At Gulf Wars this past week, there were several dance opportunities. I'll give sketchy comments, and hope that some of the others on this list who attended can fill in some of their details.
Monday, March 16th: Beginner's Ball
The man in charge of the ball was Lord Edwardus. The musician in charge, throughout all the balls at Gulf Wars, was Master Octavio. (The arrangements were partially out of Avatar's second book, and partially from the Pennsic Pile.)
I'm not sure what made this ball a particularly novice-level activity. (The dances were taught ahead of time, but that wasn't unusual.) The Monday evening ball was the largest attended in terms of dancers (I think someone said there were 60 dancers on the floor at one point) and the smallest in terms of the band: Octavio, Mistress Conna, Lady Emelye, Her Ladyship Lucia, myself, an excellent drummer from Trimaris, and another woman (on recorder? or am I confused?)
My compliments to Edwardus, who kept the ball moving, kept the atmosphere light-hearted, and made sure that each dance was performed long enough, sometimes repeating dances, to make sure everybody was comfortable with them.
Tuesday night was "International Night", by which I think they meant "Interkingdom night," with three sets representing three different SCA kingdom traditions. It began the steady rule of gradually fewer dancers, and gradually more musicians.
I don't remember much about Wednesday evening's "Grand War Ball". Every night, the repertoire was more or less the same.
Thursday was a Caroso-style ball. I as hearing dancers throughout the day muttering about that, suggesting that nobody would be interested in "watching dance after dance that we won't get to participate in." But listening to some of the reactions afterwards, people were really spell-bound by the excellent footwork and expressive performances.
Friday night was not intended to be a ball. But all the musicians showed up, by this time over twenty, spilling out of the musicians' area, and decided to hold a ball anyways.
Friday *was* scheduled to host a Dance Competition. Here's what the event bok said: "The First Knowne World Dance Competition. All dancers are encouraged to enter the competition. Those entering may be couples or larger groups depending on the dance. ... Entries will be judged on a variety of aesthetic characteristics and a goodly number of prizes will be awarded."
Did you get the impression from that blurb that the dance competition was a joke? Neither did some of the entrants. But Edwardus asked Their Excellencies Three Rivers to be the judges, and things turned wacky. Given that, I don't imagine there will be a second Knowne World Dance Competition.
There was a "Back to the Future" Ball on Saturday, but I can't report on that, as I'd already left site.
Lessons to be learned:
1) Dance music isn't brain surgery. It's fun, there's enough people playing the melody line, and nobody's going to die. Octavio as great at making everyone in the band feel at ease.
2) If you're going to offer heavily-spiked punch to the musicians, it might be nice to also have water or some other soft drink on hand as well.
3) Little gimmicks in the music, like playing the last repetition of a song in a zany key, get old when you re-do them every night. (They probably get old immediately.) *In particular*, playing the music too fast violates the Dance Musician's Prime Directive: Don't make the dancers look bad.