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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

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Arts + CultureNightlifeLive Shots: 21st Edwardian Ball brought grand whimsy back...

Live Shots: 21st Edwardian Ball brought grand whimsy back to SF

Feathers, wigs, codpieces, corsets, and plague masks filled the Regency Ballroom for steampunk-Victoriana fun.

The 21st Edwardian Ball’s sensual spectacular delighted attendees April 1-2, with the aptly themed “Spring Revival.”  Tributes to Edward Gorey’s wit and style were on full display. The variety of costumes—feathers (many), codpieces (a few), corsets (galore), plague masks (fewer than in previous years), wigs (fabulous), and sunflowers (touching)—to be observed while slipping between four stages of entertainment was, as always, integral to the overall experience.

More than a backdrop, the Scottish Rite architecture of the Regency Ballroom has been a treasured Edwardian Ball feature for years. Guests were greeted upon entry to the rotunda and enticed into the Grand Ballroom area by DJ Delachaux’s musical melange. Adorned with life size scenes from Edward Gory’s work throughout, organizers PARADOX Media, Rosin Coven, and the Vau de Vire Society deftly used all available space. After The Cottontails (Friday night) or John Brothers Piano Company (Saturday night), The Tumbleweed, with the Speakeasy Syndicate, roller skated, juggled, and lassoed on the dance floor in front of the stage. Next, Renegade Opera served up a “Madame Butterfly” selection from the mezzanine.  

Attention immediately turned to the second level of the main stage where Zoe Jakes Coven Dance mesmerized with an ethereal depiction of the three furies: gray gauze wraps, simple white face masks, and graceful movements punctuated by staccato beats. As the furies flitted away, the Rosin Coven Pagan orchestra, escorted by Fou Fou Ha!, entered from all parts of the Grand Ballroom. Rosin Coven’s contagious enthusiasm and musical mastery remains a Ball tradition. Mechateuthis the Giant Squid, whose moving tentacles were powered by passing guests spinning knobs, resided at the back of the ballroom .

Taking the 1909 historical manual Otis elevator (with a costumed operator) was a bonus experience. An amble through the Fireplace Stage with curios, The Green Valley Puppeteers, and Jet Black Pearl’s accordion folk, deposited attendees at the Lodge level. The red room hosted the Museum of Wonders stage: Thatcher Boomer started the evening playing the Haunted Pipe Organ which included Vau de Vire’s sexy variety show featuring Gorey’s “Neglected Murderesses. The stage was surrounded by art for purchase, calligraphy, life size living portraits, and an Alice-esque tea party hosted by Mystic Midway.

This year the mezzanine was open to all (rather than previous VIP only access), so when tired of participating, one could take a break and observe the scene below: perhaps Dwoira and Chole’s symmetrical suspended circus ring performance, Maggie Powers and pyramid, MeeZee and chairs, or the Flynn Creek Circus. Also new this year, Daybreaker offered a Saturday morning yoga and dance party interlude between the Friday and Saturday night shows.  

The social hall level offered vendors, The Edwardian Faire Midway Games—including a life-size “Operation” game, and food and performances by Swingatto. The capstone of each evening was Rosin Coven and the Vau de Vire Society’s enactment of Edward Gorey’s “The Wuggly Ump.”

The musicians, the performers, the costumed attendees, the absinthe drinks, the venue—all dazzled and amazed. In total, the entire immersive tableau of steampunk, Victoriana, and curiosities offered in “real life” what digital arts shows try to imitate: an otherworldly mix full of frivolity, whimsy, and revelry. After a COVID hiatus in 2021 and postponement in 2022, San Francisco and attendees from all parts exuberantly welcomed back the Edwardian Ball in all of its splendor. (Patty Riek)

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