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On Saturday, I went to the annual JANE AUSTEN EVENING, which is sponsored by the Lively Arts History Association. (More info about them at

First was a lovely tea, followed by a performance by Herr Beethoven. Then supper, and then several hours of dancing to live period music. The dances were mostly country dances, ranging from easy (such as Child Grove) through intermediate and on to advanced (anything with a hey, apparently!) I was delighted to be able to dance several of the advanced dances this year. There were hundreds of people there, most in some sort of costume, and the whole thing was quite splendid.

Some, like me, were in simple handmade empire gowns…nothing fancy, but at least the right feeling. (That’s me, grinning away! And please keep in mind that empire gowns add thirty pounds, easily!) 🙂 Some, like my husband, were in fake-it-and-make-it-look-vaguely-period costume. But many were in the most detailed, intricate, amazing costumes ever. (Yes, I mean real corsets and everything!) 🙂

This is the third Jane Austen Evening I’ve attended, and each has been better than the last. I danced until my feet could take no more. And I danced three maggots — Dick’s Maggot, Jack’s Maggot, and Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot (easily the most famous, having featured in the BBC/A&E Pride and Prejudice.)

These photos are courtesy of my delightful friend Jean — she’s the one on the right in the final photo, in the red and gold gown. Jean and her handsome husband Jack are graceful and energetic dancers (beware Jack’s energy when he takes his Trip to Paris!) who have been dancing for a long time.

There don’t seem to be any English country dancing groups very near where I live (I’m iffy about driving twenty or thirty miles to one) but I can always hope! I danced with local groups when I lived in Santa Barbara and in Pittsburgh, and it’s great exercise as well as educational social fun. (That’s pretty much everything one could ever want rolled into one, if you add a little chocolate.)

All in all, I had a wonderful time (could you guess?) at the Jane Austen Evening, and can hardly wait until next year!

Cara King,
MY LADY GAMESTER — from Signet Regency, on sale now!!!!

Hello, Riskies! I’ve missed you all in my time away from the blog (though I do stop in now and again to comment.)

But it’s just not the same. I miss the blog, and miss having the opportunity to air my opinions and force people to read my attempts at wit…

So when the Jane Austen Evening came around again, I thought “I really want to do another blog post at Risky Regencies on the ball!”

And the Riskies very kindly agreed — and Elena very very kindly offered me her day! (Thanks, Elena!)

I’ve posted here before about my experiences at the Jane Austen Ball which is held every January in Pasadena (and which is officially called the Jane Austen Evening, but I like to call it a ball because it really is a ball!) If you’re interested in my previous experiences, just click on the “Jane Austen Evening” tag at the end of this post to see my earlier masterpieces…

The festivities began at 4 pm with a grand tea. The food included tea sandwiches (cucumber, herbed egg, cheddar and carrot, and chicken cranberry — the cucumber was my favorite), two kinds of soup (including Mulligatawny), cottage pie, scones with cream and jam, and a variety of desserts, including my favorite: a very flavorful rosemary shortbread.

Oh, and there was tea, of course! Keemun, Queen Catherine, decaf Queen Catherine (yes, I know, not very Regency! but that’s what I had, or I’d never have slept that night), chamomile, and blackcurrant.

During the tea, we had a performance by a musical gentleman who called himself Beethoven. Yes, modern music! Quite shocking.

After we’d all eaten far more than we’d intended, and had a bit of trouble fitting into our clever Regency clothes (oh, very well, I’ll admit that some of us had only-moderately-intelligent Regency clothes), and gossiped more than we ought, we went off to freshen up and make ourselves ready for dancing.

Because…oh, yes, there was dancing. And more dancing! Quite four hours of it.

I scandalized everyone by dancing more than twice with a dashing gentleman, and scandalized them still more when they learned he was my husband. (Yes, I confess, I danced with him four times! It’s not strictly correct, but I am the daring, rule-flouting sort, as you all know.) (And even if I’m not, I can pretend to be for one night.)

The dances included several that have featured in Jane Austen adaptations, such as the always popular Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot (which was Lizzy and Darcy’s dance in the BBC/A&E P&P), Shrewsbury Lasses (from the same P&P, and fondly nicknamed “Other Way, Mr. Collins!”)

I’ve attended the Jane Austen Evening something like seven times now (and also attended about five or six other such balls), and I’m always interested in the changes I see. Every year, there seem to be more and more experienced dancers, which is delightful! It may be because there are so many flourishing English Country Dance groups in Southern California…or perhaps it’s because the ball sells out earlier every year, so that only the most dedicated get their vouchers!

I’ve also noticed a higher and higher percentage of attendees in some sort of costume. I don’t mean to imply that there weren’t many to start with — there were, with many fabulous costumes to be seen — but the number of attendees in modern clothing seems smaller every year.

Is this, too, because only the most dedicated get a ticket? Or because folks have had years to work out a costume? Only Jane Austen knows for sure…

Speaking of costumes…I saw a lot of feathers this year! They must be all the rage. And so many utterly gorgeous fabrics!!! I had so much fun just walking around and looking at all the gowns…

Speaking of fabulous costumes…here are some of the many photos I took this year! (Don’t you love digital cameras? if only Jane Austen had had one, we’d know for sure whether Mr. Darcy looked like Colin Firth, Laurence Olivier, David Rintoul, or Matthew Macfadyen!)

So…have you ever attended a period ball?

What did you think of it?

What did you like best?

If you’ve never been to one, what part of the ball do you think you’d like best?

Would you wear feathers?

Would you dance with Mr. Collins?

What sort of sandwich sounds best to you?

If you had unlimited money and were going to create your own Jane Austen ball, what sort of food would you serve?

What would you wear?

Thanks for sharing my fun!

Cara King, scapegrace and hoyden

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First off, I would like to welcome any newcomers or visitors to the blog! Risky Regencies is a light-hearted community of Regency writers and Regency fans, and we provide great discussions on everything from the merits of the 1995 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice to rereading Georgette Heyer.

Now, to today’s subject: the 2009 Jane Austen Evening, which I attended this past Saturday!

(In fact, I enjoyed it so very much, that I shall be giving away two Regency-themed prizes to lucky commenters today! Just comment on this post by Wednesday night, and you’ll be entered to win a DVD of the Rintoul/Garvie version of Pride and Prejudice, or the guidebook to the Bath Museum of Costume, or a book on Sarah Siddons, or another prize of your choice!)

I have now attended something like six Jane Austen Evenings, and it seems to me they get better every year.

As always, it was held in a gorgeous location (as these photos attest!)

First, we had a Regency tea, with as much scrumptious period food as one could eat, plus a variety of teas.

My favorite food this year was the sweet rosemary shortbread — I went back for more.

And more…

And more… (Oh, it was heavenly!)

I think every year, the costumes are better, and the dancers more experienced.

And this year, it seemed to me that the costumes weren’t only fabulous, but that nearly everyone was in some sort of costume.

There were moments when one could truly picture oneself back in Jane Austen’s time!

(Though the cameras, I suppose, were a tiny bit anachronistic.) 😉

Then again, with so many amazing costumes, who could blame those of us who took photos?

(And more photos!)

(And still more!)

(In fact, I took so many, that I had to do two blog posts today to hold them all…)

I even brought a camcorder this time — though I’ve yet to see how my taping turned out!

(If it turned out well, then I’m going to upload some of it to youtube, just as Jane Austen would have done herself.)

Then, after all the splendid tea, we danced all night.

(My feet were killing me by the end!)

So: if you want to comment on this post, feel free to answer any or all of the following questions:

Did you attend the Jane Austen Evening? What did you think? Which was your favorite part? (Your favorite food, or dance, or costume?)

If you didn’t attend it, which part sounds the most alluring?

Which is your favorite photo?

Have you ever attended a similar event?

All comments welcome!

(And if you want to see my posts on previous Jane Austen Evenings and Playford Balls, just click the link below that says “Jane Austen Evening.”)

Cara King, author of MY LADY GAMESTER and dancer of Maggots

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Last Saturday, Todd and I went to the local Playford Ball — four hours of English Country Dance performed by serious English Country Dance fans. Quite exhilirating.

I know a lot of you read my January post on the Jane Austen Ball. (And there’s another Jane Austen Ball coming up in two months! If you plan on going, get your tickets now, because they’re going fast!)

I have now danced at two Playford Balls, and five or so Jane Austen Balls — and there are of course lots of similarities.

As for differences? From what I’ve seen, the Playford Ball attendees are a bit more likely to be serious about English Country Dance, and the Jane Austen Ball attendees are a bit more likely to be serious about recreating costumes from the period.

In other words, you can’t lose either way.

The oldest dance we did at this Playford Ball was “Picking of Sticks,” which appears in John Playford’s first (1651) edition of THE ENGLISH DANCING MASTER. In this book, Playford would give the melody line of a dance, and then all the basic steps.

Sometimes his directions are clear:

Leade up all a D. forwards and back. That againe. First man change places with the 2. Wo. then with the last man. Leade up as before, then the Wo. change as the man did, every Cu. doing thus.

(At the beginning of the book, Playford explains that “D” means “Double,” “Wo” stands for “woman,” “We” for women, “2” for “second,” etc…)

Sometimes, however, Playford’s directions are a bit harder to understand:

The two We. at each end leade to each wall, while one man goe up and the other downe, the foure We. meet hands and goe round, men turning S. Goe all as before, men hands and goe round, We. turning single. The men leade the We. at one end to the wall and back, while the other We. goe up on the outside, and come each under the others armes, and turne each other, men turning each a Wo. As much with the other We.

If we go by Jane Austen, folks danced a lot. Which makes perfect sense, really! It warmed you up. It showed off your clothes.

If you were looking for a spouse, it displayed your looks and your health, and gave a chance for flirtation and a bit of touching.

If you already had a spouse, it also gave you a chance for flirtation and a bit of touching — all perfectly proper, dear, I was just doing the dance.

From Northanger Abbey:

The cotillions were over, the country-dancing beginning, and she saw nothing of the Tilneys. “Do not be frightened, my dear Catherine,” whispered Isabella, “but I am really going to dance with your brother again. I declare positively it is quite shocking.”

And later, of course, Tilney and Catherine have the famous exchange:

“I consider a country-dance as an emblem of marriage. Fidelity and complaisance are the principal duties of both; and those men who do not chuse to dance or marry themselves, have no business with the partners or wives of their neighbours.”

“But they are such very different things!”

“–That you think they cannot be compared together.”

“To be sure not. People that marry can never part, but must go and keep house together. People that dance, only stand opposite each other in a long room for half an hour.”

Ah, our dear Catherine…not the sharpest tack in the room, perhaps…

Someone at the ball implied that, in the day, folks who chose not to dance were likely to be thought physically infirm and unmarriageable… Which of course made me think of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley, two gentleman who weren’t great fans of stepping out.

So, questions for today (answer any or all):

1) Was Mr. Knightley (or Darcy) nursing some infirmity in his old age? Will Emma (or Elizabeth) find her husband sadly arthritic?

2) Was Catherine Moreland really that stupid? If so, why did Tilney marry her?

3) Do you think the English language was prettier when we added random “E”s to things, and liked to “goe foure, turne, leade againe”?

4) What do you think of English Country Dance?

All comments welcome!

author of MY LADY GAMESTER, whiche is fulle of lazy folkes who prefer sittinge and playinge cards to leapinge aboute

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