I’m a huge Jane Austen fan. A lot of people today only see the popular film adaptations of the novels, and I honestly think that’s a shame. Don’t get me wrong, I like the movies too- I actually think Matthew Macfayden from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice is GAW-GOUS and completely nails the part of Mr. Darcy. *Swoon* During high school, I wanted to be Elizabeth Bennet, partly due to my obsession with Keira Knightly, although now I have come to accept that I am much more like Jane Bennet. And I love Gwyneth Paltrow in the late 1990s rendition of Emma.
But Jane Austen is so much more than that.
Last semester, I took a Jane Austen class and actually read all of her six novels. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch- I couldn’t get through Persuasion for the life of me and I had to retire that book only partially read. But my most favorite novel of hers is Northanger Abbey. I just love that culture, Mr. Tilney (of course) and the excitement of the town of Bath. One of my favorite scenes in that book in when Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney dance for the first time. This kind of romantic, flirty scene is actually really common in Jane Austen’s books and is even present the movie adaptation of Becoming Jane about Jane Austen’s life.
And, this weekend, I GOT TO GO TO A JANE AUSTEN BALL.
Specifically, I attended the George Washington Ball in Williamsburg, Virgina, where English Country Dance has a definite presence, if not a strong one. Everyone there was dressed up in tradition English garb between the 16th and the 19th century, and everyone did line dances, JUST LIKE IN THE MOVIES. I’m not kidding. It was an evening in an incredible time warp- I actually felt like I could be Catherine Morland or Elizabeth Bennet. It was honestly a dream come true, something that I have always longed to do. I was basically in nerd heaven for this wonderful weekend. I about died from happiness.
My friend Anthony attends the College of William and Mary, so he is the one that invited me to attend the ball. His amazing friend Allison made me a dress a la Elizabeth Bennet style in my favorite color. I styled my hair to what it actually would have been, and had a headband with scattered flowers and beads. I wore pearls, too!
The actual dances were pretty fun. Anthony taught me the basics of each step before the ball, and at the beginning of each dance, someone at the front of the room “called” the dances and walked everyone through step by step. For a first timer, I thought I did pretty well! There were a few major mess-up moments (to which older couples got quite frustrated), but the whole evening was pretty fun. I danced about 6 or 7 dances in an hour and a half, and there was a nice intermission where food was provided.
I hope to go to another ball one day. One thing is for sure though- if you love Jane Austen, you must attend an English Country Dance.