Monday, February 11, 2008

Civil War Ball

January 12 I attended a Civil War Ball put on by a homeschool group in our area. The dress I designed and made myself. So accepting some, as they say in the bus - irregularities, considering the feat, I'm satisfied. Mom had to have pictures. My brother went crazy with the camera (thus the views from the top). And I'm only uploading the good ones!



We learned a lot of dances, whose steps I tried to recall the week after the dance. If I got any of the steps wrong, omitted some, or confused the steps between dances, you'll have to forgive me. I can't even find any websites that have instructions I can check. Whenever I say "arms around," it's a dance step, not a position. Elbows link and the couple swings a full circle.

Virginia Reel: Line of gentlemen, line of partners facing. Head lady meets food gentleman in center, curtsy and bow. Head gentleman and foot lady do the same. Head lady, foot gentleman meet right arms around. Foot. Left arms around. Two hands around. Dosie-do. Head couple sachets down and back, right arms around. Separate. Gentleman reels with ladies line. Lady reels with gentleman’s line. Return to the middle to reel right arms around with partner between each outside partner (left arms). Once down to the end of the line, right arm reel one more time and make a arch. Other couples file through, lady, gentleman, lady, gentleman, inside and under the arch, out and around to reform line. Begin again at the top.

You do have to think about being graceful to move in a hoopskirt. It's a good mental exercise. Some dances were almost impossible. I intentionally left out the dance that shouldn't have been in a Civil War ball, because the dresses are too prohibitive.

One of my favorite dances was:
Military Two-Step: Promenade position (crossed hands held, side by side, girl on gentleman’s right). Point toe outside, cross in front and touch heels. Point toe outside, cross in back and touch heels. Face each other, step, right kick, step, left kick. Right arm reel, switch partners (ladies move left, gentlemen stay)
From the back... I love the lacing! At the last minute I decided to gather the extra fabric of the skirt in swags instead of hemming. Once dancing in it I learned the skirt was too long, since I and everyone else kept stepping on it. However, I only made it to barely cover the hoopskirt, so that is what was too long. In between dances I found a discreet corner in which to lower myself into repair position and replace safety pins.

My other favorite dance was:

Yankee Reel: Lady on gentleman’s right, take hands in circle, six steps to center, turn around & go back. Right arm around first partner. Left arm around next partner (ladies move clockwise, gentlemen counterclockwise). Two hands around next partner. Dosie-do next partner. Swing around next partner (waltz position, once around), turn under (lady do a spin under gentleman’s left arm toward center, come right back) and curtsy/gentleman bow. Face center, take hands, start over.

With a little more work on the gown, the lacey overlay would have gone all the way around. No one expressed criticism for this point. I am my own severest critic.





The sleeves were something I fought with, and didn't figure out until I was making a shirt for my sister (half-making; it still isn't finished). I needed the sleeve to be basically a rounded trapezoid, and I had a fixed length for the two sides, and for the top. But I needed the bottom to be longer than the rounded top. If you're a math whiz you know that's impossible... unless you round the bottom edge too! That makes poofy sleeves. So I ended up doing that, gathering the top, and tucking the hem. My only problem was that the right and left sleeve were identically cut, so they didn't fit into the armholes the same. Oops!

Rebel Stomp: Lady on outside, moves to her right. Two steps right, stomp. Two steps left, stomp. Two steps right, stomp. Two steps left, turn (face counterclockwise in promenade position. Point outside toe out, then bring it back together with the other foot, step outside foot back, forward sweep, and two steps. Turn around and repeat. Back up three steps. Come together three steps with new partner. (Ladies move left.)



In the end my favorite part was the ribbon, which I found in abundance among my craft supplies. The eyelets are in backwards, but you really can't tell.



Patty-cake Polka: Ladies on outside of circle. Gentlemen mirror ladies. Hold hands. Ladies right heel out, cross over left leg and point toe. Left heel out, cross over right leg and point toe. Step back three. Come together three. Right hands clap three times. Left hands three claps. Both hands three claps. Knees three claps. Lady spins under gentleman’s right arm and on to her left.

I did my hair in rag curls without rags (used little claw clips instead) and left it up for dance practice. After I bought hairspray and got the dress on I took the hair down to make the ringlets.


Hat Dance: Line of ladies, line of gentleman. Three chairs. One hat. Hat in middle seat. Begin two ladies in outside chairs, one gentleman in middle. He chooses which lady not to dance with by giving her the hat. Sachets down line with other lady, gets back in line. Lady with hat moves to center seat. Two gentlemen fill in. She chooses the same way. Repeat.

The highlight of the day was actually the culture involved in a ball. Ladies were expected to be ladies, and men were gentlemen.

To God be all glory.

4 comments:

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

I, in my one-track mind, must ask...did the men wear uniforms??? :-P

Lisa of Longbourn said...

Some of them did. A reenactment group called You Can Live History provided a bunch of uniforms for the men and boys to wear. Some were nicer than others, and I'm pretty sure there were representations of both sides' uniforms. Then some men (esp. the adults) wore suits. One of my friends is in the Army or Army Reserves or something, so he wore his actual uniform. He said that he is today in what used to be Stonewall Jackson's brigade. And so his brother was in the uniform that he would have worn during the Civil War.

If men had swords, they were asked to bring them and present an honor guard of drawn swords under which many of the ladies were escorted into the ball after being introduced/announced.

One of the approximately half dozen people I knew at the ball is a young lady who is a Confederate Civil War buff, and she gave me a passionate history lesson about battles and tactics and people.

During the set-up (which was happening in the morning while we did dance practice and checked in), those new icicle strings of lights were being hung above curtains in swags to decorate the sides of the hall. I liked it best when the lights fell behind the curtain and you could just see little glowing orbs through the fabric. The crew was having some problems, though. One string had a section with a short, so about 4 feet weren't lit. And at one point they dropped the string on parents who were sitting on the sides observing. Oops! There was a hooked stick to lift them back up, and the foreman was trying to use that across ladies' heads, but the crew on top of the bleachers (the 'walls') just hauled the string of lights up, rendering the stick useless.

Does that satisfy your more masculine curiosity?
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Lisa of Longbourn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Yes, thank you. :-P