Well, of course I did not sew the dress from my last post without the prospect of an occasion to wear it! Just like the last two years, we went to the Gala Nocturna, a dark-romantic costume ball in Belgium. This year, it not only moved to a new venue, but also to a new city: After having taken place in a baroque church in Antwerp for several years, the Gala had moved last year to a beautiful 19th century hall and an adjacent orangery in the Antwerp Zoo and this year to the Concert Noble in Brussels - an 18th century ballroom and therefore probably the most 'conventional' venue for the Gala so far.
But conventional does by no means mean it was boring: several grand halls in Louis XIV style, connected by brocade-curtain adorned doorways, stuccoed ceilings, antique portrait paintings on the walls and the grand ballroom sported the largest crystal chandeliers I have ever seen. In short, everything you would imagine for a fairytale ballroom.
Only too bad I'm not into fairytales - but we'll set that aside for the moment.
The motto this year was The Swan Princess, mostly inspired by Swan Lake, and so most female and some of the male guests showed up adorned in gazillions of white and/or black feathers, many ballerinas and some rather creative dark swans could be spotted as well. Last year ("La belle et la bête"), everyone had horns, this year everyone had wings.
When we arrived, the historical dance lesson had already started and we joined in for one or two dances, until I got a little bored and a slightly annoyed, since people kept randomly entering the dance lesson without knowing the steps that had been taught before - chaos ensued, and off to the absinthe bar we went!
I was rather glad that the bars were a lot better organized than during the last years - one absinthe bar and two regular bars, both with incredibly fast and efficient staff. A direly needed improvement! The main bars served several themed longdrinks of which I only tried the White Swan, Prosecco with elder syrup, Not exactly exotic as a combination but nevertheless a nice addition to the drinks list.
Apart from the dance lesson, the program also featured an opening dance of the swan princess and the evil sorcerer - ballet, of course and a swan buffet, "for true swans only". We kept on making jokes what that might mean beforehand and we were right: It was a buffet featuring grasshoppers, maggots, worms, and other niceties of that sort. I did not bother to queue for the buffet, but I was told that the grasshoppers were deliciously crispy and comparable to chips.
What else happened? We chatted with friends and strangers, had a look at the little market that was set up between the entrance and the ballroom (not much temptation there, except maybe for the stall with gorgeous copper jewelry) and had our picture taken in the picture corner:
Don't we look elegant? I think this is the prettiest picture I have of us two so far! I'm wearing my Victorian Oriental gown, my dashing partner is wearing a frock coat I found for him at a theatre sale last year. I really need to make a cravat for his outfit though...
Oh, and we danced! Someone took a video of the dancefloor, beautifully capturing the general splendour of the room, and you can see us waltzing by several times, looking very professional. If you're in Germany, you will probably not be able to see the video (Hallo GEMA!), but there's another version of it here on Facebook
The organisation has definitely improved since last year and I did not have the feeling of spending half of the evening in a queue. You still needed to exchange your money for drink tokens before buying anything at the bar, which is probably a lot easier for the bar personnel, but the fact that you weren't able to change leftover tokens back to "real" money at the end of the night was slightly annoying. Although, at least this year it was clearly communicated that they wouldn't be taken back anymore: I remember standing next to a poor girl 2 years ago, who still had 50€ in tokens at the end of the evening and Viona at the cashier station simply refused to exchange them again.
Also, the motto and the venue this year weren't quite my cup of tea. As I said, too much cliché fairytale, too one-dimensional (hey, lets take a goth dress and glue some feathers on!), not historical enough. I guess this is owed to the Gala having grown rather big by now: a motto like this is just easier to relate to for a wider audience than "The Pope's daughter". Still, next year I'd like a proper historically inspired motto again, please!
But I'm not really complaining, my expectations got fulfilled: I got to wear my pretty new dress, met friends, danced until my feet hurt and got a little drunk on absinthe and prosecco. Let's see what the 2016 edition holds, after all it will be the 10-year-anniversary!