"It is not a sport without passion"Isla Cummings

Despite Easter being a somewhat quieter term, sports in Cambridge have most certainly kicked off with a blast. Notably, Varsity Pole Dancing took place between Oxford and Cambridge last Sunday (01/05).

Ahead of this event, I interviewed Natalie Singhal, the president of Cambridge University Pole Sports (CUPS). Having just come from teaching a pole dancing class, Natalie explains to me how CUPS has grown over recent years. Varsity spoke to Natalie in 2019 when she was competition secretary; back then, she spoke about the difficulties of getting pole dancing to be recognised as a sport by the university. Whilst it is still nowhere to be found on the University Sports Clubs website, it is clear that a lot has happened for the sport since then.

"I am struck by how the world of pole is incredibly accommodating for competitors with varying levels of experiences"

CUPS currently has around 70 paying members, alongside 200 people that regularly attend classes. Scrolling through their Instagram, it is hard not to notice the dedication and love put into the sport with organised classes that take place every Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. In terms of competitions, this year CUPS won the Midlands regionals for the Inter-Uni Pole Dancing Competition in February and competed in Nationals in London this April. This year is the first ever pole competition to take place exclusively between Oxford and Cambridge. It is also Cambridge’s first-time hosting Varsity Pole.

Divya Maniar competing in the semi-pro category at Nationals where she took home the silver medalLee Johnston (IG: @NIGHTBULB)

The day itself took place in St John’s College with Adam Al-Janabi as compère for the day. He diligently kept the crowd entertained throughout the day – no easy task for a big day, spanning 6 hours with regular periods of intermission. Accompanying the competition were superb guest performances from two of the judges, alongside dancers from the Cambridge University Dance Competition Team. As for the competition itself, there were 27 people taking part in five different categories; beginners, intermediate, advanced, semi-pro, and team. I am struck by how the world of pole is incredibly accommodating for competitors with varying levels of experiences, even at Varsity level.

Each competitor was subject to a complex and rigorous scoring system similar to that of gymnastics or dance. They were judged by three big names in pole — Kelly Rose, Vania Noble, and Kirstie Ryan — accordingly to the International Pole Sports Federation Code of Points. Points are given out on the basis of technicality alongside artistic and choreography presentation – pole is serious.

"She[...]appreciates it regardless of whether it has any recognition from the university"

As for the results, the judges reflected on how everyone played to an incredibly high standard — praise that was echoed by many of the spectators. Cambridge won four out of five categories; beginners, advanced, group, and semi-pro. This gave Cambridge the crucial points needed to beat Oxford overall, by one all-important point.

As a spectator, observing the degree of precision and rigour that each dancer committed to their routine, I couldn’t help but reflect on my interview with Natalie, when we touched on the topic of Blues status. Natalie reflected an opinion that whilst it would be great to see pole become a Blues sport at some point - as it most certainly deserves some kind of athletic recognition - she is not too fussed about it. Rather, she simply loves pole as a dance form itself, and appreciates it regardless of whether it has any recognition from the university. This is a theme that was clearly reflected at Varsity; it is not a sport without passion.



Beginners Category – Cambridge

1st – Izzy (Cambridge)

2nd – Elenya (Cambridge)

3rd – Adriana (Oxford)

Intermediate Category – Oxford

1st – Angela (Oxford)

2nd – Rebecca (Cambridge)

3rd – Kiera (Oxford)

Advanced Category – Cambridge

1st – Natalie (Cambridge)

2nd – Elena (Oxford)

3rd – Nicole (Cambridge)

Group Category – Cambridge

1st – Katie-Lou, Laura & Vidhi (Cambridge)

2nd – Claire & Estelle (Oxford)

Semi-Pro Category – Cambridge

1st – Cheryl (Oxford)

2nd – Divya (Cambridge)

3rd – Julia (Oxford)

Overall Winner – Cambridge