You’ve seen Cambodia’s magnificent monuments to the past; now catch a show which brings the country’s spectacular culture to life in all its grace and glory.
An ancient land with unique and dazzling traditions, no trip to Cambodia would be complete without taking a seat in the round, ringside or under a big top to watch anything from death-defying circus acts to elegant apsara dance shows and heroic detective dogs. There’s something for everyone.
Traditional Dance Show
(National Museum, Preah And Eng; Street 13)
In the grounds of the National Museum a stone’s throw from the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, a troupe of over 30 perform Cambodian folk and classical dances, taking audiences on a journey from the Angkorian palaces of old to the villages of today. Proceeds go towards the mission of not for profit Cambodian Living Arts in supporting emerging artists via learning and leadership programs and other arts projects. Accompaniment on traditional instruments and the intimate garden setting heightens the shows’ atmosphere.
Start: 7 PM
Monday through Sunday (October to March)
Monday through Saturday (June to August)
Monday – Wednesday – Friday – Saturday (April, May and September)
Guide to visiting
Visitors are advised to book their seats in advance as a range of classes are available from cushy to could-be-comfier.
Pre-performance videos about Cambodian Living Arts, life under the Khmer Rouge and the history of the arts are screened from 6:30pm. Based in the Cambodian Living Arts was established to preserve the endangered performing art forms and rituals that were sure to be lost as the vast majority of artists perished under the Khmer Rouge. In response to a rapidly developing arts scene, they now focus on As a result of an evol
National Circus School of Cambodia
(National Assembly Steet)
Nearby to the National Assembly, this hidden gem is the lesser-known sibling of Phare. Shows are an excellent demonstration of the long history of circus arts in Cambodia, as evidenced by bas-relief carvings on the walls of Angkor Wat, Bayon and other temples. Housed in a delightful big top, acrobatic displays, dances and wondrous tricks are pulled off with great finesse and flourish. Tickets are tremendously priced at $5.
Champey Academy of Arts
(#1E0Z, Street 19Z)
A non-profit school of arts, Champey’s mission is to preserve Cambodia’s artistic heritage for future generations by providing free training in the arts to disadvantaged children and orphans. Their continued education is funded by visits to the school ($5), which include performances of 3 or 4 classical dances, with students explaining the symbolism of the hand movements, and the option to don traditional costume and dance along with them. Visitors can also see students at work at the easel or drawing board, and listen to them playing traditional instruments, with the chance to try it out for yourself! A small shop onsite sells art and crafts made by students, with all proceeds going to their cause.
(Phare Circus Ring Road, south of the intersection with Sok San Road)
The circus that’s always in town (or rather just outside!), shows are energetic, featuring jaw-dropping acrobatics, rollicking jaunts, traditional and contemporary dance movements, glimpses of visual art and stirring accompaniment by a pinpeat ensemble featuring traditional instruments. Inspired by experiences of its creators and performers, shows offer a slice of life in modern Cambodia, with war, discrimination, poverty and ghosts amongst the themes of its shows. Also hosted in Battambang where Phare Ponleu Selpak have their school, shows are in rotation, meaning that if you come back the following evening, you will likely be treated to a different performance!*
Guide to visiting
*If you wish to come for a second time, be sure that the show being performed on the night is different from your first visit – enquire before booking tickets.
Tickets can be reserved online, over the phone or bought in advance at various travel agencies around town. Take in a workshop with the stars + dinner + a show for $45 as part of a group.
Tuktuk and moto drivers are very familiar with the slightly-out-of-town location, with fares from central Siem Reap between $3 and $5. Parts of the Ring Road and Sok San road are unlit so take care if making your own way there. (See our Getting Around guide section)
Khmer classical dancing
From the host of Apsara dance shows offered in Siem Reap, Sacred Dancers of Angkor is held in the highest regard, boating the dual honours of royal patronage from Princess Norodom Buppha Devi and international endorsement from UNESCO. The troupe, made up of dancers from villages surrounding Banteay Srei, perform internationally, meaning that domestic shows are few and far between but well worth seeking out- catch them here and in venues around Phnom Penh.
Housed in a quaint, old world theatre, shows at Angkor Village Apsara Theatre, are intimate (and air-conditioned), offering a breath of fresh air in contrast to Siem Reap’s gaggle of monolithic dance theatre/buffet halls.
Guide to visiting
Remember “Children are not tourist attractions” as organisation Friends International puts it: if you are approached by street children or anyone else and invited to watch a Khmer dance performance at an orphanage, be a childsafe traveller and politely but firmly decline the offer – orphanage tourism imperils the rights and futures of vulnerable persons in Cambodia.
For martial arts fans, Kun Khmer (Cambodia’s answer to kickboxing and national sport) matches are held regularly at weekends in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, although schedules tend to vary. For more see Boxing.
Explosive Detection Dog Show
(National Highway 6, near Sangkat Tuek Vil)
In 2016, the Norwegian People’s Aid opened a Dog Training Centre in Siem Reap to continue its 25 year-old mission to free Cambodia of landmines. In the show, you’ll learn about the effects of the hazards buried beneath the land, see incredible demonstrations of obedience, agility, search and detection by the dogs and even have the chance to meet these stars afterwards.
Guide to visiting
Wheelchair-friendly facilities of the centre include toilets, cold drinks and a souvenir shop.
Opening times: Monday – Friday, show times at 8:30am and 4pm.