“MAGic” was in the air during a celebration of early 19th-century British author Jane Austen at the Memorial Art Gallery’s Cutler Union Ballroom on April 29 in Rochester, NY for the 12th annual Jane Austen Ball.
The event was hosted by Country Dancers of Rochester (cdrochester.org) and the central and western New York region of the Jane Austen Society of North America (jasna.org). It is largest and most popular of the four English country balls held by CDR each year.
Over 80 dancers and several observers enjoyed the elegance of this Jane Austen Ball celebrated in Regency period attire. Guests were from the Finger Lakes region of New York, as well as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Canada. The dance mistress was Judi Rivkin, of Ewing Township southwest of Princeton, New Jersey. Live music was performed by, Serendipity. Musicians were Barb Seppeler, of Newark, on piano; Laurie Giroux Williams, of Newark, on flute; and Molly Jaynes Wilson, of Rochester, on violin.
As was traditional during Jane Austen’s time, the afternoon’s dancing began with a stunning minuet performance of the passepied by Josephine Gaeffke, of Brighton, and Padraic Neville, of Fairport.
“Dancing the passepied with Josephine was wonderful, the hardest dance by far I’ve tried,” Neville said. “The musicians kept the constant fast tempo with the clearly defined notes we needed.”
Then, all the dancers opened the ball with the grand march. Workshops in the weeks leading up to the ball enabled attendees to learn 17 additional dances with amusing names like the “Rakes of Rochester,” “Trip to Tunbridge” and “Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot.”
Fancy Regency period attire was admired, but not required. Dancers experienced the fun and energy commonly seen in Jane Austen film adaptations like “Pride and Prejudice.” Chris Cassidy, event coordinator, thinks this ball covers, “the three Ms: movement, music and merriment.” About a dozen CDR organizers handled a silent auction, ticket sales, a raffle, sound, TV publicity, signage and printed program. The local region of the Jane Austen Society of North America subsidized the student tickets.
“To me it’s all about community building and sharing with each other,” Rivkin said.
A few couples said, “I have never missed a Jane Austen Ball.” Another said, “I wouldn’t miss this for the world.” This unique dance and literary experience enriches the quality of life for the Finger Lakes region and beyond.