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Circus School - Phare Ponleu Selpak. Battambang. Cambodia


PPS Battambang

Battambang’s Big Top - The Circus is in Town

In 1986 while staying at one of the large refugee camps on the Thai border, a group of children took part in a drawing workshop setup by a French visual arts teacher, some of those young Khmer children were to be the founding members of the future circus group. After moving back to Battambang in 1992,
the children were reacquainted with their former arts teacher and an artistic and educational association was founded in 1994, now known as Phare Ponleu Selpak, which means Fire. Life, Art. Many of the families in Anch Anh Village, where the association is based, were living in extreme poverty at the time, so the association focused on social and educational activities such as art, music and theatre
involving the whole community as well as children, some of whom had been abandoned by their parents. Initially starting as a physical education class including martial art and gymnastics, the circus school was opened in 1998 with the help of Khoun Det who had studied at the National Circus School of the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh. A bamboo big top was built at the Anch Anh site, and
attracted about thirty children to the training sessions in the early days, presently over one hundred and thirty are in attendance.
Nowadays the Anch Anh site is more like a campus, including library, art centre, animation lab, theatre group, public school, and circus school with a new Big Top.
The public school, which is part of the association, provides free education to
thirteen hundred children, funded by donations and fund raising. In addition there is a residential centre that opened in 2002, here about thirty children, some victims of human trafficking, others orphans, are provided with their daily needs and
psychological support. They all participate in an artistic activity and attend school. The theatre group have had shows on the Battambang to Phnom Penh train, and in factories and hospitals, bringing awareness about social issues such as domestic violence, child trafficking and Aids prevention.
The children who perform in the tri-weekly circus performances are aged
fourteen to seventeen. Once they become adults, some become teachers at the
centre and part of the three older traveling circus groups, from previous teenage generations. These groups have toured in Europe several times, and also visited Hong Kong Japan and most recently the Philippines.
With an audience of 150, the hour long show started at 7pm inside the Big Top.
To the side of the arena the musicians took their places, playing traditional Khmer instruments, their music accompanying the acts. The well performed show
included jugglers, multiple hoop spinning, high and low acrobatics, partner
balancing, jumping through hoops of fire, and the mischievous unicycle gang, who
manage to find their way into almost every act infusing humour and irony. 
Some performances from the circus can be viewed on YouTube – search for Phareps. 
Show times for the circus performances can be found on this web site. http://www.phareps.org/agenda    

PPS Battambang

PPS Battambang

PPS Battambang

PPS Battambang