Every year in Trinity term there are University-wide competitions in all kinds of different sports called "Cuppers". All the colleges are encouraged to enter teams in all the events for which they have interested members. One of my co-workers and fellow BNC grad student, Denise, is involved in the UK Champion Oxford Dancesport team. She and a couple of other Brasenose girls who are on the beginners' team wanted to organize a college entry for the Dancesport Cuppers event.
I was roped into this adventure when Denise suggested at Pub Quiz on Tuesday that I could learn a few steps to partner with one of the girls. They could find some random dude to partner with them, but then they wouldn't score any points for Brasenose. I said I might be convinced, but wasn't particularly excited about the affair.
I made it through nearly all of Wednesday without hearing it mentioned so I thought I was off the hook. Then Denise called me Wednesday night to ask if I'd actually do it. I came this close to begging off, but for some reason some advice from Claire about moving to a new place flashed through my mind: "Never turn down an opportunity to meet people."
"Yeah, I'll do it."
"Terrific! First practice tomorrow morning at 10."
The competition was Sunday, so I had three days to prepare. I met up with the crew on Thursday morning during the OUDC practice. Mairi and Vicky were the two girls who had been dancing with each other on the OUDC beginners' team. Cuppers couples (say that 5 times fast) are only allowed to have at most one member of the team, so they couldn't enter the competition together (although there were loads of female-female pairs involved; evidently competitive partner dance is a good place to meet women, guys). The good thing was that for each dance, one of them knew the man's part. A BNC undergrad named Ewan had been recruited to be the second fall guy, so we started off with Vicky teaching me the man's part of the cha-cha and Mairi teaching him the man's part of jive.
I met to practice again on Friday night and Saturday morning, eventually trading partners with Ewan so we could actually do the dances as a pair. By the end of Saturday I mostly had the steps down and Denise and Mairi were offering more technical advice and descriptions of the proper (i.e. arrogant) latin dance style. I figured this wasn't bad for a few days practice, so I spent a little time at home on Saturday cha-cha'ing in front of the mirror and being mocked by my housemates.
Our team consisted of me and Mairi for the cha, Ewan and Vicky for jive, Denise and her partner named Mark for ballroom and another couple I hadn't met yet who were doing quickstep. These four events comprised the contest, with the best cumulative scoring college taking home the trophy. I arrived at St. Antony's College hall (the location for the event) at
3PM on Sunday to take advantage of a final hour's practice before the
deal started at 4. Immediately upon showing up I found out that Ewan had punted at the last minute to go to a rowing practice, and the quickstep couple had cancelled too. This was a bit of a bummer since I had actually shown up for the thing, despite being petrified. We now had only half of a team and thus no real chance of winning (not that we ever had much chance).
We were all decked out in Brasenose black and gold and I got in my final hour of practice. The contest works in a series of rounds with a smaller and smaller number of couples promoted to the next round each time. Mairi and I managed to make it to the second round, which I thought was OK given that I'd only been dancing for 3 days. Denise and her partner (our only other entry) did rather better, taking the 1st place crown for the ballroom event!
After the competition ended the OUDC team did a demo, which was pretty neat, but I was a bit tired of watching dancing by this point, having been there for four hours. I wisely decided to exit before the "social dancing". This probably marks the end of my career as a competitive dancer, but at least now I know how to cha-cha.