The elegance and splendor of 19th-century English life will be revived as Carleton College celebrates its second annual Regency Ball on Sunday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Severance Great Hall.
A recreation of the dances, games, and cuisine described in Jane Austen's novels, this unique event is coordinated by junior English major Katy Beebe of Belton, Mo. She created last year's ball as a final project for her English literature class. "You read about the dances, and about Austen's characters. But I don't think you really understand what it meant to talk to other people in the dance, or the significance of the dances unless you've done it yourself," Beebe said. "Not only does it give you an insight to the literature, it's a lot of fun. It's exhilarating!"
The Ball will feature traditional English country dances, emphasizing those performed during the Regency period (1810-1825), when Jane Austen lived and wrote. In these dances, men and women create two lines for a coordinated performance that requires them to constantly change partners. Mary Kay Schladweiler, an English country dance enthusiast from Minneapolis, will "call" the steps for each dance. Her instruction allows novices and veterans alike to enjoy the intricacy of each pattern.
"The great thing about English country dancing is that you can jump right in, even if you've never done it before," Beebe said.
Last year's event was attended by over 100 people, creating a dance line that took up the entire length of Great Hall, which is approximately 90 feet long. "Everyone looked very elegant," Beebe said. "Some students were even dressed in 19th-century gowns and formal suits."
The Ball will also include period card games like whist, loo, and cassino, with instructions on hand for first-time participants. "In Jane Austen's time," Beebe said, "if you were too old or too tired to dance, you played cards at the ball." Guests can enjoy a roaring fire, sample punch, cucumber sandwiches, and tea, and listen to the sounds of Dunquin, an Irish folk band from Minneapolis that will play English country music for the occasion.
Beebe expects even more people to attend this year's ball, thanks to the generous support of Carleton's English department and special allocations from the Carleton Student Association. "I think a lot of people find this to be a rather unusual event," she said, promising an Austenesque evening for all who attend.