Dancing is a sport? Of course! After months of intense training, IC Dance’s Ballroom and Latin Dancesport teams travelled to Cardiff last weekend for a clash of the southern universities. This is one of the most eagerly anticipated competitions of the year, a crucial step before the UK-wide competition in Blackpool at the end of February. Vying with universities as far as Exeter and Southampton (as well as the powerhouses Cambridge and Oxford), Imperial made an extremely strong showing, with dancers at all levels giving top-notch performances.

Dancesport competition operates on a unique knockout system. Couples are categorised by ability and from then on it is a battle to remain on the floor – a panel of judges ruthlessly eliminates around half the competitors during each round. Stamina is therefore crucial. With each round it becomes harder to maintain the same energy and sharpness, and yet the pressure mounts as fewer and fewer dancers remain.

For the IC Beginners team, SUDC was only the second major official competition they had attended. Benjamin Biggs and Kerys Borg stood out with their phenomenal performance in the beginners category. Despite strong competition from Oxford, Cambridge and Cardiff, they beat 68 other couples to emerge as champions in both ballroom categories, waltz and quickstep. Amazingly, Ben and Kerys did it all over again in the Latin competitions, winning both jive and cha for a clean sweep of four first place medals! An absolutely stellar performance from this promising beginner couple.

Of the more advanced couples, many were competing together for the first time last weekend. IC Dance lost several dancers to injuries and other commitments after Nottingham Varsity in November, forcing a reshuffle of dancers on the team. Undeterred by the limited time they had to practice, the newly-minted couples did remarkably well on the floor. Devon Anthony and Stephanie Rathmann came in fourth in Novice Ballroom despite being partners for little more than a month. Meanwhile, Barnaby Paul and Anastassia Rajapu deserve a special mention for making it to the semifinals of Novice Latin with what must be the record for the shortest preparation time ever – their routines were made up on the day itself!

First and third places in Novice Latin were claimed by Imperial couples: Oliver Jiang and Mariya Pozdeyeva were the undisputed champions, with an unanimous top rank from every judge on the panel – an event almost unprecedented in the often hotly contested finals. Junyi Hou and Sarah McMullan were neck and neck with a couple from Exeter but were narrowly edged out for a commendable third.

At the Intermediate level, Devon Anthony and his Latin partner Freya Thomas seized their first competition win at SUDC last weekend with their skill in cha, jive and paso doble. They are a well-established partnership; both started dancing as beginners in IC Dance two years ago and placed sixth in Novice Latin at Inter-Varsity after partnering up last year. Since then they have gone from strength to strength.

Contrasting them in Intermediate Ballroom were Sirawit Ittisoponpisan and Yue Shi, who have only been dancing together since December. They faced off against five couples from Cambridge (and one Bristolian couple) in the finals to come in fifth place in waltz, Viennese waltz and quickstep.

In Advanced Latin, Tianci Ma & Adela Capilnasiu nabbed yet another first place for Imperial, triumphing over eleven other couples with their excellent performance in four dances: cha, rumba, paso doble and jive. Slavina Georgieva, an Imperial alumna, and her partner Henry Hesten also made fifth place in the gruelling Advanced Latin (Ex-students) category, which assesses couples’ prowess in all five Latin dances – the aforementioned 4 and an additional dance, samba.

As testament to IC Dance’s versatility (and stamina!), Henry Hesten and his ballroom partner Sarah McMullan also competed in Acrobatic Rock N’ Roll, coming in sixth with their effortless stunts and energetic dancing.

Finally, the day concluded with the team match: each participating university sends several teams of four couples, who dance separately in waltz, quickstep, cha and jive. They are judged together and progress through the rounds as though they are a single couple. Unlike the previous events where individual couples compete against each other, the team match is where universities go head to head on the dance floor. After four intense rounds of dancing, Imperial’s A team came in fourth out of 33 teams representing universities at SUDC. Well done to the dancers of the A team!

The whole IC Dance team can be proud of their achievements at SUDC this year. Meanwhile anticipation is building for the Inter-Varsity Dance Competition, when the Northern and Southern universities will convene for the largest competition of the year! Best wishes to IC Dance as they gear up for IVDC next weekend.