The Varsity Show: A Columbia Tradition


The Varsity Show’s most enduring trademark was the “men only” rule, made famous by the “Pony Ballet” of college men (often football players) dressed as dancing girls.

photo: Pony ballet from 1929 Varsity Show, Oh Hector!

photo: Pony Ballet from 1931 Varsity Show Great Shakes

In fact, all the women’s parts (including the leading lady) were taken on by men – who often made quite striking “ladies.”

photo: John Bateman, captain of the football team, getting the finishing touches on his hair for 1939 Varsity Show, Fair Enough.


Despite the popularity of the "men only" rule there were two early attempts to bring real women into the show. Barnard and Teachers College women appeared for the first time in the 1936 show, Off Your Marx and again in 1937’s Some of the People. Unfortunately, for the women, these co—ed forays were met with much protest (both for and against) and were not attempted again until the 1950s.
In the 1950s women were finally allowed a space on the Varsity Show stage and since then female students have played an active role in performing, producing, authoring and composing subsequent Varsity Shows.

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