Evidence of seak boran (traditional circus) dates back to pre-Angkorean Cambodia; it seems to have been practiced through the height of Khmer civilization. Stone carving depictions of jugglers, acrobats, illusionists, and sword swallowers have been discovered at Bayon, the Terrace of the Elephants, and Angkor Wat.
Phare Cambodian Circus
Phare Cambodian Circus is more than a conventional circus: the artists create and perform stories based on their own life experiences, recent history, folklore, and modern society to blend drama, dance, live music, and circus arts to share a part of their lives with audiences.
The performers come from unimaginably difficult social and economic backgrounds. After discovering and developing their skills at Phare Ponleu Selpak non-profit school, they are able to earn a good living and transform their lives at Phare Circus, breaking the cycle of poverty. Attend a Phare Circus show and you will enjoy Siem Reap’s best live entertainment, financially support the school, and provide opportunities for Cambodian artists.
Phare Cambodian Circus is one of Cambodia’s most innovative social enterprise models. Profits generated through ticket, refreshment, merchandise, and private performance sales support the free education, professional arts training, and social support programs of Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang.
History of Circus in Cambodia
While professional circus techniques were lost over the centuries, pahi (traveling medicine men) can be found roaming the countryside. Pahi sell medicinal exilirs and perform magic tricks, such as snake charming, occasionally with the assistance of trained monkeys.
Today, seak samai (modern circus) is performed in both Battambang and Siem Reap. Beneath a big-top tent, Khmer students and professionals entertain as circus performers at Phare Ponleu Selpak. Other forms of circus-style art include shadow puppetry, combined with circus arts and traditional dance, that can be experienced in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap by appointment.