On April 9th, I had the pleasure of going to The Secret Jane Austen Society’s first Regency Ball. I was skeptical at first about how this was going to go down because I am a god awful dancer, but I know some of the esteemed patronesses (including the Boola’s own humor editor) who organized the event, and I had to show my support. So I did my best to look vaguely Regency and made my way to 220 York Street where the ball was to be held.
The esteemed patronesses of the event (from left to right): Heather Harrington, Sarah Switzer, Caroline Martin, Darby Mowell, Magda Andrews-Hoke, Maxine Dillon, Sarah Wagner, and Julia Hobbie
Upon entering, the tearoom was on one side and the ballroom on the other. I made my way to the tearoom first (because obviously, food) and was amazed by what I encountered. There was a beautiful, delicate, dainty spread of tea foods on a table. If that wasn’t enough, there were also adorable, little crustless tea sandwiches made of either egg salad or cucumber placed carefully on paper doilies. I cannot tell you how many times as a princess-obsessed child I had dreamed of those little tea sandwiches — and that my not-so-princesslike dream of stuffing them in my face would become a reality. Perched on tiered displays were little tea cakes that I almost cried over because they were so beautiful. The flavors ranged from lemon to vanilla to chocolate, each with their special frosting. Truly, I was in heaven. Now, it is time to reveal one of the more exciting food items: sugar cookies in the shape of Jane Austen’s head. And yes, they were just as delicious and amazing as they sound. Scattered prettily throughout the food spread were flower arrangements cleverly placed in teapots and electric candles in mason jars. Like I said, adorable.
Next, came time for me to check out the ballroom. The space was striking and was truly the perfect location for a Regency Ball. The fireplace was grand and the chandeliers added a nice ambiance. In such a space, it was easy to imagine Mr. Darcy charging in to awkwardly propose marriage as I had always wished. (In case anyone was wondering, that did not, in fact happen, but a girl can dream. Besides, there’s always next year.)
After eating an atrocious amount of sandwiches and cakes that would have surely made Mrs. Bennett angry at my unladylike behavior, it was time for the dance to begin. At this point I was really regretting all the food, because I’m a mess on the dance floor as it is without factoring in a mound of finger food settling in my stomach. Nonetheless, I bravely faced the dance floor with little to no expectations for myself, since I suck. Maxine Dillon, the president of the Jane Austen Society began to explain the history and social aspects of English country dancing. In Maxine’s words, “Balls were the Tinder of their time,” which I think is a lot less problematic than those weirdos you sometimes get online. (For stories about weirdos, check out this podcast! http://theboola.com/love-at-first-swipe/) Maxine and Julia proceeded to give us instructions on how the first dance was to go.
This was the format of the rest of the ball. Before starting any dance with real music, we would go through all the steps so that the dance itself would go as smoothly as can be expected for everyone just having learned the steps. As previously stated, I am definitely not qualified to join Sabrosura any time soon, but the steps of the English country dances were pretty simple and didn’t really require much rhythm. It was actually really fun and everyone was putting honest effort in so you didn’t feel self conscious about messing up (which I did, often). So don’t be deterred from this fun event just because you have two left feet!
All in all, the Regency Ball was a truly magical event and I had a lot of fun. Was I still an extremely incompetent dancer? Yes. Did I refuse to learn my lesson and did I end up eating another pound of food during intermission? Yes. But despite all of this, I would highly recommend everyone checking out the next ball hosted by the Jane Austen Society. Rumor has it that they might be hosting two next year!