Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Hampshire Regency Dancers' Ball - A Ball at Almack's

In October, The Hampshire Regency Dancers (HRD) hold an annual ball for their members and anyone else who wishes to attend. I have wanted to join HRD for some time but sadly I live too far away from Winchester (where they are based) to attend their weekly dance classes. However, this year quite a few members from my 19th century dance class were attending the ball so I decided to go.

For the last few years the ball has been held at a prep school just outside Wickham in Hampshire, Rookesbury Park School. So on the Saturday morning I got the train down with a friend. The ball wasn't until the evening, but we wanted to get there in time for the dance practice and to check into our rooms (most of us were staying in the school dorms). Well we arrived at Rookesbury Park which, it turns out is a beautiful old Georgian house, and were taken to our dorm. All I can say is that I had serious school flashbacks. Rookesbury had the same rambling, slightly rundown feel that one of my schools had, though Rookesbury was rather more dirty. Sadly the school had to close in July due to financial trouble, so the building hadn't been cleaned since then!!! However luckily we had clean beds and sheets!!

Our dorm - there were three of us staying in it - a Canadian lady whose name escapes me at the moment, me and my friend that I came down with, Suzy. Though it had seen much better days, it was a very large room which I imagine must have been beautiful in its heyday, and it still had its original fireplace (well most of it).

The school seemed to have left stuff behind when it closed, including this poor monkey. :(

The stunning view from our dorm!!

Main part of the house

Front of the house

Lovely window by the Grand Staircase. I am sure the view was originally much better!!

After unpacking we went to the dance rehearsal which was good, but the lady doing the calling was rather strict so it was more a chore than a really enjoyable activity!! After the practice went to the high street, in the local village of Wickham, to buy snacks as we missed lunch.


The ball's theme was Almack's, so everyone had to dress properly - white gloves, knee breeches etc. It also meant that we had to go outside the building through a side door, and then reenter through the main entrance and present our "vouchers" to the patronesses of Almack's who told us if we were allowed to attend the ball. Of course no one was turned away, but they had great fun putting peoples vouchers into "yes", "no" and "maybe" baskets!

After the drinks reception, we all processed into the ballroom in a Grand Promenade and the ball began. It was a lovely ball and I had a wonderful time, but the room was so hot that I tied my fan to the sash on my gown, and every second I had free I was frantically fanning myself!! The other thing I wasn't crazy about was that we had dance cards, so had to go round and ask people to dance. It's alright when you know a good number of your fellow guests but I didn't know enough to fill all the dances and I am rather shy when it comes to introducing myself to strangers!! Anyway it all worked out in the end, as when I didn't have a partner, there was usually someone else who was partnerless who wanted to dance. So I ended up dancing every dance. :) Hence the reason why I have no photos of the dancing. However, the official photographer took loads!

Everyone chatting after the ball had ended

The Ballroom with its decorations

Me thinks they raided a baking shop for these decorations - they looked suspiciously like cupcake cases! :)

Some rather blurry photos of the Drawing Room:

The Drawing Room

The beautiful fireplace

Lovely Ceiling Rose

It was a lovely evening of dancing, chatting and eating a delicious supper (in the school gym :) !! ). We all went to bed rather exhausted, but looking forward to the Regency Outing the next day...

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