literally “the brightness of the arts” – an association that supports community development by providing children, young adults and their families living in difficult circumstances with educational, social, cultural and emotional support. The performers in Phare The Cambodian Circus learned their skills at the PPS school in Battambang before graduating and coming to Siem Reap to participate in Phare Performing Social Enterprise (PPSE). Here, performers can really hone their skills in front of a live audience every night of the week, all the while earning a living wage for themselves. The organization believes that the arts can be a fantastic instrument for human development and one way to bring about social change. As a result of the increasing international recognition for Cambodian arts, Phare hopes to secure a brighter future for their talented community.
On Sunday 8th May, the PEPY Scholarship students and some of the staff made their way to the big top in Siem Reap, ready for a night of incredible acrobatics, circus skills and any other tricks the Phare performers had tucked up their sleeves. There was an extra treat in store for the visitors, too: the Tini Tinou International Circus Festival was in town, so there were additional performances taking place on the small stage outside the big top. Before long, it was time to take a seat and enjoy the show, ‘Eclipse’. This particular show is “a story of rejection, revenge, spirit possession and eventual forgiveness”, centering around a disfigured young man who is teased and rejected from his village. He seeks help from the gods, who transform him into a beautiful woman with magical powers, but the villagers soon discover that there is something not quite right about this new addition to their community. We don’t want to give too much away here, but you can be sure that the show is a thrill from start to finish with a great plot and truly amazing acrobatics.
As mentioned above, Phare The Cambodian Circus is extremely popular with the vast numbers of tourists who visit Siem Reap, on the hunt for some evening entertainment after a long day at the temples. However, it’s not something that the Scholarship students have ever had the chance to see. Coming from the farming district of Kralanh, it’s fair to say that there aren’t many opportunities to see people skipping with a rope of fire or being flung into the air and somersaulting their way back down to earth, which made Sunday extra special. Both the students and the staff were utterly transfixed by the incredible skill and expertise of the performers, the result of a terrific amount of dedication to their craft. It is hugely inspiring to see the level of success they have achieved, although the circumstances in which they grew up may have been difficult. As a spectator, the performers’ passion and commitment is palpable – this is something which we hope we can also apply to our own work and lives.
PEPY Empowering Youth would like to say a huge thank you to Phare The Cambodian Circus, for such a fantastic evening. It was truly awe-inspiring!
For information on the organization and the shows, head to www.pharecircus.org
Check out the video to see some of the students’ reactions to the show.