Circus Troupe Connects Cambodians Abroad

Nou Sotheavy / Khmer Times No Comments Share:

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – In their first tour to the United States, a small troupe of Cambodia’s Phare Circus will be performing “Khmer Metal” from Sunday until October 30. The tour was largely set in motion by the Phare Ponleu Selpak, Ringling Circus, The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Khmer Entertainment of America, and a small group Cambodian Americans.

The Ringling Spark 

Mao Sophaline saw the Phare Cambodian Circus when she visited Siem Reap from California 2 years ago. She was introduced to the group by one of their biggest supporters – her fellow Cambodian American friend and a hotelier in Siem Reap, Peter Phoeng.  Amazed by her first experience of watching the circus performers in “Chills” in 2014, she returned to Siem Reap this year and saw the acclaimed show, ‘Sokha’. The moving performances and story invoking her own Cambodian American experiences of the Khmer Rouge  convinced her that the artists needed to have an opportunity to perform in the United States.

Ms. Mao returned to her home in California’s Bay Area and under her company, Khmer Entertainment of America, Inc., set in motion the biggest tour of artists to be sponsored in the US from Cambodia since the “Season of Cambodia,” which brought more than 120 artists to New York in 2013. Ms. Mao continued to work with Phare Performing Social Enterprise and the 2015 Ringling International Arts Festival in Sarasota, Florida, for 9 months to bring the entire group to the US. Although many of the performers have traveled extensively throughout Europe and Asia, this will be their first ever tour to perform in the states.

US Tour

The troupe of a dozen members will make their first stop on Sunday in Long Beach, California – the heart of Cambodia Town and home to the largest Cambodian community in the States.  They will tour across the country and then end in Arlington, Virginia, on October 30.

Although the Phare group has performed many different shows, “Khmer Metal,” shows a more modern Cambodia which combines dance, music and circus acts set in a rock music bar. For one hour, a small cast of 6 performers and 3 musicians will portray the wild urban side of Cambodia – in rock music.

“The ‘Khmer Metal’ story – it is one that challenges the way we think about contemporary Cambodian culture and the struggles that youth face today,” said. Ms. Mao.

The Phare Cambodian Circus, was created in Siem Reap for the artists who graduated at Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang. Founded in 1994, the organization trains students from poor communities in their music, theater and circus schools. 

The Heritage Connection

Ms. Mao is just one of the many Cambodian Americans who are seeking to reconnect with their heritage through the arts. “I feel that the arts are extremely important in any culture and for Cambodians we are resurrecting our national identity through performing arts so that it not only survives, but is thriving for future generations.” Hoping for the younger generations of Cambodian-Americans to feel proud of their heritage, she feels that Cambodian artists can achieve that by telling stories through music, comedy, film, and now circus arts. 

“We have received an outpouring of support from the Cambodian-Americans who have never seen a modern-day Cambodian circus that incorporates storytelling via live music, dance and acrobatics to create something so uniquely Khmer. I hope that everyone does come out to support the group’s first ever US tour.”

For more information:

Performers from Cambodia’s Phare Circus in front of Cambodia Town in Long Beach, California. Photo: Johnny Chea

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