The Edwardian Ball
January 20/21, 2017
All photos by Jeff Spirer.
Turn of the century dress, steampunk accessories, old-time music, antiquities for sale. It may be the Regency Ballroom and it may be 2017 but it’s January and it’s the Edwardian Ball. For two nights (and one afternoon), a time trip, punctuated by some modernities – DJs, electronics, even an ATM – San Francisco celebrates the life and work of Edward Gorey on three floors of the Regency Ballroom. And San Francisco loves dress-up events, so it fits right in.
It’s a night of music and acrobatics, of storytelling and tea leaf reading, of puppets and twenty foot tall Victorian women. As always, the Ball sells out so it becomes increasingly difficult to navigate the narrow stairway or move from room to room. But even when stuck in one place, what happens is constantly in flux. One minute it might be a musician and the next minute an aerial act, and participants take it all in with the same enthusiasm and awe. There were hosts and hostesses to take care of making sure the acts moved along. Friday night, burlesque impresario Kingfish hosted the main stage. Saturday night, much of the main stage show was hosted by Kitten on the Keys. The variety show upstairs came under the spell of burlesque dancer Miss Emma.
The Ball is co-hosted by musical group Rosin Coven and circus theater troupe Vau de Vire Society. Both groups perform multiple times in different locations, with different performances. Rosin Coven always brings their somewhat gothic, unusually instrumented performance to the Ball main stage, but they also served up a delightful a capella performance on the upstairs stage. And there was plenty more music.
Kat Robichaud has set the all-time record for fastest time from newcomer to venerated San Francisco institution with her stunning voice and theatrical performances. Throw in the creative costuming, crazy wigs, and intuitive sense for the dramatic, there’s no way to not watch her when she’s in the house. This year, Robichaud performed with both her band The Darling Misfits, performing both her original tunes and a cover, of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time, and with Dark Garden.
Once again, Shovelman’s dark stylings graced the Ball. For much of the night, he performed on his stringed shovel with a good-sized pedal board, building the atmosphere at the upstairs bar. Somewhere in the middle of Friday night, he took a turn on the stage, adding vocals for his dark country blues.
Of course the Vau de Vire Society provided spectacular acrobatics and contortionist displays. Aerialists made hanging upside from a rope only wrapped around the knee look easy while contortionists defied body anatomy at ground level, all to the delight of the well-dressed audience. Other circus performers also appeared, including a duo with a knife throwing act.
And there was dancing, especially on Saturday night, when there was ballroom dancing befitting a Ball. From the elegantly clad to the barely clothed, couples swirled around the floor to music that ranged from early 20th century orchestral to 21st century heavy beats from DJs including Trapeze Worldwide’s Aaron Delachaux. There was also more formal dancing, with an all male revue of four couples on the main stage and a can-can show on the floor.
To everyone’s delight, there was a puppet show from perennial favorite Shadow Circus Creature Theatre. As always, Dave Haaz-Baroque’s puppet “friend” was rude, vulgar, a liar, and a cheat. The puppet’s rendition of a “lost” Edward Gorey story was accompanied by dressed-in-black dancer Ariellah Aflalo. The puppet show appeared as part of a variety show that included burlesque and modernized belly dancing.
Nobody’s spirits, or clothing, was dampened by the pouring rain that marked much of the entry and departure of the revelers. And given the political event of the weekend, it was a welcome respite from a gloomy administration with little interest in the wonderful arts that live in San Francisco. The Edwardian Ball made it clear that the energy and creativity will rise above.
Check out this slideshow of photos from the 2017 Edwardian Ball by Jeff Spirer:
For more information about the Edwardian Ball, see their website.
Read the SF Sonic 2016 interview with Justin Katz of Rosin Coven here.
Top photo is of Rosin Coven.