Rola Bola

rola-bola(1)Circus Skills Revealed:
Rola Bola a.k.a. the Balance Board

Aside from being amazed by the hard work, skill and emotion that goes into our circus performances here at Phare… We want the world to understand the circus. The technical elements and history are fascinating.

Today, we look at Rola Bola, or Balance Boarding. Though there are examples of balance focused tricks in performances much earlier, a Frenchman named Vasque from the late 1800’s is often credited with the founding of the discipline.

Essentially, the artist stacks a board on top of a cylinder and balances atop the board. More cylinders and boards are then added to increase the complexity of the balancing act.  Add in some other circus skills and stunts to make the act even more astounding than it already is, i.e. juggling, handstands, partner acrobatics, etc.

With the help of Chandan, a performer from Phare’s production, Khmer Metal, I was able to find out a few extra glimpses into the struggles to be a Rola Bola master…

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Training? “Start small,” he told me. And, in front of a wall for support. One cylinder and one board. Do your best to find control on the board, both being still and moving from side to side. Try to use the wall as little as possible once you feel more comfortable, then, move away from the wall a bit. Continue moving away until you don’t need the wall at all. Then? Start over. Add another cylinder and board and move back to the wall. Repeat. Repeat as many times as you can until the wall no longer provides much safety because you’re up so high!

rola-bola(4)Danger? “Falling backwards is the worst,” he said. It rarely happens, but when it does, it’s because you’ve pushed yourself beyond your limits and were caught by surprise. It’s the worst not only because you can’t see where you’re falling, but because you often collide with your various boards and cylinders on the way down. As if the ground weren’t bad enough!

Most frightening? “When you’re holding someone else on your hands or shoulders as you’re balancing – they’re depending on you!” This says it all of course, and it gives new meaning to the idea of trusting your coworkers.

rola-bola(5)How do you know it’s ready for show? “When you’ve practised it so much you feel the confidence to do it alone with no safety or support – a dozen times.”  Wow! That must take some serious patience.

Well, when you’re looking for something to do in Siem Reap besides the temples, you can come see Chandan doing a number of stunts in his show coming up in a week, or you can come check out some Rola Bola this week in our current performance, Eclipse. Either way, you’re in for the best evening entertainment in Siem Reap!

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