Photo of Maria Tate

photo by Naroth Chey

Maria Tate

By School of Performing Arts


Maria Tate graduated from WSU in 2006 with a BFA in Dance. Since graduation Maria has performed and/or taught with Tulsa Opera, Tulsa Ballet, Joel Hall Dancers (Chicago), Spark! Circus in Thailand and many others. Maria was set to tour with Circus Vargas in the United States beginning April 2020 but due to the Covid-19 pandemic she did not get to chase that particular dream. Maria recently relocated to Battambang, Cambodia to take up a position as Arts Education Specialist at Phare Ponlue Selpak , a world class circus organization and arts integration school with a 27 year history of improving lives through the power of the arts.
Maria arrived in Cambodia on June 24, 2021. She then spent a mandatory two weeks of quarantine in a hotel in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. On July 9 Maria and two colleagues made the 6 hour journey from Phnom Penh to Battambang Province, the home of Phare Ponleu Selpak.  
Maria received employment based on her experience in the fields of arts and education. Maria is unique in that she has training and professional experience in circus and performing arts, both as a performer and an instructor, AND professional experience as a Kindergarten and Elementary Teacher. This combination of skills matches well with Phare Ponleu Selpak ‘s programs and missions.
“Currently I am learning as much as I can about the school, our programs and Khmer culture (pronounced Kuh-mai). By learning from my colleagues I hope to combine my knowledge of arts integrated curriculum with their vast experience and success, in order that I may best serve to foster growth at Phare. I am also hoping to perform in our Big Top circus tent, right here on campus! Sadly, we are not able to have shows now due to the Covid 19 pandemic. However, there is hope! The Cambodian government is currently administering a huge vaccination campaign. Just yesterday, many of my colleagues were able to get their first dose this week along with at least 8,000 others! We do not know when we will be able to welcome students and spectators back to our beautiful campus but these vaccinations are an important step in that direction. “
My hope is that  I am able to bring awareness to my family and friends back in Kansas about the amazing programs here at Phare and the magnificent Khmer people of Cambodia, including their traditional dance and music and our supremely talented circus performers. J I am so excited to begin my journey at Phare and can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

Maria Tate

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More about Phare

Our Story

The ‘Brightness of The Arts’ has taken root back in the 1980s in a refugee camp on the Thai border, after the Khmer Rouge Regime devastated Cambodia. There, the French humanitarian Véronique Decrop started to teach drawing and painting classes for refugee children, to help them express their traumas. 
After the camp closed years later, Véronique and 9 of her most passionate students decided to found a drawing school back in their Cambodian hometown, Battambang, to help the marginalized local youth in return. The original drawing school has progressively been transformed over its 27 years of existence into a multi-faceted creative hub, to which 4 of the original founders are still actively committed today.

Phare Circus Shows

Phare’s international reputation is mostly conveyed through our social circus. Phare shows share Cambodian stories through drama, dance, live music & modern circus arts. They are inspired by the real-life experiences of its creators and performers and deal with themes such as war, discrimination, relationships, poverty and ghosts. Phare circus toured in many Countries around the world and gained international recognition over the years, being often called the "Cambodian Cirque du Soleil" today. 
We currently have one Big Top in Battambang where our students used to perform up to 4 times a week before the pandemic and a Big Top in Siem Reap run by Phare’s sister social enterprise where Phare graduates performed daily before the pandemic. The benefits used to be re-injected in our school programs and a percentage directly given back to the students to support their livelihoods. The income generated by these professional venues is used to greatly contribute to cover Battambang school programs’ costs (60% of our annual operating costs) in a virtuous circle of development.

Our Mission

In a country where the artistic culture was destroyed through years of conflict, Phare Ponleu Selpak promotes a sense of Cambodian pride and identity. Our mission is steeped in the duty of remembrance and contribute in the reviving of the local art scene. 
Over 1000 students attend our schools and programs. General education, performing arts (circus, theatre, dance, music), visual and applied arts (drawing, painting, graphic and product design, animation) : all our leisure and vocational programs aim to develop their creativity, communication and life skills, and give them the opportunity to access a sustainable artistic career. For most of our beneficiaries, it also means lifting themselves and their family out of poverty.”


Photo of Maria Tate
photo by Naroth Chey