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The 7th Annual Edwardian Ball, a celebration of the art, culture, and technology of the Edwardian era, recently took place. ComiConverse Contributor Max Silver braved the wilds of the ball to bring back this report.
The Edwardian Ball can best be expressed as Vaudeville taken to the most decadent, sensual, and artistically expressive extreme. It’s nothing short of wondrous. As you enter the Edwardian atmosphere, you are greeted by women in astonishing feathered costumes, welcoming you to the ball. This apt sign sits above the entryway:
What makes the Edwardian Ball so special is that the artistry and entertainment derive as much from the incredible live performances as they do from the attendees. I saw more than one costume where the guest likely had more than their weight represented in the gears strapped to there costume. More than that, a staggering number of people committed to the accents and visual postures of the Edwardian and Victorian eras their costuming recalled. This all added to an atmosphere that was already charmingly strange. As someone who attended the event more as an observer than as a participant, I felt dwarfed in comparison to the creative expression I witnessed. The event was grander then any one individual or single act of entertainment.
Also noteworthy is the amount of intricate detail in the decor, which only further enhanced the festivities. The dark and macabre humor of Edward Gorey, and other creatives that he inspired, clearly had an impact on the decorations on display at the ball.
The activities found at the Edwardian Ball consisted of a diverse array of parlor games, performance art pieces, and live theater performances and dancing exhibitions. The games themselves were not particularly unique, but the darkly humorous spin put on them did just enough to put a smile on my face. A game of “fling the object into the hole and win a prize” is given a twist: fling the skeleton into the coffin. Perhaps it is my own dark sense of humor, but watching little skeleton dolls wailing in the air as they make there way to the grave is a funny and fitting sight for an event like the Edwardian Ball. Other games included hangman, and a single lane of croquet. The games were s a nice way to relax while sipping a delicious absinthe cocktail between the bombastic theatrical, acrobatic and musical events happening on the first floor.
A partial unwritten condition of the Edwardian Ball is that you have to be willing to go along with the acts. Not in the sense that you’ll be brought on stage and pushed into the spotlight, but the acts may require you to follow them around, or a performer may brush up and tease you a tad. Not to worry, it is all in good fun. The crowd is both receptive and respectful. A highlight of going along with the acts was the traveling theater performance. It performed act by act in different areas of the theater with the narrator asking you to follow. Given how dense the crowd can be it’s not always easy or practical to do so, but the anticipation of seeing the next chapter keeps you engaged and moving along despite the density of the crowd.
The acrobatics at this years Edwardian Ball are another beast all together. The Vau de Vire Society does a wonderful job. The acrobatics are burlesque in theme and skewed to being very sensual in nature. This may be a turnoff for some but it’s thematically appropriate for the event and, as mentioned earlier, the crowd is very respectful to the performers. Acrobatics like the aerial hoop act were personal favorites.
The acrobatics were varied and incredibly impressive.
The theatrical performances were equally enjoyable. The piece performed were renditions of Edward Gorey stories such as “The Stupid Joke” and “The Recently Deflowered Girl.” Enjoyment of the theater performances was not dependent on knowledge of Gorey’s works. The story renditions were self-contained narratives running about 30 minutes each and they had everything you would expect from a good theater performance. The stories are well acted, well lit, and well voiced. Gorey stories are surrealist, dark and almost always comically inclined. The stage organizers did incredible work utilizing practical effects to bring these stories to life. Even the word balloons in the performance used Gorey’s animated font type. It is little details like these that sell the performances as genuine labors of love
What is wonderful and frustrating about the Edwardian Ball is that it is a hard experience to explain. Fundamentally, it is a celebration of the art, culture, music, and technology of the Edwardian era. More than that, though, it is a celebration that is unabashedly filtered through a contemporary pop culture lens. The ball revels in the various adaptations of this era through genres like Gearpunk and Steampunk. This incorporation was evident in the decor, performances and attire of the attendees. The edwardian theme is not absolute throughout the ball. There is some funky dancing and a bit of electro swing in parts, but not so much that it detracts from the experience, and it never deviates far enough to loose the identity of what makes the Edwardian Ball a special event. The art and culture of the Edwardian Era have leaked into our contemporary pop culture through books like Coraline and the films of Tim Burton. If you want to experience the darkly humorous and the macabre, you won’t find a better place to enjoy yourself than the Edwardian Ball.
Max Silver is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on twitter: @MaxSilver4