Third Annual Regency Ball to be Held Friday Evening at Carleton

The Carleton College Great Hall will be transformed into an English parlor on Friday, April 14, with country dance music from the mid 1600s, guests floating around in empire-waist gowns and breeches, and cucumber sandwiches aplenty.

12 April 2000 Posted In:

The Carleton College Great Hall will be transformed into an English parlor on Friday, April 14, with country dance music from the mid 1600s, guests floating around in empire-waist gowns and breeches, and cucumber sandwiches aplenty.

The third annual Jane Austen Regency Ball, sponsored by the Carleton Student Senate and the English department, begins at 7:30 p.m. A professional folk dancer will be on hand to explain and call out the dances, and a Celtic band will provide the music. The event is open to the public.

Senior English major Katy Beebe, an Austen enthusiast, initiated the ball three years ago.

“I’d barely heard of [Austen] before I came to Carleton,” she said. “The first Austen novel I read was Sense and Sensibility, for Susan Jaret McKinstry’s class.”

Soon enough, Beebe was hooked on both Austen’s novels and the Regency era. When Jaret McKinstry, the Helen F. Lewis Professor of English at Carleton, assigned a creative project for the class, Beebe organized the first Regency Ball. She wore a gown based on an 1810 pattern and invited Dunquin, a Celtic band from the Twin Cities, to play pieces from John Playford’s English Dancing Master.

The greatest obstacle, however, was attendance. Beebe feared that the specialized dancing would intimidate students, so she recruited Mary Kay
Schladweiler of the Tapestry Folk Dance Center to provide guidance with the dancing.

Evidently, the plan worked. Seventy students attended the inaugural Jane Austen Regency Ball, and 80 matriculated for the last year’s ball.

This year’s event has all the trappings of previous regency balls. There will be negus, a mold wine composed of port and sugar, tea, cookies, cake, and cucumber sandwiches. Of course, there will also be Austen-era costumes and spirited dancing.

“I want people to come and enjoy the dances,” Beebe said, “even if they don’t have the clothes or know anything about it.”

Beebe explained that in Austen’s time, a lack of telephones restricted socializing. “The point of a ball was the same then as it is now-to have fun and see friends,” she said.