Pas de deux and pirouettes for twinkle-toed rugby team

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The Independent Online
The prop forward and the fly half execute a nimble pas de deux. The full back's pirouette is a joy to behold.

Rugby players at Cambridge University are having classes with a leading ballerina to improve their balance and agility.

Whether they will stop sing- ing bawdy songs and hum Tchaikovsky on the coach back from the Varsity match remains to be seen. What is certain is that the newly arranged dance classes for rugby players are proving so popular that the ballerina is likely to be offered a residency at the university.

Each day in the lunch hour hefty six footers in bare feet practise jetes (throwing themselves across in the air and leaping across the room) and plies (rhythmic knee bending) to the accompaniment of a flute and a penny whistle.

Leading the class is 31-year- old Sara Matthews, a dancer for 11 years with Ballet Rambert. She has been brought in to Queens' College, Cambridge, by its president Lord Eatwell, a former economics adviser to Neil Kinnock and a rugby and dance enthusiast, to improve the performance of college rugby players and its rowing eights.

The classes are proving so popular that some university dons have begun attending and Lord Eatwell has discussed a residency with Miss Matthews.

Miss Matthews said yesterday: "In the United States a lot of American football teams are doing dance work to improve their balance, mobility and agility. But this is completely new ground at Cambridge ... They were a little suspicious, understandably; but I pointed out that though they were all strong because of the fitness training they do, there was room for improvement in their agility."

Lewis Bantin, 20, captain of the college rugby team, said yesterday: "The classes have been good for flexibility and preventing injury. But in all honesty, there are not really many ballet moves you can fit into a rugby game."