A year in the life of CUDT
by Marta Tomaselli on 30 October 2019
Strictly Come Dancesport
If you've ever turned on the TV on a Saturday night, I'm sure you will have seen - or at least heard of - Strictly Come Dancing. Here at the Cambridge University Dancesport Team, we learn ballroom dances such as the slow waltz, the tango, the Viennese waltz, the foxtrot and the quickstep as well as Latin-American dances including samba, chachacha, rumba, paso doble and jive.
There is a very busy university competitive season which mainly spans the Michaelmas and Lent terms and culminates with the National Championship in Blackpool at the end of February.
Cambridge has one of the biggest teams in the country and we have been unbeaten national champions since 2011; and for the 8th year in a row, we won the Varsity Match against Oxford in 4th of May this year. CUDT couples have also represented Cambridge at international competitions in China for the past three years.
Our team is composed of:
- a beginners’ team which includes couples with no previous dance experience;
- a second team for people with some experience; and
- a first team with the top 16-18 couples.
We also have same-sex couples, as women sometime outnumber men - but do not dare to think less of those: Cambridge always had at least 2 couples in every same-sex competition throughout the whole year, including our current captain Maddi and her partner Tessa, who ranked third at Nationals.
We really value our team spirit, despite it being a couples sport, and with the help of our four amazing professional coaches we have seen so many couples progressing fast.
Becoming CUDT Captain
I would have never thought I would have taken over captaincy, but out of a joke with my former dance partner last year, who has also been captain, I started considering the idea and I thought it would have been a great chance to give something back to the team.
Being captain of such a big and successful team can be tiring at times: you want to set the example to the team, meaning at least four training sessions per week, and at the same time you need to be available for your team members and manage it. This journey would have not been possible without the help of my co-captains Katjana Lange (PhD student at Corpus Christi College), the team committee and my dance partner (and current team captain), Hendrik Pröhl (HSPS student at Pembroke College). Balancing work, team admin and your own training can sometimes be challenging, but it all pays off when you see the whole team and its couples achieving amazing results.
Getting an academic edge from sport
When I moved to Cambridge, people in my lab realised I was dancing only when they saw my lab coat dirty with fake tan. After one year captaining the Cambridge University Dancesport Team, some team members looked surprised when I told them I was actually doing a PhD. Dancing plays a huge part in my life here in Cambridge and it really helped me to get through rough times in my academic and personal life. I would like to conclude this post reflecting on some of the results of the Sport and Academic Performance Report which looked at data from 2005-2016:
“The percentage of first class results achieved by undergraduate sportspeople (28.4%) was greater than the percentage achieved by undergraduates in the University as a whole (23.7%)”.
The research focused on undergraduates but I can tell you that, as a graduate student, I got so much out of this experience and I would recommend any graduate student to take up a sport during their time in Cambridge - especially Dancesport!