Phare Ponleu Selpak, a great committed social circus

We arrived in Battambang after having seen the Phare circus show in Siem Reap. We are very excited and a little nervous with the idea of ​​teaching in a circus school, designed to train professionals who will soon be on stages around the world showing their talent and skills!

logo phare

After several email conversations, we met with the assistant director of the center to discuss how we can help. First of all, he himself makes a tour of the school, and half a tour, for an urgent matter, he is replaced by one of the founders … What an honor! What a thrill!!!!



Phare Ponleu Selpak started in 1986 in the refugee camp II of the Cambodian-Thai border, after the Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot carnage. In these fields, nine young Cambodians began to receive drawing classes from Veronique Decrop, a French humanitarian worker.


These sessions became the perfect therapy for children to express their emotions and release their burden a bit … In 1994, this group of young people organized again in Battambang, one of the cities hardest hit by decades of civil war , to create Phare Ponleu Selpak, and thus help the large number of children victims of poverty and abuse, in a deep post-war society, after a bloody civil war, and in a reconstruction country victim of the corruption of your government.



The organization started with drawing classes in a building and was growing, including more artistic disciplines, incorporating a circus school, and even today, where seven different disciplines are taught. In addition, his mission is to recover his artistic roots eradicated by the civil war.




During the tour they explain that there is an elementary school, kindergarten, circus school, audio-visuals: video editing, recording, etc … traditional Cambodian dances, theater, painting, and any plastic art that happen to you, the music school, like a great classic local hut.





The building of trapeze, acrobatics and juggling, with a ceiling of about 20 meters high, all the equipment necessary to perform any physical demonstration in trapeze or on ground …. and what if we saw it! The theater space, with tiers and roof similar to acrobatics, the dance and theater classrooms. And finally we saw the circus tent, where the final year students finalize their experience and professionalism, before becoming professionals in the circus of Siem Reap. In the school there are also performances every Monday and Thursday at 7 pm, combining several shows in preparation.








And get to work!!!! We met with the head of studies to plan the workshop. He tells us that we will have about 13 students, from 15 to 20 years old, some with experience as a circus Clown. We discussed the best option, a first idea: an intensive 4 hours a day, 4 days a week, 2 weeks. Ideal to make a good introduction to several aspects of our clown, but we thought it would be a little beast … better start softer, 2 hours the first week and we would see the second … How exciting!


We started classes, at 9 am, and they directed us to the circus tent to do the classes !! What a beautiful place … magical! The students begin to arrive and we are going to present ourselves … And the party starts !!


The students, as good teenagers, at first were a little scattered, they were talking to each other, the normal thing, while Him, the head of studies, translated us, and from time to time he put them a bit in Cambodian …


We started with basic exercises, confidence, group cohesion, and each time we were complicating a little more. The evolution was beautiful, the initial distance was decreasing, each time we got more confidence (them and us), began to show affection, the desire to learn, interest, the interaction of the group, the desire to improve, to be more they, letting themselves be carried away more by their desire to see people laugh, feel, share …


At the beginning of the second week we could do the warm ups fully coordinated, we even changed exercise with a single gesture, all to one, focused and motivated … giving everything!




When planning the workshop with the Phare staff, we committed ourselves to make a sample of the end of the workshop, so at the end of the first week we had to start giving shape to the sample … the nerves were beginning … The show was going to represent for all the staff of the school … without pressure, hehehehehe … So we decided that the remaining days we would do 4 hours … to work to the fullest …



During the second week we did some more improvisation exercises, until we had enough material to define among all the content of the final sample with a minimum coherence (artistic) … the proposal was colorful and everyone would participate equally. In the afternoon we were translated by Vanara, a school diabolo teacher, who had also done some Clown. He offered to make a bond between the different numbers, so great, we would go for pearls!


So the second week was intense and laborious. The students were nervous and overturned, willing. We missed all of her many hours, in class and generating ideas, until finally we got a sample … we just needed to take her to the stage …


The day of the show: class in the morning and first general rehearsal in the afternoon, just before the performance … there was no more time … To have your full attention, since they were nervous and scattered, we reviewed the movements of three in three, total attention, a bag, clear and simple directions, changes of integrated stage and very basic, and some indication from the stands to nail movements that there was no time to rehearse …

With the music ready, everything ready and the stands ready … Start the show !!!! All the children of the school were there to see their heroes, the great ones, the final year students, who had even seen acting … We were half crap … with so little time to prepare, a rather short workshop, although intense, yes, it was clear that it was a “work in progress”.


The assistant director comes out to present, they call us to co-present and explain our project, we summarize the work done with the students and we clear the scene … The actors’ shout is heard as a group, the stage lights fall and it lights up the stage … Action! The first student appears … people start to laugh … they are doing better than ever, super fun, the second one comes out, but how natural! I had not shown this in class !! The enchanted public!

All appear, everything goes like a silk, concentrated, very thin, liking, and liking the public … spectacular! Everything is perfect, in every way! They had a great time, they enjoyed it during the whole show, and in the end … a great public obación! A success! Very well resolved! Altogether lasted about 40 minutes, perfect!


After their performance we made our Clown number, although the children had already seen their idols and most did not wait to see what it was. We prepared in 5 minutes, after being 200% with the students, we got dressed and started playing the music that gave my entrance … We were in a circus tent, with the bleachers full, the space invited the game, share our emotion, to enjoy like the children we are and to give everything for the audience that was watching us …


It was very beautiful, with a captivating heat we show all our interior, our desire to share and our love for what we do … The world is very big, and its people very diverse, but at the same time we all have a common base, all we love, we suffer, we long, and we share. The communication through the clown is universal, and that gives us wings to play and connect with people from all over, with diverse reactions, but all of them included …


And so our experience with the Phare social circus Ponleu Solpek ended, after more than two weeks in the fantastic city of Battambang, leaving a star shining in our heart, forever … what a beautiful sharing and so receiving … We will return to See you succeed!

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