The University’s ballroom dancers were the toast of the Empire Ballroom in Blackpool last month when they won the national universities competition there for an unprecedented fourth year in a row.
The Cambridge University Dancesport Team competes against other universities up and down the country at five competitions during the course of the year, culminating in the nationals in Blackpool. It consists of 16 couples, each dancing one of waltz, quickstep, cha cha or jive. The 16 couples are divided into four teams (A, B, C and D) of four.
The team competed in the Empress Ballroom, the spiritual home of ballroom dancing, against 80 teams from 29 universities.
Of the 32 Cambridge dancers, two are from the Department of Engineering; Blaise Thomson and Krisada Chaiyasarn.
Blaise a PhD Student in the Dialogue Systems Group, Machine Intelligence Laboratory in the Information Engineering Division talks about how he got involved: "I got involved with the dance team four years ago, when I initially came to Cambridge to do an MPhil. I went along to the trials to see what it was all about, got selected for the team and couldn't stop competing ever since! The nationals from my point of view were a great success. I've been the captain this year so I felt that if we lost in the team match it would be largely my fault. In the end, everyone in the team danced incredibly well and the results showed it. My partner and I did reasonably well individually too. We competed as part of the B-team and placed 2nd in the team waltz competition, immediately after our A-team. Although I'm a little bit nervous about it, I'm looking forward to the Varsity match on 2 May very much. We have a good chance of winning this year and with the match being held in Cambridge we are hoping to have lots of support as well which will be great."
Krisada a PhD student in Computer vision for tunnel inspection, in the Geotechnical Research Group, says "I started dancesport with the Cambridge University Dancesport Team (CUDT) and competed in a beginner level during my 3rd year in the Department. This first year of my dancing experience was very successful as I had been in the final rounds of the beginner latin dance in all major competitions and won the third place in the national competion (Inter-Varsity Dancesport Competition, IVDC). Despite having to stop dancing in the 4th year, I began dancing again during my 1st year of the PhD study in the intermediate latin dance and became a finalist in most major competitions including the IVDC. This year, I danced Jive for the team, which won us the D team trophy contributing to the overall success as a national champion for the CUDT.
"The IVDC was held in the Blackpool which is the most prestigious venue for the dancesport. The competition went extremely well for the CUDT in which we dominated the event as usual. And for the coming Varsity competition, the CUDT is stronger than ever and I am very confident that my effort for the team will once again win us the Varsity champion title."
The 32 Cambridge dancers, of 18 different nationalities reflecting the nature of the student body in Cambridge, were among 1000 dancers competing at the Empress Ballroom. The four Cambridge teams were placed 1st, 3rd, 8th and 11th overall, giving the University victory in the A, B, C, D and overall categories.
In addition, Cambridge won the beginners' team match. This is only open to competitors who started learning to dance no more than a year earlier, and is something that the Cambridge team takes very seriously. Successful beginners one year can go on to be successful members of the full team in subsequent years
Indeed, Cambridge beginners from recent years were placed 1st in waltz, 1st in quickstep, 1st in jive, 3rd in jive and 2nd in cha cha in the main team event.
The 36th Varsity match will be held on Saturday 2 May 2009 at Cambridge Regional College Sports Hall, Cambridge are aiming to make it three wins in a row against their Oxford rivals.
Dancesport is a half blue sport for both men and women. Cambridge dancers have also won extraordinary full blues for 4 of our women whose performances demanded greater recognition by virtue of their outstanding success, both against university competition and on the open circuit.
The Cambridge squad is supported by two coaches who live in Cambridge, who are both former captains of the team, and four coaches who visit Cambridge once a week or so to give lessons. Team members are expected to practise at least three times a week, and take a lesson as well.
In a further development the nimble-footed students are to help local schoolchildren who are discovering the magic of the dancefloor. Inspired by the rise in popularity of celebrity ballroom dancing, Year 6 pupils from Milton Road Primary school in Cambridge began learning to dance in January under the watchful eye of experienced teacher Anna Castiglione and are preparing their very own gala competition event next month. The pupils are training three times a week outside school hours, before school and at weekends.