January 18, 2024
PHNOM PENH – The Kingdom has embraced international dance sport since the establishment of the Cambodian DanceSport Federation (CDSF) in 2009, gaining recognition from national and international bodies.
Despite challenges like costly attire and a shortage of instructors, the CDSF has undergone substantial growth, training athletes from various age groups and even participating in the 32nd SEA Games in 2023.
International dance sport encompasses Latin and standard dance styles, demanding rigorous training for those aspiring to compete globally.
The lack of sponsors and a constrained budget pose challenges for the CDSF, impacting athletic training. However, despite these hurdles, the federation has made strides, training 55 athletes across different age groups.
From its developmental phase in 2016 to 2021, the CDSF engaged foreign and national coaches.
In 2022, an Australian coach joined the team, contributing to the development of dancers. Although the Cambodian dance sport team didn’t secure a medal at the 32nd SEA Games in Phnom Penh, their commendable fourth-place finish among seven countries showcased their growing prowess on the international stage, where they have earned several medals for Cambodia.
Since their debut at the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan, the Cambodian dance sport team has consistently demonstrated prowess on the international stage, earning impressive rankings and medals across various championships.
From Asia to the world stage, their achievements highlight their growing impact in the dance sport arena.
In the 2017 Games, the team secured rankings of 5th and 6th out of 15 countries.
Their success continued at the 2019 Asian DanceSport Championships in Taiwan, where they earned one silver and one bronze medal among 15 nations and territories.
The Asian Single Dance Championships in Hong Kong in 2018 saw Cambodian dancers winning one gold, one silver and four bronze medals, standing out among competitors.
Dazzling world stage
Expanding their reach globally, the team participated in the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF) Singapore Superstar Championship 2019, clinching two silver medals. Their journey continued with the 2019 World Series Asian Open Dance Tour in Taiwan, where they achieved one gold and two silver medals.
The pinnacle of their success in 2019 came at the Asian DanceSport Federation (ADSF) Asian Youth Single Dance Championship in Hong Kong, where they proudly claimed eight gold, seven silver and six bronze medals, solidifying their position as dance sport champions.
In a triumphant showcase at the 2022 WDSF Super Star Championship in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, the Cambodian dance team clinched an impressive collection of four gold, 10 silver and three bronze medals. Their success on the international stage echoes their commitment to excellence.
Beyond global competitions, the team actively participates in local events, contributing to the sport’s growth and connecting with the wider public.
Yet, for Nhem Morakot, secretary of state at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and president of the CDSF, the journey towards establishing dance sport in Cambodia has been a remarkable tale of dedication and progress, primarily led by strong female leadership and only one male coach at the helm.
“Over the past decade, our journey faced immense challenges. The federation, on the brink of dissolution, encountered obstacles, criticism and mockery. Led by a female president and limited finances, we persevered. Our students included children of ministry officials, taxi drivers and small vendors. Despite hardships, their passion drove them to persevere and utilise any available resources for training sessions,” she says.
Elegance amidst hardship
Morakot says they faced challenges with a lack of skilled dance coaches, financial constraints limiting international competition participation due to high expenses, and a small training facility below international standards. Additionally, Cambodian dance sport athletes struggled with insufficient costumes for competitions.
“The attire and footwear for this sport are expensive, ordered from abroad to meet international standards. This poses a challenge for children from civil servant and economically disadvantaged families, making it difficult to afford suitable clothing. Consequently, they often wear the same attire repeatedly, share or borrow from each other, creating a situation that truly evokes sympathy,” Morakot says.
Prime Minister Hun Manet’s wife Pich Chanmony brought renewed hope to the CDSF at the Dance Sport National Championship 2023 closing ceremony on December 11, during which she announced her support for the federation to enhance their capabilities and strive for more medals for the nation.
“I express my appreciation for the dedicated efforts of CDSF president Nhem Morakot, CDSF honorary president Bun Rany, as well as vice-presidents, coaches and others. Their hard work, collaboration and leadership have strengthened the federation from the beginning. After hearing the report on their progress and challenges, this admiration extends to everyone involved in their success. Together, their commitment has been instrumental in fortifying the CDSF since its inception,” Chanmony said at the event.
“Beginning with only three students, the dance sport federation has flourished, producing exceptional athletes competing internationally against larger countries and proudly securing numerous medals. I extend heartfelt gratitude to Her Majesty Queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, the Queen Mother of Cambodia, who consistently promotes sports, infusing her subjects with greater vitality,” she added.
Training for triumph
Chanmony calls on relevant ministries, the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC), private sector and partners to support CDSF with financial aid, technical assistance and training facilities, as this women-led federation seeks opportunities to advance dance sport, providing resources for athletes and instructors to ensure progress aligned with international standards.
“With dance sport gaining increased support and popularity, I anticipate more sponsors for the CDSF, and I’ll be one of the contributors as well,” she says.
Her announcement sparked enthusiasm within Cambodia’s dance sport community. Notable figures, including women’s affairs minister Ing Kantha Phavi and Tan Meng Houy, chief of the cabinet of the Queen Mother, attended the 2023 DanceSport National Championship opening and closing ceremonies, instilling new hope in the CDSF.
“I extend sincere thanks to … everyone in the championship. Your presence fills us with excitement, signifying that the CDSF is no longer standing alone,” Morakot said at the conclusion of the December event.
“I want to urge everyone in the public and private sector to unite in supporting the CDSF. Please encourage the coaches and athletes, ensure they have suitable attire for international competitions and enable them to persevere in rigorous training to secure additional medals for the nation. Currently, the team is training for upcoming championships, including participation in the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games scheduled to take place in Thailand in February and March,” she says.