Saturday, April 28, 2012

If you'd asked me what I planned to do with my first weekend in Phnom Penh, I would perhaps have suggested a walk along the river, sleeping in, finding a good coffee.

I might not have mentioned taking part in a public novelty dancing world record attempt.

Yet, that's what I found myself doing this afternoon.

When we arrived, there were already about 500 people gathered, blue caps firmly in place, practicing the steps to the Madison. For those Aussies for whom this is unfamiliar, this is a Bus-Stop-like repeated dance involving step step kick, step step kick, clap, turn 90 degrees and do it all again. Anyone sensing a theme here?

It was being filmed, part of a BBC sponsored TV series aimed at engaging youth in current affairs, via a soap opera and radio show. My new French friend's contact was facilitating and somehow we ended up as official recorders. Thus, as the clouds broke onto a crowd swelling to 1200, we stood, the international neutral observers, one at the end of each row of 32, and watched for the requiring 5 minutes as the mostly Cambodian dancers stepped, clapped and occasionally cheered for the camera.

The guy at the head of my line had obviously been dragged into participate, and shuffled his way vaguely left and right, exactly opposite to the rest of the crowd. Next to him, a young beauty wiggled her way through the steps, resplendent in full denim suit (complete with bows) and fluffy slippers featuring cartoon kittens on each toe. Behind them, an awed three year old stared at the dancers around her, fixed to the spot. The rain set in properly, the music kept going, and the blue caps bobbed along.

Afterward, we had to sign an official declaration. Were we aware of Guinness World Record regulations? Was everyone in our row dancing? (I excluded the child. Sorry but I'm signing my life away here!) And the organiser pointed out the essential recorders - perched on top of tall buildings overlooking the square, the cameramen with the sniper-like setups to take in the whole thing in one sequence.

The rain eased and the leather jacketted hip hop boy band came on. Forget One Direction, Utopia is where it's at.

As long as you speak Khmer.

(Catch the world exclusive from next Sunday at

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