Battambang is home to the Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus School and NGO. The mission behind the organization is to provide opportunities for children from less fortunate backgrounds through the medium of performance art.
It started back in 1986 in refugee camps lining the Thai border, with simple drawing workshops. The experiment continued after the refugees returned to their homelands in Battambang and Phare Ponleu Selpak has blossomed to where it now has a worldwide reputation.
Every Monday and Thursday a show is performed for both locals and tourists to rousing applause and appreciation.
It is a Cirque du Solei type of circus. In fact several of the students have graduated and been accepted to Montreal where the holy learning grail of circus performers is located. Others have gone on to perform all over Europe and Asia in various disciplines.
It was an incredible show highlighting many of the skills taught here. Hand balancing, contortion, tumbling, dancing, acrobatics, and hula hooping. The kids were smooth in their transitions and there was a basic story-line to the show however, to be very honest, it was lost on me. Continue reading Monday Night Circus →
Dance is a major part of the cultural attraction of Ubud. The most famous are the Barong, Kecak, Fire, and Legong. Performances for each of them are held regularly throughout Ubud and no visit would be complete without an introduction to stories behind these traditional dances.
The Barong dance is a reenactment of good versus evil and depending on where it is performed the degree of violence is adjusted. Basically it is the story of Rangda, the mother of the King of Bali in the tenth century. She was condemned by her husband because of her practice of black magic.
She longed for her son and went about summoning all the evil spirits to bring him to her.
Barong is required to protect the son and so begins the battle of good versus evil.
Rangda casts a spell that makes Barong’s soldiers want to kill themselves by pointing their poisoned keris (knives) into their own stomachs and chests. Barong, in turn, casts a spell that makes their bodies resistant to the dagger.
The battle rages on in perpetuity however the dance ends with good restoring balance; this, as we all know, is temporary. Continue reading Ubud’s Story of Dance →
Bandung is the home of a musical arts school called Sang Angklung Udjo. It is here that students from age 3 years and up learn to master the instruments of the Javanese orchestra as well as Wayang Golek puppetry. Both are incredible to witness and are easily a Bandung must see. This was my first time and I look forward to enjoying the experience again.
The concert, or as they would rather it be called, demonstration, lasts for a little over 2 hours. If you think that’s a long time to be sitting, a full version would traditionally last 7 hours, hence the term demonstration.
It starts out with an explanation of what you are about to witness but the explanation does not do it justice. Not from lack of effort by the emcee but simply because words cannot adequately capture the value of this performance.
The two hours consist of angklung solos as well as full orchestral renditions of modern music done in traditional Continue reading Music and Puppet Artistry in Java →