From Phare to Cirque du Soleil

Phare Circus is a social enterprise owned by Phare Ponleu Selpak non-profit school. At-risk Cambodian youth transform their lives through art and education. Some get well-paying jobs at Phare Circus in Siem Reap, some follow their passions to other fields. Some even find opportunities in world-class, international performing arts organizations. Read more about two who went from Phare to Cirque du Soleil.

Sok Dina and Nem Sopha, two alumni from Cambodia’s award-winning arts school, Phare Ponleu Selpak, are graduating from the National Circus School of Montreal in June, 2016 and will begin performing with Cirque du Soleil.


On September 10, 2011 Dina and Sopha boarded a plane bound for Montreal, Canada to attend the National Circus School of Montreal. The two young men, then 16 and 17 years old, never imagined they would be away from Cambodia for five years. Their living and studying expenses were supported by Phare Ponleu Selpak, many Cambodian-Canadian friends, scholarships, and also by working in summer jobs and performing stints.

Now five years later, both young men are about to receive diplomas from the famous circus school. Dina has a two year contract to perform with Cirque du Soleil and Sopha is on standby to perform in an upcoming show with the same company.

The two young men are originally from Battambang, and grew up around Phare Ponleu Selpak. Both come from humble families, their fathers drive tuk tuks and mototaxis. The young men were introduced to the circus school by their siblings, but Dina and Sopha were extraordinary students from the beginning.

Khuon Chanreaksmey, the deputy director of Phare Ponleu Selpak’s Performing Arts School, remembers that as students, “Dina learned everything very fast, especially the tightrope. He is one of those people hungry for exploration. And Sopha, at Phare he learned balancing, flexibility, and contortion very fast.”

Most importantly, Chanreaksmey notes, the two young men “are a model for other young Cambodians who want to develop their skills.”

Dina and Sopha are the first Cambodians to graduate from the National Circus School of Montreal, and will be the first Cambodians to join Cirque du Soleil. Their accomplishments send a message of hope, especially to the young students currently working so hard to improve their situations through classes at Phare Ponleu Selpak. The two are living proof that with the support of an organization like Phare Ponleu Selpak, along with plenty of hard work, anyone can rise above a challenging background and change their life.


Find out more about Dina and Sopha’s story in the documentary “Cirque du Cambodia”.

Read about the lives of other extraordinary Phare artists.