Under The Big Top

Taking a detour and boarding the 7a.m. bus to Battambang instead of heading south to the coast for a bit of chill, I wave good-bye to Siem Reap in search of some more boogie-time.

And boooy do I find it.

The circus is in town!

The circus is always in town when you’re in Battambang!

Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) is a Cambodian NGO that is developing children socially, culturally and skillfully, through the arts. There’s a cornucopia of vocational options to choose from, from theatre, to visual arts to music and the students’ skills are recognized and requested throughout the country by numerous organizations and hospitals. Two of their young performers are even training with the Cirque du Soleil in Montreal!

PPS has designed a holistic approach to dealing with life issues such as AIDS, drugs, human trafficking and domestic violence. It’s combined with a dedication to education, offering both formalized and supplemental programs, as well as social action, embracing the community with a Child Care Center, Social Services program and Leisure Center.

Did I mention the circus?!

I pop in to catch one of the bi-weekly performances, this one entitled, Cabaret. And what a show! There were no clowns to be found on this set, only a group of talented kids ranging in age from single to double digits. The performance was spectacular — their little bodies were contorting, twisting & turning, dropping & hopping, bouncing & spinning & flying! Whew. Don’t even get me started on the musicians. The finale involved the entire cast and a very long flaming jump rope. Set to the energetic beat of hip, jammin’ tunes, the joie de vivre bursting from these kids wasn’t just enthusiastic. it was infectious.

I wanted my training to begin immediately either twirling about 40-foot scarves, dangling from the rafters or plinking & plunking on the Dr. Seuss-like musical instruments. They were having sooo much fun! If even slightest possibility existed that my application might be considered, I would have signed up on the spot.

Phare Ponleu Selpak translates as “the brightness of the arts” and this unique operation welcomes 1400 children into its various programs each and every day. If the creative spark these kids ignite onstage is any measurement of success, they have a serious firestorm brewing. This was the most spectacular event I’ve felt privileged to be a part of since my arrival in Cambodia. Right on kids!

~ by Christine Fowle