Monday, May 4, 2009

The Ball Report - Finally!

Whew! This has been a long time in the coming! I blame that on a few things: First, as soon as the ball/dinner were over, I got rehired for another long-term sub position. So life suddenly got busy again. Secondly, I got a week long case of stomach flu/food poisoning at the beginning of April, and I feel like I'm STILL one step behind the game. April always seems to be a busy month, doesn't it? Anyhoo, here's the deal with the ball/dinner.

I've been a member of my reenacting club for 8 years, and I've been to many hops and dances, but this was the first ball I attended in style. The majority of my reenacting experience has been hindered by several circumstances: I've been away (Duluth and Ireland), I've been broke (college has a way of doing that), or I've been both. For the big Winter Weekend that my club throws each year, I've either had speech team (either participating or coaching), been studying abroad, or my sister was getting married (nothing clogs up your weekend like being maid of honor!). It just never seemed to work out.

So. Now that I've gotten back into reenacting, progressed to the advanced dances, and had the money to blow on the stuff, I knew I was going to attend this ball with bells on. I started sewing my ballgown last autumn, working on it through the winter, tweaking and sewing and fitting. Anyone close to me knows I have been plotting and scheming and dreaming on this since January - and earlier.

The weekend started with a dance lesson on Friday. I found myself being an "example" a few times - in a good way, of course. It was nice - I've never really considered myself a good dancer, but my skills have really improved and practice really does make perfect. It was nice to meet a lot of new people too, and just have some silly fun.

Then it was the big day! One of the coolest parts of the evening was getting dressed in the dressing room. Everyone "oo"ed and "ahh"ed over each others' dresses. I felt like I was going to prom or getting married - I had so many ladies lacing my bodice and fluffing my skirt and fixing my trim. It was a physical transformation into the past.

Afterward, everyone trickled upstairs to the ballroom. The entrance to the ballroom was decorated with Greek columns and ivy, since the theme of the evening was "Aphrodite's Festival". The ballroom itself was decorated with tracings of Greek gods and goddesses, and their symbols. At the head of the room, there was an "altar" to Aphrodite, with a recreation of her birth. At the foot, there was a backdrop of Greek ruins, and a living statue, where one could take one's photograph.

There were 20 dances - 20!! I won't list them all - this write-up is half for posterity anyway and I've saved my dance card. I believe I danced eleven. My favorite of the night was the spanish waltz and the waltz redowa - the first is a reel-type dance that is just elegant and easy. The second is a variation on a waltz that involves hopping and sliding, rather than fluid motions, and presents a bit more of a challenge. I also enjoyed the triplet gallop quadrille - a set dance that is very very fast (just about 2 minutes for three figures and choruses) and involves a game of chicken with the couple opposite. I mostly enjoyed it because my set had a lot of fun dancers who knew the set really well - and my partner particularly enjoyed the "chicken" part, which was half-fun and half-terrifying!

The nice part about these events is the opportunity to meet new people and see old friends. I saw a lot of people I don't get to see often, and got to catch up. In particular were some girls I rarely get to see, along with one of my "husbands" from last summer.

Also enjoyable is the opportunity to practice proper manners. It's nice to have a gentleman ask for a dance as the honor that it is; to bow and curtsy; to be escorted and treated with respect. I can understand why some would find it stifling - I find it a refreshing change of pace. At these balls, it is proper for a gentleman to ask for the honor of a dance beforehand, then come and fetch you. It's highly rude for gentlemen who know the sets to sit out while ladies who want to dance are left as "wallflowers" (the actual source of the term!). Yet, there were plenty of gentlemen there who knew the dances, and didn't dance. There were also some who only danced with one lady all night - also a big faux pas in the 1860s. I would have preferred if there'd been some etiquette instruction - but I don't know that it would have helped. Either way, I really only sat out the dances I didn't enjoy.

There were some games played involving Greek philosophy and mythology. The refreshments were lovely - ginger lemonade (made by yours truly!) and raspberry shrub, along with oranges, chocolates and nuts.

I'm not gonna lie - one of the highlights of the night was the Spanish Waltz with a handsome young soldier who told me my new dress was "beautiful". Melt into a puddle of goo, anyone?

The dancing ended just after midnight, but I honestly thought I could have danced all night - pardon me, Eliza Doolittle. I felt like the Bennets after the ball at in Meryton - "And I was so admired! There was nothing like it!" I really felt like a princess - everyone told me I looked "radiant" and "stunning", and one lady even said I looked like I walked right out of Godey's - which is high praise in my book!

The dinner was the next weekend, and was also Greek themed. The style was a transition style - somewhere between the grand banqueting style of A la Francais and the plated style of A la Russe. The tables were arranged in a u-shape, with a huge centerpiece in the middle of them (which I made).

I will not bore you with all 14 courses. Yes, that's right. 14 courses. Granted, the courses are very small, but still. My favorites were the crown roast lamb (which was beautifully presented by the chef), the roast beef with artichokes and pine nuts, the Copenhagen (not the tobacco! a really rich pastry), pistachio birds nests and the ouzo sorbet. It was simply to die for!

I'll post pictures later. I think this post has gotten long enough!

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