May 04 2012
Phnom Penh is doing a good job of getting noticed recently, sometimes via shameless self-promotion. So it was no surprise that on an overcast Saturday afternoon in April, more than 1,000 young people gathered at Wat Botom park to try and enter the Guinness Book of World Records by dancing the Madison.
The Madison, in case you’re wondering, is a line dance from the 1960s which is featured in the movie Hairspray. Think along the lines of the Locomotion or, shudder, the Macarena. While it’s now almost unknown in the United States where it originated, Khmers still love the rom Madizone. It’s a favourite at Khmer New Year gatherings, and no wedding celebration is complete without it.
The big dance was organised by Loy9, a mass media campaign with TV and radio shows made and presented by young Khmers. Decked out with Loy9 baseball caps, stickers and face stamps, excitable participants took their numbered places, lining up across Wat Botom park.
Wat Botom is a popular place for dusk aerobic dance classes, where instructors set up with boom boxes and punters pay to shake their funky stuff in the name of exercise. The Madison is a cert during these sessions – the left foot, right foot kick, some fancy bits in the middle and a sweep and hop to change direction.
More traditional Khmer dancing involves graceful hand movements and careful steps in a circle. Unless you’ve been schooled since childhood, it can be difficult to get both elements co-ordinated at the same time. The Madison, however, is a little more raucous, with plenty of hand claps and cheers. So long as you start on the left foot and face the same direction as everyone else, it’s easy to bluff your way through.
As the previous mass Madison record was a measly 459 dancers, chances are good for the new Cambodian record, as soon as video footage and witness reports have been verified by the judges at Guinness. “I just wanted to be a part of it,” said Ros Sophy, her face covered with stickers. “It’s amazing – we’ve done something to prove to the world that Cambodia has some talent.”
“Madizone is my favourite dance. I learnt it by watching at weddings and every Khmer New Year,” said Channarath Soum. “The moves are nice and I’m excited to be here. When there’s a world record attempt in your own city, it’s rude not to join in!”
It’s to be hoped that the few brave barang who joined in didn’t scupper the record attempt by not being as fleet of foot as the Cambodian teenagers. But they’ll be a lot more confident at the next wedding when guests start lining up to rom Madizone.
Travelfish.org always pays its way. No exceptions.