Roll up, roll up…
But seriously – stop, drop and roll up, the circus is in town! The Cambodian circus. And it’s in town if your town is Siem Reap or Battambang. But it’s probably not. Nevermind, Kirsty from Five At Heart has gone to do the re-con work for you, thus her advice to you is to sally forth to the airport and book yo’self some tickets to Cambodia, because this is truly awesome. In the original sense of the word, which in case you’ve forgotten or have misused this word too much in the past to describe something really only slightly better than ‘meh’ is;
adjective – extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring awe.
So, why all the fuss? To start with it’s super duper important that we understand how and why the circus came into being. Here is a snippet from their website, but we highly recommend clicking this link and exploring the site for yourself http://pharecircus.org/:
PPSA was founded in 1994 by nine young Cambodian men returning home from a refugee camp after the fall of the Khmer Rouge.
If you need to quickly brush up on your Cambodian history from the last few decades, click this link before you read any further http://www.cambodiatribunal.org/history/cambodian-history/khmer-rouge-history/ – also mega important to understand the full gravity of what took place in Cambodia, in order to fully appreciate the incredible stuff Phare is doing.
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.
Ok so now that we’re across the why and the how, Kirsty is going to tell us all about the what – this is the fun part!
Let’s backtrack to the beginning of my experience with Phare. I arrived in Siem Reap already worded up about the circus (like any self-respecting fanatic who’s forever harboured an entirely un-secret desire to run away and join the circus). I booked tickets almost immediately upon arrival for that night.
There are some things in life that we should all take a Roald Dahl-style stance on (ie embrace the magic, the wonder, and above all, your inner child) and this here is no exception. In fact, it’s the rule!
The performers were amazing; all rippling muscles and sweaty torsos effortlessly catapulting, climbing, bending and flying around the stage. There were a couple of musicians tapping and banging (rhythmically of course) away on traditional instruments and a decent amount of audience interaction. Above all, -the performers looked as though they were having the best time ever, playing around with their mates. Now, I don’t often speak on behalf of a group of randoms I’ve never spoken to, who are different ages, nationalities, religions and gender to myself. But I can pretty confidently say we were all high on life during the show, with the same beaming, slack-jawed faces, and shared a common language of ‘ooooooh, aaaaaaaah!’
The equally-rad thing about this is that you can go and visit the school itself in Battambang and watch the acrobats, dancers, musicians, artists and designers in training. It’s such a spirited and colourful place, you’ll be left wondering why all schools aren’t an open celebration of fun and joy. You can imagine how much of a fan-girl I was when I saw and promptly met the performers from the show I saw; my lack of Khmer or French was a hindrance but I think they correctly interpreted my wild gesticulating as praise. Anyway, I’ll wrap this up now because I know ya’ll headed straight to the AirAsia website to score yourself some tickets to Cambodia. And to that I say BRAVO!
Featured image – Petra Teeuwsen
Banner image – phareps.org