Cambodian Circus Takes No Pain No Gain Attitude in Aim to Break Record | Voice of America
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA – Choub Kanha started his circus career at the age of 9. She recently performed for more than 24 consecutive hours with the goal of setting a Guinness World Record for longest circus performance.
The goal – to attract post-pandemic tourists to a long-standing attraction in Siem Reap, which is best known for its proximity Angkor Wat temple complex – left the 25-year-old artist exhausted.
“I couldn’t move my body and my muscles properly,” she said afterwards. “I was exhausted.”
Now, along with other circus performers from Phare Ponleu Selpak in Cambodia, she is eagerly awaiting an answer to the Big Top question: Did the live-streamed performance that drew over 500,000 viewers on YouTube reach the 24 hours and 10 minutes and 30 seconds needed to set a record?
“We don’t have a set date for official Guinness approval, they are still processing our application and it usually takes several months. It is likely that we will have feedback by August, ”said Morgane Darrasse, media, communications and marketing coordinator for Phare Ponleu Selpak.
Meanwhile, the circus received three more international awards last month.
Phare Ponleu Selpak won the Gold Stevie in the Innovation in Events category and the Silver Stevie in the Innovation in Communications category, competing against 29 countries for the 2021 Stevie Awards in the Asia-Pacific region. The Stevie is a corporate award that recognizes organizations and professionals around the world.
And the circus won a gold medal in the Special Event category of the Hermes Creative Awards, which recognizes work based “on creativity and what you apparently had to work with, not against other participants in the category,” according to the site.
But it is the Guinness milestone that could be a decisive proposition for the circus once Cambodia emerges from the pandemic by drawing the public back to tourists.
Holding a Guinness World Record just doesn’t happen. There are regulations and assessments that have evolved since the project began in 1951 as a means of settling pub disputes over topics such as “what is the fastest game birds in Europe”. (Answer: a plover.)
The record was worth a try. “We had to fight together to survive,” said Bo Ratha, an acrobat with 18 years of circus experience. “We knew we had to get there.
So on March 7, some 200 performers and backstage assistants from Phare Ponleu Selpak began to prepare physically and mentally for the circus marathon. After a week of rehearsals, the performers were united and ready to perform.
The troop rehearsed until just before the clock started. They were holding hands. They concentrated. They burst into joy and began their circus marathon knowing it would continue until the next day with cameras capturing every artistic feat of the circus.
Phare Ponleu Selapak, which has been training and producing artists for over 27 years, established Phare Performing Social Enterprise in Siem Reap eight years ago to provide jobs for artists. But when the coronavirus pandemic halted the flow of tourists in the spring of 2020, both efforts hit hard times.
Bo Ratha, 30, found himself delivering building materials for a store in his hometown of Battambang, known throughout Cambodia as an arts hub. Her boss gave her a week off to rehearse before the marathon and donated to the fundraising effort related to the live broadcast.
“His gift was a great motivation for the artists,” said Bo Ratha of the Reaksmey Construction Material donation. Mentioning the donated amount would be considered rude, so Bo Ratha refused.
In the marathon, Bo Ratha and his circus partner, Choub Kanha, performed five major segments. The opening one, Sor Kreas (Eclipse), started at 8 a.m. and lasted an hour.
One of their favorite thumbnails is The same but different, which concerns foreign travelers visiting Cambodia. In it, Bo Ratha and Choub Kanha, playing a Western couple, encounter Cambodian villagers during a sudden downpour.
Cambodians perform a fishing dance and when the rain ends, everyone feels connected.
“It’s a beautiful and romantic scene,” said Choub Kanha.
The performance of the marathon, however, presented new challenges. Everything required concentration – putting on makeup, changing costumes, entering and exiting the stage.
Choub Kanha is worried about the safety of the troops.
“We had very little rest. The performance was tough and it’s a 24 hour marathon of shows, ”she told VOA Khmer via a phone call from Battambang province. “I was worried that we might not be able to perform the difficult tricks well, or that our artists would face dangers while playing.”
Khuon Det, co-founder of Phare Ponleu Selpak, told VOA Khmer: “As the organizers, we had to keep an eye on the timing, the transition of each scene, as well as the safety and well-being of our people. artists and our team. “
Khuon Deth, co-founder of Phare Ponleu Selpak, said Phare anticipated the obstacles and prepared the alternatives. Phare reserved liners for each skill and trick, organized first aid kits, a team of medical staff was on standby in case of an emergency or to help performers with muscle pain or sprained ankles, wrists or other joints.
The preparations included planning the menu so that snacks, water and places to nap were available during the marathon.
“A wand breaks easily, while a pack of chopsticks is not,” said Bo Ratha, comparing the collaborative spirit of marathoners to a Cambodian proverb.
“We were so united. One step has been taken, we must be ready to open another, ”he said. “It’s five minutes. What else do you think we can do in five minutes behind the scenes if we don’t have a unit? “
Huot Dara, CEO of Phare Social Enterprise, said Guinness requirements included having an audience of 50 throughout the marathon and paying the performers. The record cost $ 15,000.
The marathon performance incorporated new material with older pleasures for a succession of acrobatics, magic, dancing, clowning, contortion, singing, puppetry, breakdancing, live painting, unicycle and of fire, each accompanied by live performances of classical or contemporary Cambodian music. .
Each act contained a chapter from a longer story reflecting Cambodian society, tradition and culture.
Throughout the performance, fans lined up in the hundreds, awaiting access.
“The audience lined up in long rows, so we set up a white fabric projection screen in an open field on the Phare campus. They sat down, keeping [social] distancing. Some breastfed their children and others chased away mosquitoes to put them to sleep while they watched our performance, ”said Bo Ratha.
“When I see this, I don’t know where my heart is hiding,” he added. “It melted my heart. ”