Ye Gaskell Occasional Dance Society has lost the link it once had to Mrs. Gaskell. The Gaskell Balls were originally a kind of cast party for the annual Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco. At one time the fair had an all-day middle class dance party hosted by Mrs. Gaskell herself. This was a very popular part of the fair as the customers would suddenly find themselves part of the show, as invited guest of the famous author.
Eventually, the dance party mutated into its present form, the Fezziwig's office party based on the description of the party in A Christmas Carol. For various reasons, the party has been updated from the late 18th century to the early Victorian period and it is immensely popular with the customers. The Fezziwig party turned out to be a wonderful theatrical device because characters of nearly all ranks of life from respectable working class to prosperous upper middle class could attend the dance. It was a good unifying device for the kind of improvisational theater that we do. (I'm the current dance director of the Fezziwig party).
So, Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig are the party's current hosts and are the hosts of our Dickens Fair Re-Union Ball (which has become the unofficial cast party for Dickens Fair) but Mrs. Gaskell's name continues to be attached to the Gaskell Ball series. From an extended cast party, the Gaskell balls have evolved into very grand, formal Victorian balls, often attracting as many as 550 guests, most of whom have never heard of Mrs. Gaskell!
Because people keep asking us who Gaskell is, I've thought about including an article on Elizabeth. Gaskell and her major novels in the next edition of our newsletter Yesterday's News.
Our own organization, PEERS (Period Events & Entertainments Re-Creation Society) also produces frequent Victorian balls and events, although we also explore a variety of historical periods. The main difference between our Victorian Balls and the Gaskell Balls is that we emphasize both role-playing and serious historical dance reconstruction, while the Gaskell balls are primarily social events and therefore focus on the simpler dances, primarily on couple dances.
Artistic Director, PEERS
PERIOD EVENTS & ENTERTAINMENTS RE-CREATION SOCIETY, INC. J.E. Myers - Executive Director C.M. Myers - Artistic Director
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