National Circus School to Showcase Students’ Big-Top Skills

As far back as historical records show, circus has been part of life in Cambodia.

Circus artists were immortalized in wall sculptures at Sambor Prei Kuk, the country’s seventh-century capital, and they also appear in sculpted scenes on Angkor Wat and the Bayon monuments, built five centuries later.

Performers from the National Circus School rehearse for this week's show in Phnom Penh. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Performers from the National Circus School rehearse for this week’s show in Phnom Penh. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Today, however, while there are still individual circus artists doing their acts in the provinces and artists trained at the Phare Ponleu Selpak circus school performing in Battambang City and Siem Reap City, opportunities to see a show are rare in Phnom Penh.

This has prompted Cambodia’s National Circus School, which is based in the capital, to stage a full performance in the grand circus tradition. Held Wednesday through Sunday, “Cambodia’s Circus Festival” will be held at the school’s Big Top facility located across the street from the National Assembly.

About 30 senior students will take part in the show, which will include the whole array of classic circus acts, from juggling and trampoline to aerial hoop and ribbon numbers.

“This performance will be the greatest, because the artists will include students who studied [for] several years in Vietnam and China…and will perform the unique techniques they learned at those circus schools,” said Phuok Narin, National Circus School director.

“In Vietnam, we trained so hard,” student San Kenghuy said. Days consisted of seven hours of circus classes plus a few hours of language and other courses in the afternoon. “But the way teachers approached us was not different from our teachers here,” he said. “They were friendly and kind, and always helped us to work harder and harder.”

For all those senior students, the shows this week will be a special opportunity, as they rarely have the chance to perform, Ms. Narin said.

“If we can get strong support… [the school] hopes to give performances every weekend so we can help artists have a market for their skills, and we can show the public that our circus artists and students… can really make them enjoy themselves,” Ms. Narin said.

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