On April 1 and 2, the sensual and spectacular spectacle of the 21st Edwardian Ball delighted attendees, with the theme ‘Spring Revival’. Tributes to the spirit and style of Edward Gorey were in the spotlight. The variety of costumes – feathers (many), cod pieces (a few), corsets (plenty), plague masks (less than in previous years), wigs (fabulous) and sunflowers (touching) – to be observed in Sliding between four stages of entertainment was, as always, an integral part of the overall experience.
More than a backdrop, the Scottish Rite architecture of the Regency Ballroom has been a treasured part of Edwardian ballrooms for years. Guests were greeted at the entrance to the rotunda and drawn into the grand ballroom by the musical mix of DJ Delachaux. Adorned with life-size scenes of the work of Edward Gory, organizers PARADOX Media, Rosin Coven and the Vau de Vire Society skilfully used all available space. After The Cottontails (Friday night) or John Brothers Piano Company (Saturday night), The Tumbleweed, with the Speakeasy Syndicate, skated, juggled and lassoed the dance floor in front of the stage. Afterwards, Renegade Opera served a “Madame Butterfly” selection from the mezzanine.
Attention immediately turned to the second level of the main stage where Zoe Jakes Coven Dance mesmerized with an ethereal depiction of the three furies: gray gauze wraps, simple white masks and graceful movements punctuated by jerky beats. . As the Furies flew away, the Rosin Coven Pagan Orchestra, escorted by Fou Fou Ha!, entered from all parts of the Grand Ballroom. The infectious enthusiasm and musical mastery of Rosin Coven remain a tradition at the ball. Mechateuthis the giant squid, whose moving tentacles were powered by the turning knobs of passing guests, resided at the far end of the ballroom.
Riding the historic 1909 manual Otis elevator (with a costumed operator) was a bonus experience. A walk through the Chimney Stage with Curiosities, the Green Valley Puppeteers and Jet Black Pearl Accordionists, dropped attendees to the lodge level. The Red Room hosted the Museum of Wonders stage: Thatcher Boomer started the evening playing the haunted pipe organ, which included Vau de Vire’s sexy variety show featuring Gorey’s ‘Neglected Murderesses’. The stage was surrounded by art for purchase, calligraphy, life-size living portraits and an Alice-style tea party hosted by Mystic Midway.
This year, the mezzanine was open to everyone (rather than the old VIP access), so when you got tired of participating, you could pause and watch the scene below: perhaps the symmetrical performance of the suspended circus from Dwoira and Chole, Maggie Powers and Pyramid, MeeZee and Chairs, or the Flynn Creek Circus. Also new this year, Daybreaker offered a Saturday morning yoga and dance interlude between the Friday and Saturday night shows.
The social room level offered vendors, The Edwardian Faire Midway Games, including a life-size ‘Operation’ game, as well as food and Swingatto performances. The cornerstone of each evening was Rosin Coven and the Vau de Vire Society’s enactment of “The Wuggly Ump” by Edward Gorey.
The musicians, the performers, the costumed attendees, the absinthe drinks, the venue, all dazzled and amazed. Altogether, the whole immersive tableau of steampunk, Victoriana and curiosities offered in “real life” what digital arts shows attempt to emulate: an otherworldly mix full of frivolity, whimsy and celebrations. After a COVID break in 2021 and a postponement in 2022, San Francisco and attendees from all regions exuberantly welcomed the Edwardian Ball in all its glory. (Patty Riek)