AS53 Nov. #1 – Dance Report for Bal d’Argent 2018 by Lady Annabel de Swinburne

Host group: Barony of Rowany

Theme: Venetian Masked Ball

Date: 8 September 2018

Venue: Balmain Town Hall, NSW


  • Stewarding team led by:  Gomez De Crecy
  • Menu by:                             Marozia moglie di Basilio Bracciolini
  • Dance team:                       Annabel de Swinburne, Anfridh I Osby, Eloise Darnell
  • Music team:                       Jeneur le Geline, Lyssa Llewensdöttir, and Grisel Kincaid (the Rowany Scratch band),  plus Fineamhain an Einigh inghen ui Chochobhair (Finn), [Jasper], and [Mouse]
  • 50 people booked and paid for the event.   8 of them were under 18


Rondel competitions were run similarly to 2017’s competitions. The winners were:  

  • For courtesy:                          Baroness Medb ingen ind Iasachta
  • For style:                                 Mistress Katherne Rischer
  • For accuracy (dance):          Lady Annabel de Swinburne
  • For accuracy (music):          Mistress Fineamhain an Einigh inghean ui Chonchobhair


Everyone at the event received a token (small metal mask from Etsy) on a safety pin, which they wore on their clothes. Throughout the evening, the populace was encouraged to give a ribbon to someone they thought deserved recognition, and to tell them why they were giving it:

  • White for courtesy;
  • Red for style;
  • Blue for accuracy.  


The ribbon was three 20 m rolls of 10 mm grosgrain cut into approximately 10 cm lengths. The recipient could pin the ribbon to their token. At the end of the evening, those with the most of a colour received a prize for that aspect. Lady Mairi oversaw the ribbons at the front desk. I believe most people received at least one ribbon. People seemed to like both giving and receiving the ribbons and they added to the visual pleasure of the evening and feeling of participation.

There was also a mask making competition, won by Anfridh I Osby.

New member of the guild: Mistress Katherne Rischer, for dance, presented with her rondel token by Mistress Marguerite de Rada y Sylva, one of the original members of the guild.

Rondel meeting: 16 rondels and semibreves attended an enthusiastic meeting in the afternoon. Jeneur sent minutes of the meeting to the Lochac Dance list at its conclusion.

Daytime dance classes: There were four classes scheduled from 12:30 – 4pm, with Aliette, Anfridh, Annabel and Madelina as teachers for a variety of English Country, C15th and C16th Italian dances. We actually ended up doing classes that suited the people present, with some deliberate time slippage.

Hall set up: Large, square wooden floor clear for dancing. Front desk right next to single entry point (there was a second emergency exit available but not used). Musicians on the stage. Banners from Rowany’s stash. Fresh variegated ivy from someone’s garden. Decorative masks on tables set with white cloths around the edge of the room, lots of chairs around the edge of the room. Buffet on side tables near kitchen, drinks on tables in an L shape that made a kind of bar between the dance floor and the kitchen, creating a buffer for kitchen staff. Rubbish bin next to buffet table. Dance lists and menus stuck up around the hall, at the front desk, with the musicians.

Dance list: (see last page) The list of dances was published for comment a few weeks in advance on the Lochac Dance email list and Facebook group. Content was based on dances practised at Rowany Dance terms in the last year. Number of dances and sets was inspired by Flametree Ball and St Vitas. We included many styles of period dance to allow for rondel/semibreve assessment. We got through all of the dances except for Canarios and Petit Vriens. There was no time for requests except the very last dance, the Bear Dance, very popular particularly with present and past collegians of St Ursula (Be the Bear!).

Participation at the ball: Dance participation was excellent. For example, I noted we had four sets of six dancers for set 2, Picking of Sticks, Grimstock, Wherligig and Gelosia – 24 dancers on the floor, despite some of these being more complex dances; and when I called for everyone to join in the Mixed/Cut Branles at the end of the first half, we had to make 2 large concentric circles, just about everyone joined in, I estimate 40 or more dancers. Dancers covered the full range from absolute beginners to highly experienced. Easily 12 dancers still on the floor for the last dance even though it was after 10 pm and we had danced for more than three hours during the ball, plus more than three hours of classes during the day. Fantastic!

Catering: Great. Heaps of water and cordial in lots of pitchers. Buffet of finger food refreshed through the evening including fruit platters. Marozia based the menu as much as possible on period sources.

Things that could have been better

  • Should have had the competition categories and corresponding ribbon colours written down prominently at the ball.
  • Should have published the competition categories in advance.
  • Should have printed the dance sets in larger font.

Things that worked well

  • The order of the dance list – I put what I consider more difficult dances in the middle of the first set, before people were too tired, so lots of people joined in despite complexity. I ended the first half with the Mixed/Cut Branles, everyone joined in, then everyone was very ready for the interval at the end of Aridan.
  • The competition format – people joined in willingly handing out ribbons and usually told the person why they were giving them. Stewarding/kitchen team got courtesy ribbons.
  • The theme – just about everyone had a mask, there were mask making materials available at the event and a workshop during the day.
  • People wore very speccy clothes and looked fantastic.

In service,

Annabel de Swinburne, dance team, Bal d’Argent 2018.

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