Just as outdoor “Zumba” exercise took off in the West, Phnom Penh has become riddled with similar dance exercises in public spaces, and there’s no sign of the new craze slowing down.
In the cool evenings, amongst strollers, amateur footballers and vendors, Khmer and Korean dance music blasts from a sound system, adding an extra beat to the steps of those passing by.
Stretched out in four lines, around 60 people at count follow the instructions of their leader.
“Walk straight ... one … two ... three ... to the front, and then back,” the instructor yells through a microphone in Khmer.
Brothers Kimny and Kimyee Chea are one of many who have set up a blasting sound system and a microphone to provide a space for people to exercise in public. Their dance takes place everyday in Wat Botum Park, in front of the Cambodia-Vietnam friendship monument on Sothearos Boulevard from 5-8pm.
The idea stemmed from Kimyee, who studied dance and taught his brother at the Olympic Stadium. The opportunity to exercise in the street was more than they could ask for.
“It’s for exercise and to make some money,” Kimny told 7Days.
The rise in popularity of the street exercises is evident throughout the city.
At the southern end of Wat Botum Park is another dance group which begins once Kimny’s session has completed for the evening.
More can be found by the riverfront and throughout various parks around the capital’s boulevards.
Kimny believes the huge turn out proves that people prefer to exercise together.
“They can do it at home, but it’s only you. When you’re at home alone, it’s not good. Exercising with other people is more fun. People can come here and meet others and have a chat,” he said.
When the brothers first began booming their Korean and Khmer beats three years ago, they attracted about ten people. T
hrough word-of-mouth the crowd kept growing, and now Kimny said between 80 and 100 people turn up every day.
To join, participants pay just 1,000 riel (about 25 US cents) for a three-hour exercise session.
Most of those who join are women, but men of all ages also take part.
Another popular feature is the music and dance styles, Kimny said.
The music is made up of Khmer, Korean and western, and Kimny believes it is the opportunity to learn different dance styles that attracts many young people.
“Young people want to learn Korean-style dancing. They see it on the television, and they like the style.”
Kimny said he would like to see more men take part, and also points out that very few foreigners join in.
“I’d like to see more people come to this place.”
Leading a group of people through a dance routine for three hours, seven days a week, can’t be easy, so the brothers take half a session each.
Coming up with the dance routines takes about a month, and Kimny said they practice the routine for about two to three months to memorise the steps.
Where and when:
Wat Botum Park, 5-8pm in front of the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument on Sothearos Blvd. Cost: 1,000 riel.