An 18-year-old San Francisco tradition will be back in Los Angeles for the ninth year, expanding with the help of the Pasadena dance community. The so-called Edwardian Ball will go from one-day to two-days for the first time in Los Angeles. The popular event will also be held at a new venue, the Globe Theatre in LA. And in another first, the Pasadena Fred Astaire Dance Studio will be open for a special introductory day a week prior to the event for potential new attendees and shopping for old friends.
The Edwardian Ball is a bit of a sly misnomer. This is not about King Edward VII, the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who reigned only from 1901 to 1910. Or the scandalous Duke of Windsor who reigned for less than a year (1936), abdicating to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
The Edwardian Ball takes its name from American writer and illustrator Edward Gorey (1925-2000). Best known for his pen-and-ink drawings of twisted tales in a vaguely late Victorian or Edwardian setting, Gorey’s illustrations for a time were animated for the opening of the PBS anthology series “Mystery!”
Now operating with the blessing of the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust, the Edwardian Ball in San Francisco began as a small, dark, underground cabaret outing under the guidance of the theatrical music ensemble Rosin Coven. Rosin Coven joined forces with the dance circus troupe Vau de Vire Society together, co-creating what is now a multimedia festival of the arts that dips into the goth and the steampunk cultures. The San Francisco event had translated into a one-day extravaganza in Los Angeles, transporting San Francisco talent down south.
This year, partnering with the Roaring Twenties Street Jam, the Edwardian Ball will begin to shine the light on the dark humor of local artists as well, partnering with Danielle O’Neill, manager and instructor at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Pasadena, and her partner Joanna Garcia and their Roaring Twenties Street Jam.
Born and raised in Long Beach, O’Neill hung out in Pasadena to take swing lessons at the Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association in the 1990s.
“My grandparents were celebrating their 55th anniversary in 1991. My grandfather did sheet music for the movies. He was a trumpet player and she was a hat check girl when they met. I learned swing because I wanted to put on a show for them. I became hooked on partner dancing in the swing scene.” Prior to that, she had only done ballet, tap and a little jazz as a kid. From swing, she expanded to Argentine tango and salsa. By 1995, she was teaching. In 2002, she joined the Arthur Murray Dance Studio but in 2011, she came to Fred Astaire.
O’Neill first heard about the Edwardian Ball a few years back but was unable to attend. When she finally made it, it was as a volunteer. This year, O’Neill will be one of the performers in a midnight Viennese waltz on Saturday. Tango will be featured on Friday with a tango flash mob choreographed by Westside-resident Ilona Glinarsky.
O’Neill and Garcia will be hosting the vendor bazaar which, according to Garcia, will feature a dance intro lessons every hour on the hour. If you’re wondering what to wear, consult at the bazaar with Angela Manke, manager of The Costume Shoppe in Glendale. Manke has been attending the Edwardian Ball for the last five years. “I thought it was amazing. It’s fully immersive. Everyone who attends is fully into it.” Manke noted “there’s a huge age range of people,” but this year attendees must 18 and over.
Manke will be dressing 20 people for the Friday fashion show at the Edwardian Ball. She’s been designing her own costume since the end of last year and this year, she’ll be wearing three outfits — one for each day and a special one for the fashion show.
O’Neill, Garcia and Manke agree that the Edwardian Ball is an event for people who love dance, costumes and a little theatricality in their lives. “It’s my favorite costume event that I go to every year,” said Manke.
Edwardian Ball Vendor Bazaar is from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4, at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio, 740 E. Green St., Pasadena. Edwardian Ball World Faire is from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Feb. 9 ($65-$100). The Edwardian Ball is from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 10
($75-$125) at the Globe Theatre, 740 S. Broadway, Los Angeles. For tickets and more information, visit edwardianball.com.