Roll Up, Roll Up as the Circus Takes Center Stage in Phnom Penh

Ushering in the Khmer New Year with a splash of color, Institut Francais will turn over its grounds to circus artists on Saturday afternoon.

Performers from “Phare, The Cambodian Circus” in Siem Reap City and from the National Circus School in Phnom Penh will be providing a variety of entertainment.

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Artists perform at the first Tini Tinou Festival in 2004. (Philippe Bataillard)

As evidenced by wall sculptures featuring circus artists in Angkor Archaeological Park, the circus tradition goes back hundreds of years in Cambodia. This prompted the Institut Francais to set up annual circus festivals in the mid-2000s, inviting circus artists from all over the country to take part in its Tini Tinou festival.

Photographs from past festivals taken by French photographer Philippe Bataillard will be displayed in the institute’s grounds on Saturday.

Mr. Bataillard, who first came to Cambodia in 1992, said the Tini Tinou festivals attracted thousands of spectators.

“The circus is something extremely visual that keeps in suspense people of all ages,” he said.

The circus school of the Battambang City NGO Phare Ponleu Selpak—whose professional company is based in Siem Reap—participated in all those festivals and took them over when the institute ended its involvement.

This long relationship is the reason why Phare will bring some of its best artists to perform on Saturday, said Huot Dara, chief executive for Phare in Siem Reap.


Where: Institut Francais, #218 St. 184

When: Saturday, April 8

Circus shows from 2:30 p.m till around 6 pm

Philippe Bataillard’s photo exhibition opening at 6:30 pm runs till May 7

Free admission

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