Sunday, 2 November 2014

Regency Michaelmas Ball

I just received the official photographs from the Regency costume ball which I organized here in Edmonton, at our beautiful and historic Hotel Macdonald. As promised, here is the full recap.
125 folks of every walk of life dressed up in Regency period costume and danced Regency dances, and ate Regency food, in 2014, in Alberta's capital city.
Can you believe that this is Edmonton?

I had been very clear that, although period costume was required, I would be very flexible on what would be accepted as a costume. I also posted video tutorials on how to fudge a costume out of thrift store finds and the like. I really was not prepared for how seriously people would take the dressing up! I mean, people put serious work into their outfits. Here are some examples.

I believe all of these were actually made by the people wearing them. I was absolutely gobsmacked. People also ordered custom-made costumes, and some rented their outfits from Theatre Garage, who were very supportive and helpful, particularly with a last-minute gloves crisis.
This woman came all the way from Victoria, BC just for the ball. It was her birthday, and she had planned to stop in Edmonton on her way home from a conference in Ontario. The conference was cancelled, but she decided to come anyway. I mean, it was her birthday after all!
I hired a photographer to take these wonderful pictures (Danny Jones Photography), and he took a portrait of every guest as they approached the sign-in table. At the table, every lady got a dance card with her name written on it in calligraphy by my talented father, Bruce Rout, who volunteered for this job.

I am sorry I did not get a picture of the reverse side of the cards, with the names so beautifully rendered.
Each guest also received a pouch of replica antique coins for use at the card tables, where guests could learn obscure Regency card games, and then play them with replica antique playing cards. The coins could be redeemed at intermission and at the end of the night for draw prize tickets.
Of all the successes of the night, I was proud of none so much as I was of the dancing. I mean, we seriously danced Regency dances. The Mozart Society, which provided the musicians for the evening, also arranged the music for 3 English Contra Dances popular in the early 19th Century: Zephyrs and Flora; Haymakers; and, Indian Queen. (Special thanks to Nicole Letersy and Crystal Yoner for making the frock coats for the gentlemen players).

There were 3 dance lessons on the Sunday evenings leading up to the ball, and most of the guests attended to learn the dances, so that at the ball itself, we could actually dance, and it would really be a ball rather than a dance lesson. We danced the set of three dances twice, with an intermission in between, and by the end of the night, we asked the dance caller to stop calling and just let us go. And go we did! I have been to numerous similar events in England, and I have never seen the likes of this before. It was unbelievably thrilling. Just look at how happy we are!

I confess that I completely underestimated the joy of dancing together, and the sense of community that emerged from it. Although I didn't necessarily even learn the names of all the people who came to the lessons, I did come to recognize their faces, and felt like they were familiar, and friendly, and it enhanced the enjoyment of the event itself beyond measure.
Another surprising aspect of the event was the gentlemen. Firstly, it was impressive how many of them were there. I believe most of them were tagging along with their wives and girlfriends, and more than one a little reluctant I would say. But once it came to the point, they had just as much fun as their female counterparts, and all felt themselves remarkably handsome in their waist coats and tails. You could see their demeanour completely change once they got into their costumes. They all instantly became Mr. Darcy in their minds, and they looked terrific. I mean, I know this fashion will never come back, but do you think maybe we could just bring on the cravats? They are so flattering on every gentleman!

Oh yeah, and this happened:

Obviously, she said yes! The amazing musicians played "Here comes the Bride" off the cuff as they entered the room following the proposal so, that was pretty magical. How memorable can you get, right?
Adara Hair Salon pitched in by opening up outside business hours just to give some of us wonderful Regency updos. And there were several excellent door prizes, including: tickets for 2 to Free Will Shakespeare Festival 2015; a copy of Follies Past and a hardcover copy of Pride and Prejudice; a shawl, cravat, reticule and fan from Fashions under Seige; and, a beautiful gold-plated necklace reproducing "Dearest" in Jane Austen's handwriting from Snake and Fawn (by the way, they can make a custom pendant with any word Jane Austen ever wrote, or in fact any of a  number of writers, including Oscar Wilde, JRR Tolkein and many others).

The photos in this post are only a small selection. Visit the Facebook event page to see them all. If sharing, please credit Danny Jones Photography.
It was an amazing night, all to be repeated again on February 27, 2016. Tickets at

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