Saturday, 19 March 2016

Gala Nocturna 2016 - The Age of Redemption

Same procedure as every year...
Beginning of March means it's time for Gala Nocturna! This year it moved to Ghent, a welcome change from Brussels last year (such a hideous city!) and Antwerp (didn't really need to go there for a third time...).

I was not too enthusiastic when the motto was announced some time late last year. "The Age of Redemption" just didn't evoke any ideas or pictures whatsoever. The moodboards didn't help either. The women's outfits were either boring or impossible to achieve (at least for me) haute couture outfits, while the inspiration for the men's outfits could probably best be described as "homeless Hipster Jedi-Priest". Oh well, at least everybody would be able to recycle their halo headdresses from 3 years ago ("The Pope's Daughter").
Nevertheless, I didn't cancel my pre-booked hotel room. After all, decent goth-dark-romantic parties are rare up here, I wanted to see Ghent and there would at least be some friends from back home and all around Germany coming. And so far I've never stuck to the Gala's theme anyway.

Turns out, Ghent is really lovely, almost as pretty as Amsterdam (but a lot smaller). Over the centuries they seem to have filled the city with as many churches, chapels, cathedrals and monasteries as possible, and it's rather impressive to turn a corner and find yet another gothic cathedral when walking through the city. Several rivers flow through the city centre and the waterside cafes invite to indulge in the holy trinity of belgian guilty pleasures: Mussels, Frietjes, Waffels. Preferably sitting outside in the sun, of which we luckily got to see quite a lot during the weekend.

Gravensteen castle, major tourist attraction
In the end I decided to wear the Victorian Mourning Dress that I had made just before last year's WGT. I had only worn it only on one day for a photoshoot and apart from that mostly spent said day sitting in Cafés and in our appartment sipping wine, so that dress definitely needed to be taken out again. I did want  at least one new piece though, so I made at least a quick new headdress and a matching boutonniere-like thing to pin onto my boyfriends jacket (I think this is the closest we've ever come to matching outfits).

Befitting the theme, the location for the Gala this year was the Augustijnenklooster in Ghent, an old monastery, where monks are still living and working and apparently also brewing beer. Long hallways with ancient paintings, wooden furniture and antique chandeliers created quite a noble atmosphere, but also made me anxious to walk around with a drink in my hand (what if I stumble and spill it onto the painting?!). Having seen pictures of the monastery before, I just found it a pity that the library was not open.

The largest of the monastery's halls was dedicated to the dance floor, however, the room was carpeted and quite badly ventilated so that towards the end of the evening the air got sweaty, humid and stale, ugh. Dancing was not much fun. Also, the historical dance instructor was missing this year, I guess that also had to do with everything being focused on Redemption *yawn*

Other than the Concert Noble in Brussels last year, the place was not crammed with vendor stalls and there was plenty of seating space to rest weary feet. The buffet was stocked with mostly simple items, bread, various cheese, apples and grapes and was constantly refilled during the evening. I definitely prefer a simple but full buffet over a fancy but scarce one...

The other two halls were dedicated to a video installation, "Casting Jesus", that I didn't watch because... well, I wanted to go to a ball and not an art show and to an "interactive praying installation" that I did not really understand. I guess everybody else felt the same, because I never saw more than a handful of people in any of these rooms. Most guests remained in the hallways talking to friends or gathered around the buffet.

All in all I have to say, the Gala Nocturna this year did not feel like a ball at all. It ranged somewhere between a cocktail reception and an art show, but the dancing and all the rest of the programme was definitely missing. I would even say it was simply boring, nothing new happened all night long. Where were the living statues, the ballet dancing, stage combat and all the other little diversions that created such a fascinating atmosphere during the last editions?

The organisation however was immaculate. No queues at the entry, the wardrobe, the bars, or the buffet, professional security personnel (not that you would need much security on this sort of event). No confusion with QR codes on your printed ticket and ticket order numbers. Organisation-wise, the Gala has definitely grown up.
Only too bad that this was the last event under the name of Gala Nocturna. Viona, the organiser, announced several weeks ago that after 10 years it would be time for something new. It remains to be seen what this "something new" will be. I myself hope for a summer ball - why do these sort of things always have to happen when it's cold?