St Hilda's College
College news

Books and Ballroom

3 May 2024

Earlier this year, the Oxford University Dancesport Club showcased their talent at the Inter Varsity Dance Championship held at the Empress Ballroom, Winter Gardens in Blackpool. Among the team members was Magdalena Schoeneich, who is currently pursuing an MSc in Education with a focus on Digital Education at St. Hilda’s College. We caught up with Magda to delve deeper into the realm of competitive Dancesport.

"I began dancing at the age of seven, and in those early years, few would have predicted that I would continue for over 20 years. My journey took a turn as I progressed into the youth and then the amateur category. Throughout high school, I pursued an individualized course of study to accommodate my dance practice and competitions. My partner at the time was Ukrainian, and we split our time between Poland and Ukraine, balancing school and dance commitments. Together, we achieved success in numerous national and international competitions in cities such as Prague, Copenhagen, Kiev, and Warsaw.

In my final year of high school, I relocated to London to train with renowned teachers and find a new partner. It was during this period that I learned to juggle academics, work, training, and more. I took on various jobs, from cleaning houses and studios to flipping burgers and embellishing dance dresses with crystals, all to fund my classes and training. These experiences led me to forge new partnerships and compete at European and World competitions in Ireland, Slovenia, and Korea, alongside esteemed figures in the dance world like Bryan Watson, Carmen, and Karen Hardy from Strictly Come Dancing.

My journey eventually led me to the United States, where I pursued further studies and danced in my final amateur competition. Upon graduating from university, I made the decision to retire from competitive dance, a decade ago."

"Despite embarking on a successful corporate career, my passion for dance never waned. When I applied to Oxford University, I had no intention of returning to dance. However, as the academic demands grew intense, I found solace in the balance that dancing provided. This sentiment was echoed by our principal, whose commitment to fostering sporting and musical achievements alongside academic success resonated with me deeply.

Thus, I attended a team try-out session and found myself drawn back into the world of competitive dance. Despite my initial reservations, I embraced the challenge, immersing myself in the intricacies of the University Circuit, learning new dance styles, and adapting to dancing in heels, a departure from my usual footwear.

In the lead-up to the Inter Varsity Dance Championship, my partner and I dedicated hours to perfecting our routines, refining our technique, and strategizing our performance. The championship, held annually at the Wintergardens in Blackpool, saw over 600 couples from schools across the UK compete. Our team, representing Oxford, triumphed after five rounds of intense competition, securing the title for the first time in over a decade.

"As we journeyed back from Blackpool to Oxford, I reflected on how dance, once again, had surprised me. It not only helped me find balance amidst my studies but also added another gold to my collection of achievements."